Breaking down doors and holding them open

Japanese Breakfast and The Linda Lindas bring two generations of music to Minneapolis in one night. A conversation with the crowd at the Japanese Breakfast show in Minneapolis reveals what audiences love about the band and why teen band The Linda Lindas are catching audiences’ attention.

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Maya Marchel Hoff

Michelle Zauner of “Japanese breakfast” bangs a gong during a performance of “Be Sweet” as her husband, Peter Bradley, plays piano at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

by Maya Marchel Hoff

“I never thought I would be able to play First Avenue again,” said Michelle Zauner, the 33-year-old lead singer of Japanese Breakfast, as she caught her breath in between songs. “Last time I was here, I cried in the parking lot for an hour because the concert didn’t go as well as I wanted it to. This show is definitely a redemption.”

On July 11, less than a year after Zauner cried in the parking lot, Japanese Breakfast played a sold out show at First Avenue once again, this time with the help of teen band openers The Linda Lindas.

The Linda Lindas, a Southern Californian punk-rock band consisting of four tween and teen girls, are drawing the attention from listeners of all ages as they usher in a new generation of music. After initially forming in 2018, the band rose to popularity with a viral video of them performing their song called “Racist, Sexist Boy,” in the Los Angeles Central Library last year. “Racist, Sexist Boy” was written after one band member experienced racist comments from a fellow student before the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020 due to her Chinese heritage.

Lucia de la Garza (left) and Eloise Wong (right) of the “Linda Lindas” perform during their set. (Maya Marchel Hoff)

At an 18+ show, the large number of kids in attendance with their parents to watch the opener was noteworthy, arriving all decked out in cat ears and Linda Lindas shirts.

Rob and Sherri Shellman brought their 8-year-old daughter, Maggie, to see her first concert.

“The Linda Lindas’ music is a big part of our family,” said Rob Shellman, 45. “My daughter could not be more excited to be here right now.”

As they took the stage, Mila de la Garza, barely tall enough to see over the drum set, banged her drumsticks together three times and the room erupted with the sharp crunches of their electric guitars and cheers from the crowd. They started off the set with a cover of “Linda Linda,” by Japanese punk rock band, The Blue Hearts, accompanied by head banging and hair whipping.

“I first heard of them through ‘Racist, Sexist Boy’ and introduced them to my daughter, who loves them,” Carly Schmaltz, 45, said while explaining why she brought her 8-year-old daughter, Matilda, with her. “The Linda Lindas are cool because they show young kids that they can use their voices.”

As Eloise Wong screamed with a guttural tone into the microphone during “Racist, Sexist Boy,” and Lucia de la Garza threw her long, black hair back during guitar solos, everyone in the crowd from age 8 to 60 sang along.

“I was drawn to Japanese Breakfast because they are low stress, well-written and unique,” said Kevin Buschkowsky, 23. “It’s cool that they are giving the Linda Lindas a platform to show people that they are more than their age. I am excited to see where they end up going.”

When Japanese Breakfast eventually took the stage, they brought their recent music industry ascent along with them.

Japanese Breakfast’s 2016 debut, “Psychopomp,” expertly introduced the band with shoegaze and lo-fi sounds. In 2021, everything changed when Zauner released her critically acclaimed and best-selling memoir, “Crying in H Mart” just weeks before Japanese Breakfast released their similarly successful third studio album, “Jubilee,” an upbeat dream pop record. Since then, both Zauner and her band have enjoyed an elevation in stature and fame that’s included two Grammy nominations, a Time 100 entry, a shoutout from Barack Obama and more.

The band’s distinctive sound, a deeper bond to the music created by “Crying in H Mart,” and music that’s both emotionally complex and lighthearted were all oft-mentioned during a canvas of the crowd that night.

“[Zauner] is such an instrumentalist, the music has depth and breadth” Erica Shearer, 46, said while waiting in line against First Avenue’s star-studded walls. “I saw Japanese Breakfast last time they were here and Michelle was busting down in a sequin romper. I expect that she will take the stage with just as much energy and style tonight.”

Indeed Zauner did, stepping into the stagelight in a black pleated skirt, gray blazer and chunky, black platform boots, all revved up as she banged a sunflower embellished gong to the opening song, “Paprika.”

“I think I like their music because it is artistic and beautiful, but it is also just catchy,” Marissa Brannen, 24, said before the show started. “They have a very unique sound.”