The Japanese House
DATE: Thursday, 19th October 2023
VENUE: O2 Academy Oxford
LABEL: Dirty Hit
On the 19th of October 2023, I had the privilege of photographing one of my favourite bands; The Japanese House. You may have already read the ‘In The End It Always Does’ article published on Nerve before Amber’s album was released, so you know how invested I am in this band.
After receiving our guest passes to the show, my sister and I walked into the O2 Academy Oxford and awaited the opener to come on stage. To my surprise, ‘Fake Laugh’ opened the show; Kamran Kahn, the guitarist of The Japanese House. I was able to enjoy his set from in front of the barricade, sitting in the walkway between the crowd and the stage. Khan was amazing - slayed if you will. His performance and talent made the crowd more excited for what was to come.
Come 9pm, I was sitting waiting with my camera at the ready. I had the duration of 3 songs to capture Amber’s essence and get the photos of my lifetime, so to say I was stressed is an understatement.
The intro to Sad To Breathe starts and suddenly, I forget how to breathe. The band walks out of the door next to me and hops onto the stage as the crowd goes wild. I have seen The Japanese House before so I was happy to ‘miss’ the first three songs to immerse myself in my lens completely. Touching Yourself and Something Has To Change were the following two songs that I hastily photographed before I was told to join the crowd.
I was front row, at the barrier, beside my sister, where I could finally enjoy the show stress-free. The next song that played, is one of my favs that I hadn’t heard live before - Morning Pages. I screamed louder than the entire crowd combined, I’m sure some people can still hear my screeches in their sleep - oops. For a split second, I thought MUNA were going to come on stage and perform the collaboration before I had an immediate reality check when I remembered we were in Oxford.
I really love The Japanese House gigs not only because of how incredibly good-looking Amber is, but also the versatility of the set. The following song is one from their previous album Good At Falling, titled Follow My Girl. To my, and Amber’s, surprise, the crowd sang along to all the words. I’m not sure what I expected but I felt amongst my people in that moment.
Being at the barrier, I figured it could be quite easy for me to get the band's attention. I was toward Kamran’s side of the stage slightly and so, I simply held up my arm to show him my tattoo - In The End It Always Does and he actually noticed it! It took him a second look and a slight lean forward but his reaction let me know he’d understood what it said. He stopped playing the guitar and kind of cupped his face with a shocked expression; like that painting of The Scream by Munch.
Tiktok’s favourite was next; Saw You In A Dream, need I say more? If you haven’t listened to it before, do yourself a favour.
"This one’s for the gays” was Amber’s introduction to Boyhood, one of my personal favs and one I have a weird attachment to. I received a postcard hinting at its release before the single came out - but I have a whole article about that if you want to know what parasociality feels like.
The rest of the gig was electric, I cannot even explain the feeling. Banger after banger after banger. Amber and her band are simply other-worldly, through both their stage presence and their music. I had never let my body be so loose before, sweatily dancing my way through every song.
The gig ended after Dionne was played, but we all knew what was coming next - an encore!
The band left the stage and the crowd started cheering. One more song… one more song… one more song… and soon enough, the band hopped right back on stage. Amber was met with a different stage layout, a single piano centre stage as she began to play One For Sorrow, Two For Joni Jones. The crowd fell silent and we all, together, listened to Amber sing, arguably, one of her rawest songs. It was utterly beautiful to be a part of something so obviously meaningful to Amber and to be amongst a crowd of people who appreciated her art just as much as I did.
Last, but obviously not least, was Sunshine Baby. Again, my delulu self thought Matty Healy was going to come out and sing the backing vocals like he does in the recorded version, but unfortunately, again, we were in O2 Academy Oxford.
As the show came to a close, Kamran glanced at me and threw his guitar pick right into my left hand, I felt as if we had bonded now after the tattoo and now the guitar pick, before hastily rushing off the stage with the rest of the band. My sister and I stayed behind a little longer after the show ended, just in case anything funky happened, and IT DID! One of Amber’s team handed me the set list for the show, which is now hung up on the wall at home hehe.
Overall, the concert was an amazing opportunity granted to me via Nerve and the contacts we have. I’m hoping to go again next year during their next tour, fingers crossed.
Photo Credits : Me (mauraage on instagram)