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Luna Li Rocks Out at the Royale, Opening for Japanese Breakfast

Many young artists are building their fan bases on social media, especially after last year, but none are doing so with such talent and fun as Luna Li. The Toronto-based artist has been posting short videos of herself making audio loops, showcasing her skills with multiple instruments. Luna toggles between strumming an electric guitar, plucking at a harp, and even picking up a violin through some of these clips, many of which blossomed into her 2021 release of instrumentals, ‘jams EP’. These loop videos garnered positive acclaim from Asian-American label 88 Rising as well as music critic Anthony Fantano. Stepping further into the spotlight, Luna Li released another EP this year titled “Alone But Not Lonely,” emphasizing her talent to write and produce full-length songs as well. With heartfelt and fun tracks across her discography, her honesty and sweetness shines through her self-produced sound.

Luna Li took the stage at Boston’s Royale with a smile as catchy as her tunes. It was the second night of the September leg of Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee Tour, and everyone was buzzing with excitement. The four piece band instantly captured the attention of the crowd, who were close to their age. Luna’s bubbly personality supplemented her musical prowess the minute she picked up her guitar. The set kicked off with “Alone But Not Lonely,” which included an echoing chorus about relishing in isolation. Luna mentioned that she’d written the song as a mantra during lockdown; there can be a reassuring comfort in being on your own. She treated the crowd to some unreleased tunes, including an upcoming track with LA-based Jay Som, then led into some of her loop tracks. “Flower,” an instrumental originally from the “jams EP,” bloomed into a full-length track with warm and catchy lyrics.

The Canadian rocker can do more on stage than just shred with an electric guitar. Regardless if they’d seen Luna Li’s viral videos, the audience members were entranced when she picked up her violin and began to play. Instead of a Vivaldi solo, she swept the venue with a beautiful layered addition to her live loops. By bringing her violin on tour, Luna reinforced her talent as a multi-instrumental artist and gained extreme respect from new and old fans alike. I caught up with her after the show, where we chatted about her classical training. Where most classical artists stick with one instrument for their career, Luna highlighted the importance and beauty of variety in both learning and performance. She also knows how to simply have fun with live performance; she cheerfully brought out a butterfly-shaped guitar during her set for the song “Afterglow.” “I got it from a dad on a Facebook gear group,” Luna beamed. “Her name is Butterfree.”

Luna Li’s backing band supported her joyful singing with tangible enthusiasm and ethereal vocals. Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok (Huxlii) on bass, Char Aragoza on keys, and Braden Sauder on drums backed up Luna through her spanning set. The soft and glittery track “Trying” took on new life with the band with a swelling violin accompanied by angelic keys. Before wrapping up, Luna thanked Japanese Breakfast, especially lead singer Michelle Zauner, for adding them to this tour. She noticed the importance of having fellow Asian women in the music scene, especially with her and Michelle both being half Korean. The group of four closed out with the upbeat fan-favorite, “Cherry Pit,” which resulted in a roaring cheer from the crowd during Luna’s guitar solo. After the show, the group was selling their beautifully self-designed merch and chatting with fans; everyone entranced in appreciation for being back at a live show.

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