A crucial starting point to any gig, I’m off my tits on Spoons refill coffee. I’m heading to see the performance of my Twittersphere’s latest darling, Mitski. She’s little known to me bar a few enjoyable listens to her latest album, Be The Cowboy. I could be here for that name alone. I enter Gorilla to Norwegian artist EERA, one vowel away from EER-E, the way I process it on a first read. There’s an eerie discord between keys and vocals which fits the misinterpretation. There’s three vocals, led by EERA (real name Anna Lena Bruland) on guitar with backing band surrounding. The first song finishes not long after my entrance, during the applause I promisingly choke on an apple.

Three songs into my arrival, I enjoy the brooding, drawn out reverb on the vocals and the wavering on the synth pad against a slowish tempo, four chord strum. We’re quietly thanked. Switching guitars to what looks to me something like a Kurt Cobain Jaguar humbucker, the tone becomes grungier in feel. For a brief moment I see the bassist pause, hanging over the body and lunging without playing. The refrain mentions an ocean, I think. The vocals carry Laura Marling’s approach to vowel sounds, whilst less folk in tone. I look around, there are a lot of good fringes prepared to see Mitski. We’re told it’s EERA’s first gig with Mitski, they’re happy to be here. Directly to my left I am right by the sound desk where the actual Mitski lingers, calmly moving to EERA’s rhythm. I look back at the stage, and the bassist has no bass, is hitting the drumkit along with the drummer (2 drummers, 1 drums). It settles into a steady beat with scaling keys alongside, before they thank us and leave. As she and the band leave I admire her tartan blazer-cum-dress with shoulder pads.

On she walks to literal rapture. The audience is demonstrably ready to be obsessed and besotted. There are violin strings, plus wiry sounds on the glitter-bodied guitar. Mitski sings, hands behind back. There is a creeping feel of a 90s Pacific Northwest band. During song two, she gestures her right hand out and motions a cigarette towards her mouth. The overall sound balance doesn’t seem its best though her voices trills beautifully. A trip-hop drumbeat plays along with pared back but deep strings. Her hand slides down her abdomen, the second refrain is louder with skittish drum addition. Her arm gestures to the side again as the song subsides. It reminds me of a repeated move pulled by Erykah Badu at her Hammersmith Apollo gig last summer where she seemed to seek out a higher being. The next song is ‘First Love/Next Spring’ from 2014’s Bury Me At Make Out Creek (a name nodding to a Milhouse quote), she moves both arms into a box shape either side of her, then into a teapot, next a vase. I expected an elaborate outfit for some reason; she wears however a clean white shirt and black jeans. The next song sets off with the bass, added to by small vocals which give the room a cosier feel until the audience picks up the lyrics too (declarations of intensity like “lately I’ve been crying like a tall child”, “one word from you and I would jump off of this ledge I’m on”).

Mitski introduces herself, gives thanks and a quiet pause. Next, also from Bury Me…, is ‘Francis Forever’, once played by Marceline the Vampire Queen in Adventure Time. It begins with the truest essence of love songs since time immemorial (“I don’t know what to do without you”). She moves towards front of the stage, slowly paces the front then does bleep tests across its widths. There’s a huge whoop from the crowd at its finish. The next song has a skippier pace which makes me think of rapper Serengeti’s beats. She sings from the stage’s baseline, then struts to the front. Happily I see a number of queer couples enjoying this together. When I flit my eyes back she’s leaning into us along the pavement-walk beat. A chair is brought front and centre, she sings to its emptiness, sits upon it and crosses her legs as she sings from ‘Dan the Dancer’. She leans back and bicycle kicks her legs into the air. You could make comparisons with St Vincent’s tone, delivery and sultriness, her legs now set wide apart with an arm and a hand pushed against her back like the arc of a swan neck. The clothes (intentionally or otherwise) seem to fit, it feels like a record conjured up and played out in a room as a relationship and its associated feelings are scrutinised. The body movements are thought out and key, people quietly hooked on them, necks craned forward.


