The Japanese House enchants in dreamy, sold-out San Francisco show

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Amber Bain, the solo artist behind England’s dream pop project The Japanese House, performed to a sold-out audience at August Hall in San Francisco on May 11. During the performance, she said San Francisco is her favorite city to play, and the energy she received throughout the show proved why.

While the stage was simple in its setup, the four-piece band filled the space accompanied by dreamscape clouds of smoke. Bain sat at the front of the stage, left-handed guitar in hand, as she waved to the crowd. The theater was packed from floor to balcony, full of lo-fi listeners awaiting a night of soft electronica goodness.

Most of the songs performed sounded just like the recorded versions — a testament to near-perfect mixing and timing by every member involved. One song, “We Talk All the Time,” maintained the same wavy drums and balanced synths live as it does on the band’s newest album, Good at Falling.

The songs carried a whimsical tone throughout the concert, which was only reinforced by the haziness of the room. “Lilo,” more of an emotional bedroom pop anthem, incorporated heavy bass into the show to parallel Bain’s deep voice.

At one point, Bain picked what appeared to be a carton of cigarettes out of her pocket and threw it on the ground with a laugh. The box seemed to be getting in the way of her guitar playing, and the comical toss also roused a laugh from the audience.

In the middle of the concert, Bain dedicated her performance of “Follow My Girl” to someone in the audience named Christine, presumably a friend. The upbeat song featured calculated beats and astral mixing as the vocalist sang, “Nothing feels good, it’s not right” — a contrast to the cheery dancing of the crowd.

Bain’s heartfelt performance of “Everybody Hates Me” wasn’t as much of a downer as one might think — while the angsty spotlight directed the emotion of the song right onto Bain, its sound was much livelier than the recorded version on Good at Falling.

As Bain’s most-streamed song on Spotify, “Saw You in a Dream” raised countless voices throughout the venue as nearly every fan sang back the lyrics. Bain took a step back, saying how special the moment was before thanking the crowd. The young singer then switched to an acoustic guitar to play “You Seemed So Happy.” More than just a skilled vocalist, Bain’s guitar skills play up her talents as an artist.

“went to meet her (intro),” the song that marks the beginning of Good at Falling, was performed in a heavy fog of auto-tune and chaotic instrumentals, fittingly matching the turbulent strobe lights flooding the crowd. Bain raised her mic toward the crowd, encouraging the audience to get even louder than before, as she transitioned into an optimistic performance of “Maybe You’re the Reason.”

Bain is generally a contained stage performer, but at one point, she sang a playful “Happy Birthday” rendition to her tour manager, Caroline Smith. All smiles, Bain sat on the edge of the stage to get closer to the crowd as she finished up the show, proving that The Japanese House definitely knows how to make for a dreamy night.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.