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The Japanese House

The Japanese House – Roundhouse, London

A mesmerising, dreamy delight; The Japanese House returned to the English capital and delivered a beyond-satisfying performance on the coveted Roundhouse stage.

After the release of their second EP ‘In the End it Always Does’ last year, which received tremendous reception, Amber Bain and co. have continued to grasp the attention of world-wide music-lovers. The bands distinct blend of a softening, indie-rock sonic has reinforced their status in the landscape, and testament to their continued success, they’re embarking on their biggest tour to date. After stints of supporting runs with fellow Dirty Hit record labellers The 1975, including an enormous sell-out show at Finsbury Park last July, selling out one of London’s most remarkable venues is a positive sign of their growing popularity. Joining them on their travels around the UK this year are duo Esme Emerson and solo artist Bonnie Kemplay, an artist who also previously supported The 1975 early last year.

There was an excitable and almost restless buzz along the streets of Camden as fans queued with a heightened sense of anticipation. It was excellent to see such a variety of outfits already on display, from Japanese House merch, 1975 tour tops, and unique spring attire fit for the occasion. The venue was nothing short of surreal, with a certain atmosphere and timeless interior that made the occasion even more special. I positioned myself on the upper seated level with an excellent view down onto the standing pits and Roundhouse stage, both that would soon be swaying with enthusiasm and warmth. As eager fans of all ages continued to flood in, Esme Emerson was first to take to the stage just before 7:30pm and begin warming up the lively crowd.

The indiepop sibling duo were also joined onstage by their guitarist and took no time in kicking off a short but sweet 8-track set. Whilst their sonic was quite slow and subdued, they still treated London to an impressive variety of their numbers, including Together, Stay, and Good as Gold. Esme’s vocals were soothing, and their onstage chemistry had the ever-growing audience intrigued throughout. The duo ended their set with Meet Me at Seven before leaving to huge cheers. The duo had done a superb job in warming up the audience and were received well by London; I feel we will see more of them when they return to the stage again soon.

Some fans made good use of the bars towards the rear of the standing pits between sets, though many seemed to be put off by the average London pint prices and instead were seen to be taking photos together and enjoying the cooling pre-show playlist, which was clearly hand-picked for the show with a rare selection of hits from the likes of Arctic Monkeys among others. Bonnie Kemplay took centre stage just after 8pm, and gracefully performed some of her hits to London, including Checkers, Static, and Katie. Many of her hits resembled the teenage emotions felt within the crowd, including heartbreak, regret, and resentment, and she gauged attention throughout by giving backstory behind her tracks; this was a standout feature of her performance for me. She showed herself off as one to keep an eye on, and further treated us to a gorgeous cover of ‘Fool’ by Adrianne Lenker too. Camden was calmed as Bonnie departed to proud cheers, but the ever-present buzz was now swamping through every exposed crack of the Roundhouse.

There was quite a poignant smell around the room, a mix of alcohol, sweat and the all-too traditional architecture of the room. Just after 9pm, Amber and the band settled onto the stage to a huge standing ovation; the set staging was a pleasant surprise, as large, white inflatable balls on either side of the stage were glowing with vibrant colours. They kicked off with the triumphant Touching Yourself, with the spirited crowd immediately loud in response; the enthusiasm felt down below made the venue feel several times bigger on the inside. The 18-song setlist was packed full of the bands hits and contained predominant cuts from the latest record. The crowd were capitalised upon perfectly, with animating anthems positioned strategically to keep the momentum flowing and fans in full voice; Something Has to Change met Morning Pages which met Follow My Girl and so on. London continued to be flattered further by the variety of tracks performed, from the restlessly dynamic Sad to Breathe, to the soothing Baby Goes Again, and to the emotional Over There; the Roundhouse was being bathed in a wall of noise and was garnering almost feverish responses to such a beloved back catalogue of tunes.

After gifting London with Faraway, a track rarely performed, Bain tapped into teenage emotions once more with, in her words, “a really sad one” (Chewing Cotton Wool). There was something about this number which stood out, as the crowd swayed peacefully, connected in unison with them; Amber Bain’s silky vocals were simply divine to hear live. To make this standout moment one better, the seamless transition into the uplifting Saw You in a Dream was faultless and gave the crowd an immediate excuse to wipe away any tears wept previously. This sequence was nothing short of euphoric and was executed with sheer professionalism from the band once again. After more amusing interactions with the audience, we were introduced Amber’s girlfriend who was playing the keys and saxophone; Bain also used this moment to shout out the gays in the crowd, to which tremendous and triumphant cheers rang out. Boyhood, a track with a similar meaning and one close to Amber’s heart concluded the first part of the set; the band departed quickly as the crowd showed their appreciation and an unbelievable level of support. I had never heard cheers lasting so long and so loud ever before. Whilst Bain may receive most the plaudits, the whole band really had London in their grasp and had to return for more.

The band re-emerged and greeted the now breathless crowd ahead of the closing numbers. Still went down a treat for the electric crowd, who were then rewarded with a brand new and unreleased number, Smiley Face. This bubbly and buoyant hit had fans dancing, and it brought a sense of warmth and reassurance to the room; this was The Japanese House only just getting started. It was clear from the start that this would be a special show, and Bain continued to remark throughout how important this one was for the band; you’d expect it to be a mere stepping stone towards more achievements and greatness in the future. For the audience, it was a quick trip down to the beach for the final song of the night; as it says on the tin, the red-hot Sunshine Baby. The renown lyrics were chimed back with authority as the band used their most popular number as the setting sun of their golden performance. The adoring fanbase were soon sent on their ways out into the London night with plenty to smile about, and probably with the need for an ice cream; it was an elevating night to cherish.

The Japanese House have a whole lot to look forward too, with both newcomers and die-hard fans having their appetites whetted by a captivating array of sound. They are a rising force in the indie-rock landscape, and this milestone performance made it a celebratory night for Amber Bain and co. With summer on the horizon, there was no better time to intake some much needed and infectious serotonin.

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