There’s a moment’s break, she extols EERA and says she “found them captivating”. She delves into ‘A Pearl’ from Be The Cowboy, replete with the “I don’t want…” line framing we’ve heard in earlier songs tonight. The audience heads bob in gentle waves. She bathes in lots of blue, I think of Kelela who sings of this very light on Take Me Apart, and of the flyzapper in my kitchen that resembles the inside of a sunbed. Moving back to 2016’s Puberty 2, ‘Thursday Girl’ coolly deploys the drum pad and swashes of synth. She is lovely scaling on the word “glory”. I see two women holding each other, singing the words to each other’s faces. Mitski leans, holds her arms robotically, then flips herself, her hair and hands to the floor. As the song switches, her hands flap like a bird to the drumbeat. She beats the floor, motions like she is giving herself CPR. This could be bedroom hysterics, a what-the-hell is happening to me and us self-inquisition. A woman next to me has a ‘Bad Seed’ bag and I remember my plus-1 telling me about the supernatural experience of seeing Nick Cave on stage on his most recent tour. There again, his recent music shoots lines of personal inquisition, a solo-mission to untether some emotions.

College rock style ‘Townie’ is next with a refrain that melds love and death in a neat metaphor (“I want a love that falls as fast/As a body falls from a balcony”). My heart is anxiously tapping along with a filled out drum beat. Then the recent ’Nobody’, a fantastic pop song of disco etiquette, with the frankly wonderful lines that sew what humans do well with what they do worst:

‘Venus, planet of love
Was destroyed by global warming
Did its people want too much too?’

It opens onto a chorus that Gloria Gaynor could harmonise her ‘I Will Survive’ on, then lands on two key changes towards the end. There’s no definite genre for me to square Mitski on, though loosely pop. The tempo is slower in ‘I Bet On My Losing Dogs’, a straightforwardness to the syllables in “you’re my baby, say it to me”, the percussiveness pleasant. The arm gestures do not cease, they form a limbic instrument. There’s little room for pause in the show although the slight tempo and intensity switches give breathing space. Many moments feel like the end of a Twin Peaks Season 3 episode, a nonchalant artist on a sizeable bar stage backdropping the credits. Here as there, ample amounts of Lynch’s favourite red are used. But Mitski feels to me like light blues and skies, heartbreak spinning on rollerblades.

She apologises that she cannot hear an audience member’s comments (I can’t hear them either) due to earplugs, but “feels the sentiment”.

‘If I could, I’d be your little spoon
And kiss your fingers forevermore
But, big spoon, you have so much to do
And I have nothing ahead of me’

The small present throttles into the negative absolutism of thought patterns we often pin on ourselves. Away from the solitude of the writing desk, we here are 500 in a bed, Mitski’s bed, lamenting where this second-person addressee has gone, an absentee who’s collectively ours. It’s interesting here that the music is rarely intense enough to feel a traditional match for Mitski’s physical rolling, shaking and poising, not to say it is a bad fit. The opening track from Be The Cowboy, ‘Geyser’, seethes chillingly until some major key chords play out and the marching beat escalates. She lengthens the mic cord out horizontally, palms out as if to wave us off.

It isn’t the end; ‘Happy’ is rolled out, a drumbeat with a moment’s worth of Bow Wow Wow’s ‘I Want Candy’. I like the guitar FX, lots of metallic wah. She has no mic, jumps and writhes. In ‘Drunk Walk Home’ the word “fuck” has clout – as often it does – against drums alone. The coffee isn’t making me feel terrible but a bit off kilter, it would take little for me to be moving like Mitski is. Someone quietly says “I love you” as the guitar swifts into a jazz mood, a hook on which you could sing the verse to Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’. Mitski now has an acoustic guitar over her. Following what she calls her band’s ‘lounge music’ interlude, the rest of the stage leave and she starts strumming the open strings for ‘My Body’s Made of Crushes Little Stars’. She has “one more song”, ‘A Burning Hill’, though the timing tells me we’ve room for an encore before a 10pm curfew.

And so she ends on ‘Two Slow Dancers’, after telling us we “literally make her dream come true”. I laugh at the lines “Does it smell like a school gymnasium in here?/It’s funny how they’re all the same”. It’s a sweet lilting finish that helps me to conclude the show’s greatest strength, the malleability of Mitski’s voice (timbre, pitch, delivery: the works) which gives an understated but compelling show.

Mitski: Official | Facebook | Twitter

Hannah Ross

Hummer and strummer with Kurt Vile hair. Likes neo-soul, reverb, and most things put out by Beggars. Will review for money and/or free tickets + exciting new music.