On Saturday, February 24 I caught a sold-out show at the Glass House in Pomona: a triple-threat act including a Hand Habits solo act (Meg Duffy), Bay-area rising indie artists Jay Som and Brooklyn-based indie pop group Japanese Breakfast. This female-fronted lineup drew quite a crowd, as Pomona would be the final leg of their tour. I was personally excited to see all three of these acts, as each of their albums released in 2017 made my list of top 20 indie albums.
The line to enter the Glass House wrapped around the block as concert-goers waited for the doors to open at 8:00 p.m. By the time Hand Habits took the stage first at 8:30, there was already a crowd formed around the stage and up in the balcony. The audience represented a wide range of ages, from children to silver-haired specimens, making it clear that good new music is still appreciated by all.
Hand Habits started the show on a softer note, as Meg Duffy took the stage solo with just her guitar. Right away, Duffy captivated the crowd with her soft playing and strong yet gentle vocals. The most special part of her set was a hair-raising performance of “Flower Glass,” which has a dark yet stunning simple melody and heart-wrenching lyrics like “it’s better to believe in something bigger than ourselves…when I hold you like a flower, hold you like an hourglass…” She took a moment to talk about gun control and what kids these days have to worry about. She shared that when she was 18-23 all she had to worry about was smoking pot and wondering if she was gay (which she did discover.)
Things were moving right on schedule as Jay Som took the stage just a short 15 minutes after. This would be my third time catching Jay Som and the first time in a non-festival setting, and I have to say this was my favorite performance of theirs. The band is always laid back and at ease on stage, but with a packed crowd and the energy high, they really seemed to be even more in the zone. Of course, something annoying happened right before their set and the crowd started filtering up between the people who had already secured their ideal viewing position, and in my case that was two tall girls that got right in front of me. Fortunately, I would still see between them, and I tried not to let my show etiquette pettiness get in the way while my friend and I exchanged glaring glances.
In classic form, Jay Som opened with “Turn Into,” which is still pretty much my favorite song of theirs. During their set, they performed new songs I hadn’t yet heard live like “Pirouette” and “O.K. Meet Me Underwater,” which was a nice surprise. Also staying true to form, they rolled out several tracks with jam-y outros, laughing, and goofy poses. They slowed things down with the most stunning performances I’ve seen of “I Think You’re All Right” which transitioned nicely into “Lipstick Stains,” the opening track to last year’s Everybody Works. Before playing crowd favorite, “The Bus Song,” singer Melina Duterte shared that Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast actually produced the music video to this song. Duterte also mentioned during the set what a pleasure it had been to be on tour with Hand Habits and Japanese Breakfast — two of the hardest working musicians she’s met. During the “I like the bus” lyrics, the whole crowd joined in, taking Duterte aback in delight. They closed the set with the dreamy and upbeat “Baybee,” or as Duterte called it, “Big Baby.”
I was getting excited to see Japanese Breakfast, as I hadn’t heard them play much of their newer songs, aside from glimpses from when I caught them opening for Alex G at the Echoplex last year. The packed crowd was beside themselves when Michelle Zauner took the stage in an all white outfit complete with light-up sneakers (that I couldn’t see, but saw later on instagram). They opened the set with the dreamy groove-worthy jam that is “Diving Girl,” and not a single person in the crowd was standing still. They also played another one of my favorites, “Road Head” also on Soft Sounds From Another Planet. Zauner got real with the crowd when she shared about her mother’s recent passing and how much that had an influence on her latest album before going into the soft and slow “Till Death.” She also talked about festival season (she’s slated to play at Coachella this year) and her deep disdain for crowd hype-ing. “I feel like you can just say the city’s name you’re in and the crowd will cheer… POMONA!!!” She joked, to which the crowd laughed and cheered. She also shared about how she’d never felt so famous when she was getting a banh mi nearby and people were asking to take photos with her. It was quite endearing.
They closed the set with the preface “we’re not doing an encore, but the next few songs are bangers,” before going into “Body Is A Blade” and a surprise cover of the Cranberries “Dreams” which the crowd really responded well to. They ended the night with an older favorite, “Everybody Wants to Love You,” and finally with the electro-pop-y “Machinist.” There was really something for everyone in their set as the style ranged from soft and slow to upbeat and dance-able.
I was buzzing at the end of the night, just high on that performance and showmanship. This was the best I’d seen Jay Som and Japanese Breakfast perform yet, as it was clear they fed off the crowd’s enthusiasm, putting them right in their element.
Follow me on instagram for videos of the show: