On Monday, May 13 at The Fonda in Los Angeles, Goldenvoice and UCLA radio presented The Japanese House with an opening set by Art School Girlfriend. The sold out concert had a long line even as Art School Girlfriend, the opener, started her set. Both The Japanese House and Art School Girlfriend are the solo projects of Amber Bain and Polly Mackey respectively. They have been touring the United States together and Monday was Los Angeles’ turn.
Art School Girlfriend took the stage with a guitar in hand, and a side table of pedals, computers, and other gadgets. Art School Girlfriend is the moniker of multi-instrumentalist songwriter and producer, Polly Mackey, a Welsh musician. She captivated the audience with her velvety, airy voice and electronica influenced alternative pop. Since she has yet to release a full album, she played material from her two EPs. Her newest single, “Come Back to Me”, the second song of the set, got a big round of applause from the crowd. The performance felt very intimate. Songs like “Distance (Blank)” and “Low” seemed more like confessions to a close friend than the soundtrack for a dance party.
The Japanese House came on stage about half an hour later. The crowd was loud, happy to see her. Bain was charismatic and talkative with the audience. Her set started with the song “Face like Thunder” from Swing Against the Tide, her 2016 EP. The Japanese House is true to the sound in her records. Bain uses effects to compliment her smooth voice. Her back up band is made of very talented musicians who seem to enjoy playing Bain’s material as much as she does. The set list of sixteen songs went through much of her material with old favorites like “Cool Blue” and “Saw You in a Dream,” newer hits which such as “Lilo,” “Follow my Girl,” and the latest single, “Maybe You’re the Reason.” Every song got equally big sing-alongs and screams. The audience loved every bit of the concert, reacting positively even during a song gap in the set and despite rejected song requests.
The Japanese House is a talented live band that brings the best qualities of its records to its live performances. The sincerity, nostalgia, and introspection seen in her slower songs mixed with the euphoria and happiness of her more danceable and pop-forward tracks created a well rounded and powerful set that displayed the smoothness of a band that has been touring together for a long time.