Porches with Japanese Breakfast at the Horseshoe Tavern

Porches performed with Japanese Breakfast at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

The doors to the Horseshoe Tavern opened at 8, and crowds were there bright and early. It’s no wonder: the nights opener, Japanese Breakfast, is a sought-after new band with buzz, accolades and word of mouth following wherever they go. Group lead and creator Michelle Zauner, previously of Philly’s Little League, returned home to Oregon after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. While there, she work on old music under the new moniker Japanese Breakfast, and a unique indie rock sound was born.
They opened with the hit from 2016’s Psychopump, “Everybody Wants to Love You.” Zauner’s vocals, though high, are not airy, packing an equal vocal punch to comparable voices in a lower range. Her guitar remains in hand, a true musician as well as vocalist (as a member of Little League, she was the guitarist). The next song, “In Heaven”, packed more rock instrumentals behind the vocals, an ensemble piece rather than a stand-alone vocal melody. Don’t mistake that to mean that Zauner’s voice was lost, because it stayed present throughout, at place amidst the symbol beat. “The Woman That Loves You” danced between a rock and alternative song, leaving Zauner to belt out and release the true power behind her voice, leaving the backing band to back while she shone with a smile on her face, guitar down and mic in hand.
Around this time, the band paused and Zauner shared with the audience that they were about four weeks into the tour, which is usually the time when they “gets the blues”, and she thanked Toronto for completely wiping the blues away. Amidst cheers they proceeded with the classic rock vibes of “Heft” and the melancholia and anger of “Jane Cum” where pauses for drum solos and guitars were punctuated by angry screams, a whole other side of Zauner’s vocal range. Zauner asked if anyone in the crowd had been there for the July show where they had opened to Mitski and a cheer rose, confirming that most of the group that night where there for Japanese Breakfast. My favourite of the night, “Rugged Country”, had a happiness to it without losing the rock roots. It, like “The Woman That Loves You”, fell less to the classic and more to alt rock, an area the band obviously thrives in.
The crowd quieted down as the backing band left the stage, leaving Zauner alone to “take things down” and play the song “Triple 7” alone with only her vocals and guitar. No longer a shock at this point, her voice found yet another unexplored area, dropping slightly to a more classic grounded indie space. The emotion was evident in her face, as was her control, not one word faltering: it came off less like a live performance and more a “live vocal” recording for an album, polished, wonderful. The crowd loved it but the band refused to leave the crowd without one more taste, finishing with “Machinist”, an ode to falling in love with a robot. Zauner moved around the stage the most she had all night, seeming at her happiest moving from the stage to the edge until she was in the audience, singing out with a robot vocal effect less TPain and more joyous robot star. If any of the assembled audience hadn’t been there specifically for Japanese Breakfast, they would be next time.

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Concert photographer at Live in Limbo.