By Ziggy Merritt
Friday night was a restless one at Union Transfer. The night’s proceedings only furthered that feeling hour after hour with attendees waiting for Mitski Miyawaki, but mononymously known as Mitski, to warp on-stage. Before then, Half Waif and Julia Jacklin opened as the crowd steadily filtered into what may have easily been a sold-out performance.
Half Waif, an experimental pop outfit fronted by Nandi Rose Plunkett with assistance from Zack Levine and Adan Carlo, opened first. With Celtic undertones and chamber pop instrumentals, their performance delighted the space. Julia Jacklin followed next with an understated, personal performance that spoke to her experience bouncing from New Zealand, Australia, and even Los Angeles. Though touching and captivating as her voice was toward the immediate front of the stage, howls and murmuring from the back of the venue affected the intimacy of it all. Having been to Union Transfer more than a few times by now, the absolute rudeness of the crowd did not go unnoticed by myself or those immediately around me. Yet as Jacklin left the stage much of that changed with the expectation of the night’s headliner.
Shimmering in a white gown and reminiscent of a battle-ready Princess Zelda, Mitski held the stage with authority that evening, instantly calming the restless crowd that had been buzzing throughout Jacklin’s performance. If that night indeed shared a common thread of vocal acrobatics, her turn at the mic sealed the deal. Where Plunkett’s stylistics veer toward the whoops and hollers of Kate Bush, Mitski has a range that extends anywhere from a quiet and punctuated to panicked and rage-fueled. Those characteristics are sometimes a stark counterpoint to her stage presence, which remained calm and centered throughout.
And though scarcely a moment went by without myself and the audience remaining fixated on her performance, “Your Best American Girl” and “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” are spotlighted in the gray matter of my mind even a few days later. Both songs are from her excellent and most recent album Puberty 2 released last year and both exhibit that same distinct range.
“Crushed Little Stars” is fueled by post-grad anxiety, relatable to many of those pressed up against the stage. Here, Mitski stood alone, spotlighted on stage near the end of her performance, shredding with a loud, even drone. “Your Best American Girl” played toward the beginning and received one of the louder responses from the audience. The clarity to its performance exceeded that of the album itself, where heartbreak and identity are prominent thematic elements. The encore, a cover from the catalog of pop punk band Personal Best, finished out the evening. Adapted and eased down from the original’s more frenetic pace, Mitski’s take was a sweet and graceful in its execution.