Tender. Sympathetic. Rebellious. Oxford Art Factory is swirling in the aftermath of Mitski’s only Sydney show held on 29 November 2017. Where will she go from here?
Last night saw Darlinghurst’s Oxford Art Factory filled with the indie rock sounds of Japanese-American musician Mitski. With her unapologetic music on musings of the soul, Mitski showcased songs from her latest album ‘Puberty 2’, in addition to fan favourites such as ‘Francis Forever’, ‘First Love/Late Spring’, and ‘Townie’. The Sydney show was the first of three throughout November and December, with two more at Melbourne’s Howler Bar on December 1st and 2nd to follow.
Australia’s own Bec Sandridge prepared the crowd as Mitski’s supporting act. Clad in a silver coat and explaining that she had ironed ‘the bottom ten percent of my shorts’ with a hair straightener backstage, Sandridge set the scene with songs from her 2016 EP ‘In the Fog’, and finished with her most recent single ‘I’ll Never Want a BF’.
Mitski gracefully walked on stage, giving a slight wave to the sold-out crowd as she picked up a deep blue bass guitar. Engulfed by smoke machines and shadowed by harsh pink strobe lights, she entranced the crowd with a siren-like vocal melody before transitioning to the recognisable beat of ‘Francis Forever’.
The first half of the performance saw Mitski accompanied by only a drummer and guitarist; they ripped through the iconic mellow bass but also experimented with stripped-back acoustics and messy garage rock. Swapping her bass for a red electric guitar, Mitski asks: ‘Excuse me, if you don’t mind, I’d like to play some songs on my own now.’ The pattern of her chosen songs rose and fell, from the scratchy strums of ‘My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars’, the longing wails of ‘Class of 2013′, to the show-closer calling for self-love, acceptance, and peace, ‘A Burning Hill’.
Leaving the stage, Mitski didn’t stop to revel in the whoo-hoos and whistles of the crowd, but was quick to return, joking that ‘It’s time for the encore.’ The last song of the night was a cover of U.K. band Personal Best’s ‘This is What We Look Like’. Thanking the crowd and waving once more, she walked off stage leaving the cheers of the crowd lingering behind her – sated yet longing for more.
For many, Mitski is an artist of complicated intensity, soft in her manner, yet powerful in her song. Her music strikes a chord within her listeners, commanding them to pour out their feelings with her confessional lyrics. What sets her apart from today’s musicians is her deviation from the formulaic messages of the mainstream. She sings about the nitty-gritty parts of love, life, and letting go with no trace of romanticism or beauty in their struggles. They force listeners to reflect on the ‘What If?’ and ‘What could have been?’ But the overarching theme of her music is one of empowering the human condition; that it’s perfectly alright to feel everything and nothing, and that confusion and uncertainty are unavoidable inevitabilities that must be overcome.
Mitski is humble in her work. Ever-present in her artistry, her passion for what she does shows in her various collaborations within the creative industry. She recently starred in a short film directed by film critic Emily Yoshida, ‘Sitting’, which also serves as a quasi-music video for Mitski’s song ‘Thursday Girl’.
2018 will see Mitski as a supporting act for Lorde’s North American tour alongside Run The Jewels. The tour will take off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 1st.
‘Puberty 2’ reminds us of our own adolescence in retrospect; the title befitting the phenomena. It’s sad music for grown-ups. You can purchase ‘Puberty 2’ on Mitski’s official website, and view her music videos on her Vevo.