Someone somewhere must have done a calculation about the perfect amount of time for a band to wait before returning to Austin following SXSW, as it seems like bills of late have been flooded with artists I caught back in March. We posted earlier today about Kevin Morby and Big Thief, and now we’re bringing you a review of dark pop songwriter Mitski and shimmering pop act Japanese Breakfast. Last Saturday’s show at the Sidewinder fascinated in part because of the strikingly similar yet disparate aesthetics shared by the main two acts. Mitski’s music is a luminous moon glowing behind a low fog to Japanese Breakfast’s clear, star-littered night sky.
At her noteworthy SXSW showcase sponsored by NPR, Mitski performed a set full of commanding indie rock, remaining mostly stoic and unflinchingly resolved. Her set at Sidewinder revealed a similar sensibility for the first half but eventually moved into a series of more tender, solo, stripped down arrangements, included a great version of standout song “Your Best American Girl.”
Earlier in the night, Japanese Breakfast played a brief but upbeat set during which she bounded around the stage with jubilance, climbed atop an amp, and eventually descended from the stage into the crowd to sing with and hug a grinning, adoring group of fans. I saw Japanese Breakfast on SXSW’s final day at 1:00 in the afternoon, an understandably difficult time for a show. Although I was sufficiently impressed then, the band’s set on Saturday easily showcased more of the band’s talent and energy.
I was happy to see that the crowd in attendance on Saturday differed significantly from the normal crowd I find surrounding me at indie rock shows in Austin. Foremost, the crowd remained attentive and respectfully refrained from talking (or yelling) over the performers. I also couldn’t help but notice a much larger female and under 21 population than normal. It’s great to see young people have access to shows, and I’ve always been proud of Austin’s all-ages access (for the most part). It’s refreshing to see a group of people clearly there to see music, and to see or be seen by their friends.
Jay Som opened the night with a set of simple, mellow songs strummed on electric guitar. I only caught the last third of the set, but I found plenty to give me reason to follow up on Jay Som after the fact. She was a perfect opening act for the evening. Check out photos from the night below.
All photographs © Bryan C. Parker & Pop Press International; all rights reserved. Please click any image to open set in slideshow viewer.