Mitski’s performance at Zanzabar Friday March 17th, was a perfect summation of the indie rocker’s talents and persona. Mitski, whose latest record, Puberty 2 ranked among the most acclaimed works of 2016, put on a brief but gratifying set rife with emotional engagement.
Half Waif, the project of former Pinegrove member Nandi Plunkett, provided an opening set. The three-piece’s dreamy synth-pop was pleasant, and Plunkett’s vocals were lovely and smooth. I couldn’t shake the sense that many of their songs felt fractured, however. Apart from a handful of pretty and poignant tunes, they seemed to wander and suddenly fade out with no clear structure. Perhaps Half Waif’s music is meant more for full album listening rather than in bits and pieces. Nonetheless, their new record Lavender, releases April 27th, and I will be giving it a listen.
Mitski took no time for pleasantries and go right to business with her set. The sonic variety of her music remains as remarkable live as it is recorded. She’s able to dart back and forth between loud and grungy, light and synthy, or even straight acoustic without tripping over herself. Some of her most cutting tracks, like “Your Best American Girl,” “I Bet on Losing Dogs,” and “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” had every bit the potency of the recordings, and the waterworks were in full force for a good portion of the audience.
My main qualm was that the hour-long set felt almost jarringly short in perspective. It’s known that Mitski is less than comfortable being in the public eye; there was miniscule audience engagement and songs were shot off at a rapid pace. While I understand and respect Mitski’s right to perform however she wants, a better sense of pacing would have done the show some good.
Despite these qualms, the show was overall enjoyable, and Mitski’s talents as a singer and songwriter were not hampered in the slightest. Being able to make a good chunk of your audience weep openly is no easy feat, and as I noticed all the wet eyes around the stage, I knew for certain it was attending something special.
Aaron Hartley is a freelance journalist local to Louisville. When he’s not making coffee for a living, he’s staying on top of all things culture, from music to film. You can check out more of his writings here.