One of the most memorable experiences of my many festival travels this year was racing to see Mitski at Coachella on my rented bicycle from my airbnb, getting there just in time to watch her set as I sweated profusely. Sunday night, I got to see the rising singer-songwriter in more comfortable surroundings, at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.
It was one of the final shows in direct support of Mitski’s signature Puberty 2 record, which landed on most year-end best-of lists in 2016. It’s also led to her being handpicked by Lorde as an opening act on the pop star’s upcoming 2018 tour, from March to April. It’s an interesting choice in the vein of Harry Styles taking Warpaint on tour with him for a series of dates — the idea of exposing one fan base to a type of sound they may be unfamiliar with.
I love Mitski — she’s got the angst and piercing sound of Alanis Morissette mixed with the vocal range of Chris Cornell. Her raw songwriting is needed and it’s easy to see why Lorde would be inspired by her and want her to reach a wider audience. Still, I wonder what Lorde fans and their moms will thank if they’re paying attention and a song like “Happy” gets played — “Well I told him I’d do anything to have him stay with me / So he laid me down and I felt Happy come inside of me / He laid me down, and I felt happy.”
But then there’s a song like “Thursday Girl”. “I’m not happy or sad, just up or down, and always bad,” she sings — the kind of emotions one can relate to — especially as they come of age. Looking around, I saw a number of people with glassy eyes who could probably relate to experiencing manic highs and depressing lows. They were also awed by Mitski in that she was on stage full of smiles, having overcome hardships to get to where she is.
The agony-riddled “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” was a highlight of the Fonda show — the crowd shouting in support of each screamed lyric. “I work better under a deadline, I work better under a deadline, I pick an age where I’m gonna disappear, until then I can try again” shouted Mitski as she strummed the hell out of her axe.
Mitski is a much-needed voice in today’s musical landscape and it was fantastic to see her fully appreciated by a packed house at the Fonda Theatre. It’ll be interesting to see how the opening slot for Lorde is received — my hope is that her fans will welcome her tunes with open arms. Then I think about when Lorde played the Greek Theatre a few years ago and Majical Cloudz opened and teens and their moms looked around sheepishly. Hopefully, the Lorde fan base has matured alongside Lorde on her beautiful second album, and they’ll be ready for the rawness of a Mitski next year.
Photos by Frank Mojica