Burbank residents attended the Japanese Breakfast concert on Saturday at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz as part of the ITALIC + Arts flash field trips program. By 9 p.m., the line for the band’s long-awaited concert was wrapped around the block. The sheer excitement stemming from the return to live music and the potential to stand in a pit surrounded by a crowd of dedicated (and sweaty) fans felt like prospects long lost to the pandemic.
“Japanese Breakfast is an awesome opportunity to get off campus and experience the contemporary culture as it lives and breathes,” said Gunner Donguiex ’21.
The room erupted with gleeful cheers as the lights dimmed and Japanese Breakfast took the stage. Michelle Zauner (vocals and guitar) marched up the stage alongside Peter Bradley (guitar), Craig Hendrix (producer, drums), Deven Craige (bass), Adam Schatz (saxophone and keyboard) and Molly Germer (violin and keyboard). With opener “Paprika,” Zauner began the concert with a forceful hit of a gong as Bradley provided rich, synthesized sounds that crescendoed into a chamber pop masterpiece.
“Be Sweet” immediately followed, featuring 80s synth-pop and funk influence. Zauner commanded a dominating stage presence throughout the entire performance and passionately expressed her longing for love with an effortless use of her higher register. “I wanna believe in you, I wanna believe in something,” she sang, and the crowd screamed as the room burst with energy. “Till Death” featured Zauner on piano as she lamented her lost love with a gut-wrenching vocal performance backed by Schatz’s melancholic saxophone.
“[Zauner] is able to convey a sense of familiarity; I felt like she was making eye contact; she had that personality that made you feel like you talked before, you know,” said Ryan Lian ’25.
The musical genius of the band was brought into sharp focus on “Glider,” a track from the recently released soundtrack Zauner made for the indie video game “Sable.” The song marks her jump into ambient, synth-heavy pop and features a grand, albeit uncertain, atmosphere; the distorted vocal samples and trace-like repetition of the instrumental left the audience in wonder, complemented further by designer Kat Borderud’s magnificent light and installation choices.
Personally, “Posing in Bondage” was the highlight of the night, featuring the emotional chorus of “Closeness / Proximity / I needed / Bondage.” With slower pacing and an even more melancholic direction, this performance showcased Zauner’s enchanting vocal power and Hendrix’s poignant backing harmonies; the call-and-response between Schatz’s saxophone and keyboards, paired with the rest of the band, was simply phenomenal. The emotional power of the performance struck a chord with the audience that was truly palpable.
“[Zauner] is able to share a sad thought in a positive and soulful lens, which is very impressive,” said Franscesca Fernandes ‘25.
Japanese Breakfast’s performance was stellar, and their opener was similarly strong. SASAMI, led by the titular Sasami Ashworth, primed the night with a burst of high-energy entertainment. SASAMI’s grunge aesthetic and pop-punk/metal influences boosted the crowd’s energy effortlessly even as the group posed a drastic, though welcome, difference to the colorful indie pop-rock headliner. SASAMI’s emotional performance, enhanced by fantastic guitar, bass and drum interplay, featured spontaneous and expressive screaming that jolted the entire crowd and commanded attention. After the final song from the 45-minute set abruptly ended, Ashworth slowly walked off the stage in her bridal gown, concluding SASAMI’s segment on a high note and building anticipation of a new record coming out this February.
While Japanese Breakfast and SASAMI put on a wonderful show for all members of the audience, the concert was particularly enjoyed by the Stanford students in attendance, who relished the opportunity to have an off-campus experience.
“I think it’s important to engage in experiences outside of the Stanford bubble sometimes,” Donguiex said.
This article has been updated to reflect that this performance took place in Santa Cruz, not San Jose. The Daily regrets this error.