By Sean Reis
In lo-fi purple and red lighting, a somber scene was set for the College Union Board’s latest CUB Alt show on Friday, March 23. From headliner Japanese Breakfast to the two openers, Long Beard and Mothers, the three female-led tri-state area acts created an atmosphere that filled the Brower Student Center.
“This lighting kind of reminds me of our press photo,” Michelle Zauner, who is better known as her stage name Japanese Breakfast, remarked during her banter with the crowd.
Zauner added that she picked the press photo’s aesthetic because “it made me feel like Steve Jobs and I wanted to be taken seriously (as) a mysterious musician.”
Zauner’s artistry was fun and playful, and she brought a whimsical humor with her superlative stage presence.
She opened her set with the song, “Diving Woman,” off her most recently released album, “Soft Sounds from Another Planet.”
It was plain to see that she was a music industry veteran in the making, and the same could be said when listening to, reading or watching her work.
She created a companion book for her sophomore album, “Soft Sounds from Another Planet,” and she directed the music video for her song “Boyish” — a hit compared to not only other Japanese Breakfast videos, but also music videos for similar musicians.
True to the name of her album, Zauner’s work transcended the music she performed on the CUB Alt stage. Zauner does not always write her music with a specific image in mind, however.
“I think that the images come much later after a song is completely done because a song can change so much with production and arrangement,” Zauner said in an interview with the College’s radio station, 91.3 FM WTSR. “Especially with Japanese Breakfast songs, a lot of them start in a certain way and end in a totally different way.”
This was specifically true for the song “Boyish,” which was originally written for Zauner’s previous project — the punk rock band Little Big Leagues. The song ultimately had to be reproduced for her solo career as Japanese Breakfast, which featured a drastically different, experimental pop sound.
“Boyish” was among the likes of “Road Head,” “12 Steps” and “The Body Is a Blade” from the same album, but Zauner did not limit herself to her sophomore record.
Her cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries was well-received by the crowd, and the song that followed was the high-energy favorite, “Everybody Wants to Love You,” from her debut record “Psychopomp.”
Japanese Breakfast was not afraid to take a downtempo turn during her set.
“This is a love song written in the only way I know how,” Zauner said in the introduction for the next song. “Which is to incorporate my fear of death.”
The love song, “Till Death,” stood out as a soft and bittersweet beauty amidst an especially energetic end to the evening, but was nothing compared to Japanese Breakfast’s finalé.
Zauner left the confines of the stage or as she called it, her “keyboard cubicle,” to enter the crowd and dance during the breakdown of the final song, “Machinist.”
It was in that moment that crowd members reached into their last reserves of energy to close out another successful CUB Alt concert.