Japanese Breakfast, the stage name of Brooklyn-based artist Michelle Zauner, has had quite the year. She released her debut book Crying In H Mart in April of this year, an extension of her essay by the same name published in The New Yorker in 2018. By June, she released her third studio album Jubilee and three months later; she kicked off her nationwide tour. After six weeks on the road, Japanese Breakfast returned home to Brooklyn to close out their tour with four back-to-back nights at the iconic Brooklyn Steel. Joining her was a fellow Korean-American artist Luna Li to open the show.
On Thursday evening, the first night of four, I walked into Brooklyn Steel and entered the concert hall. Mostly in their late 20s or early 30s, fans stood around the venue, beers in hand. At 8 pm sharp, Luna Li and her band took to the stage, and suddenly the venue went silent. Everyone pointed all attention towards the stage as Luna Li kicked off her set with Alone By Not Lonely — a short but sweet song praising independence.
Luna Li played a length 40-minute set that was chock-full with high energy, amazing smiles, and beautiful lighting. Did I mention this girl absolutely shreds on guitar? Standing in the crowd, watching her performance, her extreme guitar skills entranced me as she would step back from the mic, bend over backward and shred. I’d never seen something so cool. The juxtaposition of Luna’s soft aura with the hard guitar was beautiful. About halfway through the set, Luna played a handful of songs from her jams EP, an all-instrumental project that she recorded in her bedroom during the pandemic.
The crowd closed their eyes and floated to this foreign, but soothing land Luna had created within the venue walls, even for just a moment. She closed her set with her hits “Afterglow” and “Cherry Pit,” before thanking the crowd for their time and departing the stage.
A 30-minute break between sets commenced, and I watched the stagehands transform the stage to prepare for Japanese Breakfast. Like little mice, the stagehands ran across the stage, setting up the instruments, and I immediately noticed one that I’d never seen used in a concert before — a gong. I knew we were going to be in for a treat!
Japanese Breakfast and her band took to the stage prompt at 9:15 and immediately dove into the opening track off Jubilee, “Paprika.” Japanese Breakfast danced around the stage in a beautiful Iris Van Herpen-esque dress and banged the gong to the song’s beat. This was my second Japanese Breakfast show (the first at the same venue in January of 2019), and I have come to know and expect a high-energy performance from her every time and she did not disappoint.
Throughout Japanese Breakfast’s lengthy 18-song setlist, what I enjoyed most were those quick moments where I would catch her smiling and taking it all in. Dancing across the stage, the passion for her craft shines through undoubtedly. The performance was one of the strongest and most cohesive I’ve seen in a while, with a well-rounded set that featured songs “Savage Good Boy,” “Posing In Bondage,” as well as a cover of Little Big League’s “Boyish.” During the encore, two nets of balloons were unleashed on the crowd, and the energy in the venue erupted!
Japanese Breakfast continues to put on some of the most memorable shows out there, and I am beyond excited to see what her future holds. She is an artist through and through, across many creative outlets. With three more nights at Brooklyn Steel ahead of her before the tour’s conclusion, I wish Japanese Breakfast a strong end to the tour! I am waiting with bated breath to see what else she has under her belt!