Mitski has been making serious strides in the indie scene as of late. Her 2016 album “Puberty 2” was received very well upon release, and will surely be featured on several “Best of 2016” lists.
Her lead single “Your Best American Girl” especially got the attention of many music critics and new fans, and went on to arguably become her most popular song to date.
I’ve been following Mitski for a little while, just waiting for my chance to see her live. Luckily, she finally came to town, rolling through one of my favorite Philly venues, the First Unitarian Church, Nov. 19.
Supporting acts Weaves and Fear of Men played energetic and captivating sets to warm up the packed crowd of indie fans. I particularly enjoyed U.K. dream pop band Fear of Men, whose lush synths and gentle vocals really tickled my fancy.
I could tell by the online performances I had seen of Mitski that she was humble, and her show at First Unitarian was no different. Her setup included her bandmates and herself standing on a dark stage — illuminated only by two bright lights facing the audience.
If her intention was to wash out any potential photos and obscure the crowd’s vision of her, mission accomplished.
With no kind of introduction, she and her band launched right into “Dan the Dancer” and “Once More to See You,” off “Puberty 2.”
The band’s playing was on point — Mitski herself played the bass guitar and sang while the guitarist shredded riff after riff and the drummer pounded away on the more rocking tunes.
Where Mitski really shines is in her lyricism. I was elated to hear my favorite song next, “Francis Forever,” which features the depressingly relatable lyrics: “I don’t know what to do without you. I don’t know where to put my hands. I’ve been trying to lay my head down, but I’m writing this at 3 a.m.”
Most of her songs have a dark subject matter, reflecting upon broken relationships and personal shortcomings.
Mitski songs are not very long, so it seemed like she was rolling through song after song in no time at all. I was happy to hear her play “First Love / Late Spring” off 2013’s “Bury Me at Makeout Creek,” which features the line “I was so young when I behaved 25, yet now I find I’ve grown into a tall child.”
Other highlights included “I Bet on Losing Dogs,” “Your Best American Girl” and “Townie.”
At some point, and without acknowledgement, her bandmates disappeared off the stage and Mitski was left to play the remaining few songs on her own. “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” and “A Burning Hill” were hauntingly beautiful acoustic numbers.
She prefaced her final song by expressing her aversion to encores, stating her belief that everyone should just let the show be done when it ends. She closed with the highly emotional “Class of 2013.” The song ends on the lyric, “Mom, am I still young? Can I dream for a few months more?”
And with that, Mitski left the stage and the sold-out First Unitarian crowd filtered out quietly, meditating on their shared experience.
I think it’s fair to say that Mitski affected us all on a spiritual level, and what better place to do so than in the basement of a church?