It’s not every day you get to witness a band playing in the middle of a mysterious Victorian house filled with rips in the fabric of time. At the tripped-out Meow Wolf art installation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, fireplaces lead to hidden aquariums, and fridges act as interdimensional time travel portals – with the disappearance of the fictional Selig family (who purportedly vanished while experimenting with a mysterious force of inter-dimensional travel known as “The Anomaly”) thrown in for good measure. Guests can be forgiven for losing their sense of reality in this warped residence.
Touring in support of this year’s golden ‘Jubilee’ album and her debut book Crying in H Mart: A Memoir – a New York Times best-seller, no less – Japanese Breakfast continues to cement herself as one of indie rock’s premier auteurs. Today’s decidedly unusual venue – the psychedelic House of Eternal Return – is the immersive creation of the art collective Meow Wolf, and many of the renovations of this once-derelict bowling alley were funded by Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin (now the collective’s Chief World Builder). It feels like a neat fit for Michelle Zauner’s far-reaching creativity and visual ambition – as well as a musician and writer, she’s also set to helm the film adaptation of her own memoir.
The combination of Japanese Breakfast and Meow Wolf produces an immaculate pairing, as portions of the art installation stay free to explore during the performance. Often they seem to directly reference lyrics in real-time. A mirrored display of beating hearts seem to stretch to eternity, intent on the poignant words to her ‘Jubilee’ single ‘Paprika’ “How’s it feel to stand at the height of your powers/To captivate every heart?” she sings. Perhaps only Zauner knows. And ‘Glider’ – from the original soundtrack to the video game Sable– feels equally apt. “Feels like flying,” she sings, “Every particle in sync”.
Elsewhere, Zauner entrances the audience with a tribute to Dolly Parton, in the form of a dulcet cover of the country legend’s 1977 track ‘Here You Come Again’. And after treating the room to ‘Jubilee’ standouts’ ‘Be Sweet’, ‘Posing in Bondage’ and ‘Savage Good Boy’ she closes the night with that album’s closer ‘Posing for Cars’, and ‘Soft Sounds from Another Planet’ favourite ‘Diving Woman’.
Watching it all unfold feels like being saddled behind the wheel of a magic school bus, staring through the windshield at a morphing visual spiralling through universes, and revving up to launch into the unknown. It’s just a shame every venue doesn’t come with it’s own trans-dimensional vehicle.