The Japanese House at Terminal West: A Faux Pas Review

The Japanese House performing a slow ballad. Diana Ward Avant-Youth

The Japanese House, a dreamy pool-rock brand from southeast England, headlined at Atlanta’s Terminal West Thursday night. I wasn’t sure what to expect–I’ve never shot this venue nor seen The Japanese House perform live.

Upon arrival, I aimlessly wandered before seeing a brunette smoking outside a tour bus. I approached her, lost. She gestured with the cigarette in hand, and directed me with a heavy English accent to the front of the venue, where I met a line of fans waiting for the doors to open.

Terminal West is a small space that carries a lot of industrial ambience, and the room filled to capacity 40 minutes before the show started. Smoke machines and Mac-Demarco type guitar chords signalled the opener, Art School Girlfriend.

She looked familiar… her English accent–shit.

Art School Girlfriend opening for The Japanese House. Diana Ward  Avant-Youth

I laughed, realizing I had just asked the opening act how to get into the venue. This didn’t stop me from becoming entranced with her music, as she performed her entire set with a single electric guitar and mic stand. I immediately pulled my phone out to add her to my playlist. 

Art School Girlfriend makes atmospheric, electric ballads that could heal even the most broken of souls. 

It was obvious not everyone knew the words, but that didn’t stop the crowd from swaying along and begging her not to leave the stage. Despite her chill demeanor and calming music, she did a great job of hyping up the audience for the headliner.

The Japanese House earned a damn gracious reaction when they came out, quickly changing the pace with upbeat synth sounds that had everyone dancing from the first hit of the bass. They carry a stage presence similar to that of The 1975: frollicking around the stage with electric guitars and playing off of each others’ energy.

At one point, the lead singer gave the keyboard player a cheeky kiss on the shoulder before dancing away, and the crowd ate it up. The audience sang every single word, to the point that the band would stop singing just to listen to the whole crowd yelling the lyrics and bouncing around like a tame moshpit of joyous, grown children.

The Japanese House encouraging the crowd to dance.
Diana Ward Avant-Youth
The Japanese House performing "Saw You in a Dream."
Diana Ward  | Avant-Youth

Small shows tend to have a great sense of unity, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an audience as in sync as this one. It was as if everyone knew each other before coming into the venue. I frequently heard fans yelling over the crowd to one another, “Can you see? Do you wanna move in front of me to have a better view?”

The Japanese House was as dreamy live as they are through headphones, and their fans reflect that sense of joy in the simple things. Despite photographing the band from the middle of a dense crowd, through the heaviest smoke machines I’ve seen, this was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve covered.  

A packed crowd watching The Japanese House at Terminal West. Diana Ward  Avant-Youth

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