Review japanese breakfast and co. bring energetic garage rock to saturn the crimson white list of antiemetic medications

Not until the year 2022 are we promised a 50/50 gender balance at 45 music festivals. While this is a thrilling, and warranted, future promise to music consumers and makers, what’s difficult to swallow is the fact that current female-led acts will continue to be short-changed, especially at a time when women are defining the new age of rock. It’s an age when genre means little, but the coolness of rock remains a cornerstone. Last Thursday, Birmingham did the rare – it housed an exclusively marvelous and joyous female-led bill, comprised of three bands.

Between the three acts – Art School Jocks, Snail Mail and Japanese Breakfast – the mood prior to the show was increasingly energetic and anticipatory as the sounds of Fleetwood Mac, Phoebe Bridgers and even Beyonce consumed the air, putting an early jig in everyone’s step – well, at least mine.


Garage rock quartet Art School Jocks was first on the scene, with a definite DIY-type sound that displayed instrumental skill, but was not successful in crafting a singlular sound. The Atlanta-based Art School Jocks define themselves as existential basement pop. The band’s search for their place, or stance, on current political issues and abuses was clear when the band informed the raptly-held audience of the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Following the between-set playing of the bitter and melancholia-filled “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers, Snail Mail, the three-piece band led by 18-year-old Lindsey Jordan, took the stage with sparse but purposeful instrumentation, acting as the foundation for poignantly fresh lyricism.

If garage rock is defined by an amateurish exploratory nature of playing with thrashing guitar and crackling vocals, then Jordan excels and takes this idea into a new realm. Watching such a young performer captivate Saturn so easily with a timid and demure persona contrasted with aggressively passionate and honest lyricism that leans more towards awe-filled than anything was wholly singular. It will be a show that I get to say I was at, especially as Jordan continues to grow and evolve.

Jordan’s ability and room for growth is obvious when comparing Snail Mail’s EP “Habit,” released in 2016, to her new single “Pristine,” released on March 21 in anticipation of Jordan’s first full-length album “Lush,” out June 8. The song starts fairly minimal with solely a guitar, Jordan’s voice is introduced, followed by drums. As the song continues, it grows in independence and strength, bulking up, as Jordan professes her inability to get over someone, with devastatingly applicable and bittersweet lyrics: “And if you do find someone better/I’ll still see you in everything/Tomorrow and all the time.”

Following the DIY and garage rock stylings of Art School Jocks and Snail Mail, Japanese Breakfast introduced another niche-influenced rock sound: shoegaze. Shoegaze encompasses the type of musical styling in which the guitar becomes dreamlike, or distorted, in its sound and the vocals become instrumentlike.

Japanese Breakfast is the solo-moniker Michelle Zauner. Zauner’s current tour follows the release of her sophomore album, “Soft Sounds from Another Planet,” one of the most successfully exploratory albums. While the album traverses a broad range of sounds, it’s cohesive because of its otherworldly shoegaze thread throughout the album.

Michelle Zauner live is something to behold. She’s a bouncing ball of energy, emphatically thrilled to be performing. Zauner began with “In Heaven,” the first song off her first album, “Psychopomp,” fitting as it draws similarities to her most recent album. After playing “The Woman That Loves You,” also off her old album, Zauner jumped into her new album, playing a wealth of music that filled the room with exuberance despite the sometimes desolate content.

Zauner brought down the house with her last two songs, ‘Everybody Wants To Love You,” a riotously fun romp of a song off her first album, and her encore song “Dreams” by The Cranberries, one of the most fitting covers I’ve ever known, especially with the lo-fi influences.

Saturn’s night of female-led troupes was a thrilling capsule of music being created by women that opens the landscape of rock music. The music presented displayed the interchanging scope of genres as artists experiment with instrumentation and the crafting of lyricism.