Japanese Breakfast gave Philly the Halloween they deserved - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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Last night was a special Tuesday night, of course, because it was finally Halloween. Though most of us had been celebrating since Friday, Philadelphia was damned well going to show up at The Fillmore for home-town hero, and now beloved international star, Japanese Breakfast. The band brought special guests Crooks & Nannies, a West Philadelphian group, and Saturday Night Live star Sarah Sherman for a surprise comedy set. Even more, the full lineup was almost unrecognizable in their extravagant Halloween costumes. The devotion to the holiday spectacle was impressive; you won’t believe some of these get-ups.

Crooks & Nannies played a stunning and tight 8-song set to open the night. The band’s leads, Sam Huntington and Max Rafter, traded vocals and held down drums and guitar respectively. They played a few songs from their latest album Real Life (2023), including the COVID trauma-triggering “N95,” and dynamic and feedback-y “Big Mouth Bass.” Another highlight of their set was the catchy “Control,” their comeback single released in 2022 after a nearly 6-year hiatus. The band was dressed as Frankenstein, Carrie (from Stephen King lure), a cow, a cowboy, and Santa Claus.

Crooks & Nannies | photo by Paige Walter

Unannounced, comedian Sarah Sherman surprised the sold-out crowd by coming out next with a 30-minute set. The SNL star caught heat from the Philly audience for living in New York and formerly Los Angeles–two very unpopular places in this gritty town–but warmed us back up with some classic Philly pandering about cheesesteaks and cream cheese. Her longest bit was a play on the Saw movie franchise, where she had Jigsaw, projected on the large screen, threaten to unpixelate an image of the damage she’d done to the greenroom bathroom. Her jokes were brash and filthy, and that’s about what you could expect from Sherman AKA “Sarah Squirm.” We could all respect the hike she would have to take back up to NYC probably in the same night.

Sarah Sherman | photo by Paige Walter

After a break, a figure came back on stage: it was Sherman dressed in a nude bodysuit and loincloth, bent over at the knees. Pretty soon we realized she was Gollum, or Smeagle if you’re feeling considerate, from The Lord of the Rings. After introducing Japanese Breakfast as her “precious,” Smeagle hobbled off stage and the whole JB crew entered dressed as wizards and elves and dwarves from the series. Michelle Zauner herself was dressed as the evil Saruman, identifiable by her long white hair, robes, and staff. Rousing musical themes from the movie played between songs, and a loop of scenes from the movies changed with each song.

Japanese Breakfast | photo by Paige Walter

Japanese Breakfast kicked off their exciting set with two from Jubilee (2001), the Grammy-nominated album that catapulted her to fame, “Paprika,” and “Be Sweet.” The rest was a great mix of her work through the years, including hits from her debut as Japanese Breakfast, Psychopomp (2016), the grief-stricken, interstellar Soft Sounds From Another Planet (2017), and even These Are Good People. (2013), the album she released with former band Little Big League. Zauner remarked on her days in Philly positively, saying “I would not be the musician I am today with you, Philadelphia.” But she did have some choice words for “shitty” venues like Kung Fu Necktie, and especially Khyber Pass Pub: “I fucking hate that place.” But as anyone involved in the Philly music scene will tell you, this is a tough town to come up in. Tough, but not impossible, as Japanese Breakfast exhibited as living proof.

See below for a setlist from the evening and a full gallery of everyone’s costumes. This was the last show of Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee tour, so there are no tour dates on the horizon. But you can order her best-selling book Crying In H-Mart, at the link here.

Setlist
Oct
31
Japanese Breakfast
  • Paprika
  • Be Sweet
  • In Heaven
  • The Woman That Loves You
  • Kokomo, IN
  • Heft
  • Road Head
  • Boyish
  • The Body Is A Blade
  • Orlando In Love
  • Glider
  • Tactics
  • Savage Good Boy
  • Lindsey
  • Jane Cum
  • Posing In Bondage
  • Slide Tackle
  • Everybody Wants To Love You
  • Posing for Cars
  • Diving Woman
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