Standing in the queue waiting for The Caves to open, it’s easy to get the feeling that The Japanese House is on a steady trajectory towards becoming a household name. Snaking round the venue is a buzzing chain of fans, and their murmur reveals fervent praise for the new album Good at Falling alongside obsessions over the project’s recent Instagram activity. Compared to the band’s 2016 show at Glasgow’s Oran Mor, both the size and elation of the crowd have been impressively amplified and everyone seems acutely aware that they’re about to witness something uniquely compelling.
Inside the elegant venue, a string of determined students elbow their way to the barrier as Kamran Khan of Fake Laugh takes the stage. His opening set consists of quirky indie pop performed solo, his melancholic voice paired with off-kilter guitar chords and laid-back drum loops. Khan apologises numerous times for the absence of his band, but no-one is complaining – despite widespread excitement, everyone is surprisingly attentive for a support slot, and he is met with a warm response as the set closes with layers of feedback and fuzz.
The Japanese House finally enter amidst flashes of blue-white light and with ABBA blasting over the PA. Kicking straight into ‘Face Like Thunder,’ Amber Bain & co. transfix the ecstatic crowd with powerful vocal harmonies, polished guitar flourishes and sparkling keys, all glued together with jaunty bass lines delivered by a reappearing Khan. This opener immediately sets the tone for the rest of the night – leading the crowd through the new album via earlier cuts from the EPs, the band literally never miss a beat. While the studio versions of these songs boast pristine production, hearing them reinterpreted by live musicians gives them a fresh, human feel, creating the enchanting illusion of hearing them for the first time again. The upbeat groove of ‘Maybe You’re the Reason’ gets every head in the room nodding, and a staggering number of the frenzied audience scream the lyrics back at Bain. As if suddenly realising the reality of her passionate following ,the singer adopts an endless grin and cries ‘it’s a Monday night!’ – suggesting that she’s just as electrified by her project’s success as we are. Later on, Bain periodically gives up singing entirely, turning the microphone towards us for the sublime choruses of ‘f a r a w a y’ and ‘Everybody Hates Me.’ It’s always rewarding to see a band loving what they do, and it’s obvious from numerous exchanged smiles and animated movements that the musicians are genuinely overwhelmed by the affectionate audience. After closing with ‘Clean,’ Bain bypasses an encore to introduce fans to her dog Calvin outside the venue. Sticking around and chatting to the swarm, Bain displays a cool modesty and shows that she is truly thankful for the support; from start to end, every aspect of tonight displays the mutual thrill of a young performer who is rapidly gaining much-deserved attention, and of the ardent crowd who give her it.
Image: Justin Higuchi via Wikimedia Commons