There’s nothing quite like Wolf Trap in the summer time, and I would know, because this was my first time at Wolf Trap and I’m dying to go back. Sitting out on the lawn with a $12 beer feels almost blissful when some cool sounds are pouring out of the speakers and the sun is going down. Getting comfortably up close and personal with your favorite musicians under the theater’s rooftop isn’t bad either. Wolf Trap delivered on those sweet summer vibes, and Japanese Breakfast? They completely sealed the deal.
Fronted by Michelle Zauner, the author of “Crying in H-Mart,” the Japanese Breakfast crew came out in their cocaine business casual best, and by that I mean everyone looked like a lounge singer from hell, including Zauner who was in a white summer suit with matching shorts. Their stage set up fairly sparse, with shimmering circles of light layered behind the band and a gong circled with flowers and lights sitting pretty on stage. It all meshed nicely with Wolf Trap’s refined National Park atmosphere, but the bands languid alien ethereality injected a little magic into the evening.
It’s one thing to experience Japanese Breakfast in a dark, standing room only venue where you can dance and sweat to their hazy pop sound and scream along to Zauner’s sweet, sad, and often funny one liners, but sitting down in the sunshine and hearing her croon lines like “You gave road head on a turnpike exit, you’re in love,” presents a wholly different experience. The music unfurls in a way that feels less vital, but gave me a different appreciation for the entire soundscape crafted for albums “Jubilee” and “Soft Sounds From Another Planet,” and all their melancholy, sexy pop goodness.
There’s something about letting their sound wash over you during golden hour that makes it feel like you’re experiencing summer in an alternate dimension, and I’m not talking about a hard sci-fi dimension, but soft sci-fi, something sleek and strange. Tracks like the aforementioned “Road Head” and “Boyish” were standouts on the setlist for their pure atmosphere, but so was “Glider,” a track written for the video game soundtrack “Sable.” “Posing for Cars” the final track off of “Jubilee” also received some special treatment. The song started with Zauner alone on stage and built up to a somber crescendo as each member of the band joined her on stage. Again the heartbreak in lines like “Don’t make me beg you just because you can” feels different in an open, bright space. Not bad or less or cheapened, but it feels a little more maudlin to cry when the sun is still out and you’re surrounded by strangers.
All of this built up to the headliners of the night, the forever indie darlings Belle & Sebastian, but Japanese Breakfast punched above their weight as the supporting act. It felt like they brought their very own atmosphere, a little golden bubble of sweet sadness we all lived in for the length of a setlist. Golden hour to the extreme.