Edgy Indie-punk Artist Enchants at Memorable Show


Eli Steiker-Ginzberg

Mitski stands contemplatively among her bandmates beneath psychedelic lighting. Her politically slanted ’Sco set Monday night delighted her loyal fanbase.

Sam Rueckert, Staff Writer

Before starting her set at the ’Sco Monday night, indie-punk singer-songwriter and bassist Mitski said, “I am not caffeinated enough for this.” If there was any truth to this joke, it certainly did not show in her hard-hitting performance. The energy of the performance was matched by the equally energetic and sizeable crowd that shouted compliments to the singer throughout the show and hushed each other when offstage noise became distracting from the music.


Mitski, who recently finished playing at South by Southwest, began her set with soft crooning over an open chord but quickly transitioned into her most widely known song, “townie.” The song had the crowd dancing and cheering when she came to her refrain of “I’m not gonna be what my daddy wants me to be” and later “I’m gonna be what my body wants me to be.” Perhaps her positive reception was partially due to catchy, subversive lines like these.


Mitski’s singing was dynamic, both in range and in volume. At times she sang like an acoustic singer-songwriter, but she also referenced an angsty grunge sound. Her singing blended well with her driving bass lines, the steady pulse of the drums and memorable chord progressions. All in all, Mitski and her band did a good job of negotiating the line between edginess and sweetness.

The performance wasn’t an hour of variations on the same four-chord song, a trap to which some artists in Mitski’s genre tend to fall victim. Mitski would occasionally sing chant-like interludes, adding tonal variation and a change of pace. Her second song, with its more laid-back tempo and melodic guitar solos, was enjoyable, but unfortunately her guitarist’s playing didn’t meet the caliber of the other two musicians in her band. Mitski’s guitarist wasn’t a bad player, and she did justice to the power-chord portions of the songs, but when it came to solos and melodies, she didn’t meet the standard of quality in playing that is expected of professionals. She mainly faced issues with pick technique, string muting, vibrato and tonal variation.


In between songs, Mitski would occasionally jokingly ask questions like, “What are you all doing here?” Each time she would receive a gracious response from her loving audience, and she would respond with sincere gratitude. The set entertained consistently but got especially interesting during the last three songs. The final song that featured the full band, “drunk walk home,” began with a march-like drum beat and calm, descending vocals. Mitski quickly got the audience excited with a shouted, expletive-laden refrain. The military-esque beat continued, bringing with it a chord progression to match the melody of the vocals that built toward a grand finish. Finally, after the second verse completed, the band broke into a roaring instrumental breakdown. Suddenly, to finish the song, Mitski set into an untamed, incomprehensible bout of screams, shocking much of the crowd, who roared in admiration at the end of the song.


The other members of the band left the stage after this song. Mitski put down her hot pink bass, picked up the microphone and proceeded to swipe her hand against the still active guitar sitting on its stand, which had been left in a semi-open tuning. She sang the next entire song accompanied by only swipes to the guitar. Feedback harmonized with her voice as her chant-like vocals reappeared. Her usage of reverb created a heavy atmosphere. She finished her set, but the audience demanded more, so she picked up the guitar for one last song, “last words of a shooting star,” a laid-back waltz that left the audience with a literal “goodbye” –– the final word uttered in the song. After the show, fans swarmed Mitski, showering her with praise. She talked to and thanked every single one of them. It was clear that she had meant what she said earlier on in the show: “I love this.”