Moments of Vulnerability with Mitski

by - 1:00 PM

Wednesday, I had the pleasure of seeing  Monica Mody, Jay SomPhoebe Bridgers, and Mitski at the Swedish American Hall for an evening of intimate performances. Read more about the experience below the cut, and apologies for the photo quality -- my phone camera sucks in low light!

Monica Mody read her poetry first, telling the audience that she hoped we could "all make ourselves vulnerable tonight." Before reading a poem called "Breath," she asked us to close our eyes and concentrate on the tempo of our breathing. 
By participating in this act, it felt as though we all created a space in which the performers and the audience could connect. Mody also read poems about her feelings on the current situation in India and an entity representing the feminine.  

Next on the stage was San-Francisco-based artist Jay Som. Accompanied by only an electric guitar, she was funny and charming, saying she felt like she was on a talent show stage and greeting her parents who were in the audience. Towards the end of her set she played "Forget About It Kid" and asked us to please not forget about her performance. Her lyrics were so tender and left such a great impression that I don't think I will forget.

Phoebe Bridgers performed third. I remembered her from last year's Noise Pop, where she performed with Best Coast. Honestly, I thought her set was incredibly depressing but not necessarily in a bad way -- Bridgers' gentle guitar and sweet singing juxtaposed with the content of her lyrics made me pay attention to what she was saying and a lot of the time, it felt almost uncomfortably relatable. Even the cover song she played (either Owen or Olen and the Moon, I'm not sure) shared this quality.

By the time Mitski was due to play, the audience was restless and had to be asked by the woman working sound to be quiet so everyone in the room could hear the all-acoustic set. Then, quietly, Mitski took the stage and went straight into a new song with no introductions. Every performance up until then had been poignant so I thought I'd be prepared for Mitski, but I was wrong. Her music was more potent than I imagined. Her new song talked about wanting to be an American girl for an American boy, which is a sentiment I identified with so much in high school that I'm still trying to unlearn.
Next, she introduced herself and went into my favorite song of hers, "First Love/Late Spring." The performance was stripped down to just acoustic guitar and vocals, but I think this made it more powerful.
I felt that every word she sang resonated more with me live than on the record -- which isn't to say that her recorded music isn't great but that her live music is just better. When she sang the lines "I was so young / When I behaved / Twenty five / Yet now I find / I've grown into / A tall child" they had a restrained intensity that was really compelling.
Even so, the audience was mostly silent, attentively listening instead of shouting out the words they no doubt all knew. This was a magic quality of the night: we were all there to simply let those words reach us.
Although I don't remember whether it was the ending song or the encore song (Mitski stayed on stage, saying we didn't have to go through all the motions of shouting "Encore!"), towards the end she played "Last Words of a Shooting Star." The song was full of ardent moments, one of which was when she sang "Did you know the liberty bell is a replica / Silently housed in its original walls / And while its dreams played music in the night / quietly / it was told to believe." Her guitar playing mirrored the emotions in the song, quiet at first then seemingly unrestrained. The song ended with a simple "goodbye."

After the show, I even got to meet Mitski! The whole night was beautiful and moving and I think it'll stay with me for a long time.

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