Superheroes don’t always wear capes, or so the saying goes. Sometimes they blend into the black backdrop on a stage and cast their powers over a crowd through the vibrations of their guitar strings. Indie rock singer-songwriter Mitski radiated this power, her chin raised and legs placed firmly in a powerful stance, regal as she watched over her kingdom at the High Noon Saloon this past Thursday.
Her strength resonated through the emotion that seeped into each note she struck. Though she spoke few words beyond a meek “thank you so much,” she belted out guttural screams and professed extreme sadness, making her words the center of attention. She melted into her lyrics, and her plain black clothing cast a focus on her fiery eyes and the emotions sketched all over her face, connecting with each audience member.
"She belted out guttural screams and professed extreme sadness, making her words the center of attention."
Indie pop artist Half Waif, another queen who ruled the stage, warmed up the crowd. She and her band played several tracks off their latest album, Lavender, which will drop next month. Vocalist Nandi Rose Plunkett moved her body with the music elegantly, like she was performing a water ballet in a pool of her own words. Her crystal clear voice and complex keyboard combinations weaved elements of a classically-trained musician with the more electronic, jamming beats her two bandmates contributed, giving the group a moody, midnight dance party feeling.
Mitski was celestial on that stage, a star shot down to teach us the ways and tragedies of the world. Following her opening tune, “Francis Forever,” she smoothly moved into “I Don’t Smoke,” a story about missing someone but having the strength to endure any pain inflicted by them, only to wish they were there. When she crooned the line “I’m what’s left of when we swam under the moon,” she looked up to the moon and held her gaze there, something she did several times during the show, perhaps connecting with the cosmic gods she must be in close contact with, as the perfection of the song could have only come from above.
"The perfection of the song could have only come from above."
The rapid heartracing build up of “Happy” brought the crowd back to its headbanging throb. Mitski played with pacing a little, giving it a smooth feeling that was jazzier than the recorded version. The lead musician and her three bandmates played “Dan the Dancer” and “Once More to See You” directly after, all tracks off their latest release, Puberty 2. The setlist included a mix to satisfy longtime fans with selections from almost all of her albums, following those oldies with “Townie,” a track off Mitski’s 2014 release, Bury Me At Makeout Creek.
Mitski has become a feminist icon to many of her fans for professing intense emotions in a way that makes people cry or headbang their feelings out, while squashing the societal idea that these deep feelings shouldn’t be expressed. Her song “Your Best American Girl,” where she talks about not being good enough for someone else because of her upbringing, has been praised for being relatable and empowering for fans of various marginalized populations. The audience moved like a rocking horse, swaying back and forth as the guitar’s intensity built during the climactic song. Each person was as ferociously confident in being the best whatever girl as Mitski’s furrowed brow showed she was.
"The audience moved like a rocking horse, swaying back and forth as the guitar’s intensity built during the climactic song."
Empowering vibes continued with “I Will,” a love song Mitski wrote to herself. Standing directly in front of the artist, it felt as though Mitski was telling me the words and we were both basking in our own individual self-love moonlight.
Mitski stood alone on stage and switched out her ax for an acoustic guitar for the set’s final three tunes. The singer’s gentle yet striking voice during the tear-jerking, scene-fading song “Class of 2013” cracked the hearts of all that were there. Her emotions were raw, as tears had also filled her eyes.
Hearts were completely obliterated, though, during the encore, when Mitski was joined again by her band. Attendees were sent off on their inebriated stumbles with “Drunk Walk Home,” which Mitski belted with the determination and deep howls of someone blind with liquor navigating the streets and their life. Personally, I couldn’t even consider stumbling home, as I was frozen in place in a trance after the enthralling, unforgettable, I-will-only-listen-to-this-music-forever performance.