Straight back through the bar at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen sits a poorly lit room, with hipsters slumped against the walls and some daring enough to sit on the sticky floor. In their defense, there is not a single stool in the back room, not even by the bar. Ironically pink Christmas lights are strung along the wooden ceiling of the establishment, seemingly connecting the stage with the back bar that could be mistaken for a children’s wagon carrying booze. In this shabbily decorated hole-in-the-wall, young twentysomethings in black leather jackets and raincoats watch the most underground of bands that drastically range in talent and sound.
Mitski commanded the stage with a serious and calm intensity, as if to declare, “I have a few things to say. I’m going to let you in on a secret”, and all the kids sitting on the sticky venue floor got on their feet to lean in and hear what she had to say. “There’s a party and we’re all going, and we’re all growing up / I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony / I’m not gonna be what my daddy wants me to be.” Mitski sung of an experience that her audience shared by simply attending the show, and the strife of her words was felt throughout the intimate venue.
Mitski Miyawaki, the frontwoman and bassist of the band that goes by her first name, looked like she was straight out of art school in her worn out jean jacket and white oxford shirt. She crooned with the conviction of an angst ridden bedroom singer, freshly jaded from the reality checks that come after college. With the vocal sensibilities of a classically trained musician who composes music for a living, she successfully melded pop trills to a punk aesthetic, evoking chills with memorable lines such as “I’m not the girl that my daddy wants me to be” and “Fuck you and your money”. In the outro of the last song of the set, “Drunk Walk Home,” she screamed into the microphone five times, and the hypnotic effect of the set was over.
Her new album, Bury me at Make-out Creek—like her live performance—did not disappoint. All though this is not her debut album, her darker shift in tone is already propelling her career. In her opinion, the addition of a full band on her current tour has also allowed her shows to feel more energetic and involved. Mitski’s new album is similar in subject matter to the works of popular contemporaries like Perfect Pussy, Pity Sex and Speedy Ortiz, but is radically different in the sense that she brings a classically trained aesthetic to the DIY punk resurgence and tender lyrics. After one full listen, you won’t be surprised when you hear she’s playing Pitchfork next year.
Inset photo by Rafia Santana