Perhaps the most memorable thing I heard during my four-day trip to Boston was someone in the rustling crowd waiting for English indie pop act The Japanese House, Amber Bain’s stage name, plainly declare, “She has the voice of an angel.”
On my Boston-bound train, I discovered her upcoming performance at The Sinclair while looking for concerts to attend during my visit. I had already secured tickets to see The 1975 but wanted to fill my trip with events to make the most of my time in the city. The Japanese House’s own headlining show was scheduled for the next day, and I managed to find tickets for the sold-out concert.
At the Agganis Arena after I arrived in Boston, though, I was pleasantly surprised when none other than The Japanese House opened for The 1975, the day before her scheduled performance at The Sinclair. I didn’t think I’d see her twice, let alone two days in a row.
At The Sinclair the next day with a cup of citrus-flavored Boston Mule in hand, I fell into a pleasant conversation with two guys in their late twenties who are technology gurus by day and part-time connoisseurs of concert venues in Boston and Cambridge by night. The Sinclair, according to them, is the most suitable place for The Japanese House’s concert because its intimate ambiance suits her music.
Intimate would capture the entire evening’s enchanting, immersive feeling that grew after Bain and her band began their set. The second she stepped on stage at The Sinclair, the entire venue hushed to hear her. She wielded the stage with her mysterious air and took almost no time to captivate all of us. Unlike last night, she now had more time and space to show everyone her true talent.
Those tech guys were right about the venue. Compared with her performance the night before, Bain was more at ease, and so was the audience. The Agganis Arena felt like an overwhelming delirium, with gigantic screens and rapidly shifting lights, while everyone was able to absorb more in this quaint locale. Block-like lights on two sides of the stage at The Sinclair pulsed different colors with each beat of her ethereal songs, transporting the audience into a vulnerable yet soothing space.
We all felt closer to her and to each other because the audience was not a group of ecstatic fans clamoring for the headlining act like those around me last night at The 1975’s show, but enthusiasts who equally appreciated her music and the atmosphere. There was less shoving or pushing; instead, people nodded gently to the beat. We all took part in and added something to the magic.
Singing for her own audience, not as an opener for a more popular band’s concert, meant that there was no need to try to win us over and prove she wasn’t a waste of our time. Instead, she knew from the start that we loved her.
When a fan held up an adorable sign that said “SHOW YOUR TEETH, PLEASE?” she even sang the requested song, “Teeth.” It was as if all of us shared an inside joke, each of us a part of something special and personal with Bain at the center.
Toward the end, Bain invited us to sing “Saw You In a Dream” with her. After watching her white suit swinging afloat in the music video many times, hearing her sing that song live was like a dream come true. During moments of the song, I began to truly see her as who she is — an individual artist who has been through pains yet is brave enough to share them with the world. People who barely knew her at The 1975’s concert may have dismissed her without realizing what they missed because she didn’t perform this emotional song.
Not until I came home and listened to her entire new album, however, did I realize the depth of her song. “It’s about my friend who passed away. … I have to play this song every night on tour and sometimes I don’t want to think about her being dead. … It’s therapy but it’s also emotional torture,” Bain shared in an interview with Apple Music on their Beats 1 Radio Station.
An arena like that first night, filled with thousands of eyes and phone cameras, could not capture the emotions that Bain sought to share with her audience. Thanks to this change of venue, I saw another side of the same person, and maybe our presence as a receptive and supportive audience made this sad song feel a little less lonely that night.
It was worth it to come across town on a Friday night to hear her again; a different venue in another light brought out a new side of her in my eyes. I felt content during the moments when I walked the familiar Cambridge streets filled with four-year-old memories, crossed darkening alleys and watched curbside singers set up their space. Now, The Japanese House subtly commanding the stage two days in a row, makes up another part of my Boston memories.
Ellie Yang is a rising junior in the College. Tune In, Zone Out updates online every other week.