by Jillian Fliedner
After getting a chance to interview The Japanese House instead of being stuck in the cold waiting in line, I was lucky enough to witness one of the best opening bands I have ever seen. I usually hate having to stand through openers, but The Big Moon is one of the best I have heard in awhile. The band is from the UK, just like The Japanese House, and they’re an all female group who reminded me of an indie rock version of The Runaways (except without the sexualizing teenage girls aspect). Opening with “Silent Movie Susie”, the band displayed an incredibly aggressive presence and an ability to write insanely catchy songs. During each song, the girls, aside from their drummer Fern, found themselves nuzzling one another on stage and showing how much fun they were truly having while performing. Playing an array of songs, including a Madonna cover of “Beautiful Stranger” that the bassist believes is better than the original and some tracks off their upcoming debut album Love in the 4th Dimension, I think The Big Moon had quite a big effect on everyone in the tightly packed venue – especially the older gentleman in front of me who awarded the girls with the title of the best band of 2016.
Although The Big Moon was an insane highlight of the night, The Japanese House was even better, which says a lot. Jumping right into “Clean”, Amber Bain was able to successfully bring her characteristic studio sound to the stage in a lighter way through less modified vocals. However, with a press on her pedalboard, Amber was able to layer her vocals, allowing her to achieve her signature sound. Despite being incredibly jetlagged from her flight to the U.S. the day before, Amber was able to offer the crowd her best, playing all of her released songs.
During “Sugar Pill”, Amber proved her vocal abilities with her chorus of varied ooh’s and ahh’s. The heavy bass in the small venue was also a nice, and much needed touch. Her four new songs off her new EP Swim Against the Tide were particularly remarkable, showing how she has learned how to write songs from playing live shows. Beginning with the title track off the EP, Amber’s melancholy vocals were smooth and warm. Despite the simplicity of the track in comparison to others, “Swim Against the Tide” was a highlight of the night.
Before playing the other three songs from the EP, Amber played a few tracks off her previous two EPs Clean and Pools to Bathe In. “Letter By The Water” was especially touching and heavy with its depressing tone as Amber sang about wanting to drown. Her vocals sounded especially larger than life during this performance and were worthy of making your heart skip a beat or two. Joking about moving onto something less dark, Amber moved onto “Cool Blue”. Amber’s guitar skills and ingenuity shone through here especially, with many moments for her to focus on her playing rather than singing. The songs’ lighter toned complemented the previous song very well, making sure the night didn’t become too dark. The next song, “Sister”, was moving while Amber emotionally sung about a refusal to let someone in, a recurring theme in her lyrics because the song right after, “Good Side In”, had the same message.
“Good Side In” was one of the more pop-sounding tracks of the night, and was able to maintain a balance between bright and dark through the contrast of its lyrics and sound. In my interview with her, Amber mentioned how this song is her favorite to play live because of its complexity. Smiling during the harder guitar parts, Amber killed it and had fun doing it evidently. “Face Like Thunder” was next, and it was the most energetic song of the night. Choosing to include it on the EP because of how good it would sound live, Amber clearly made a right choice. With a pop chorus and light tone throughout, it energized a crowd suffering from all the body heat.
Once again, this time with in the context of her song “Leon”, Amber truly showed her vocal capabilities with high and long notes throughout. If anyone had any question about her ability as a vocalist, Amber put any doubts to rest with “Leon”. Despite being about a high school break-up, her performance was touching and emotional. After “Leon” was her final song, “Still”, which brought some technical difficulties while the backing track lost its pace with Amber. Laughing through the issues, Amber closed the concert perfectly.
Through her various smiles at different audience members through the night, a perfect choice for an opening band, her ability to bring her studio sound to the stage, and her talent, Amber Bain was able to remind everyone in the venue, especially myself, why she is a rising artist to be recognized. And she did all of it while incredibly jetlagged.