Concert Review, Indie, Rock, Singer-Songwriter

Show Recap: Mitski Made Me Cry; Not Clickbait But It’s Believable Anyway

On a Sunday evening, a line of unfamiliar faces is outside shielding themselves from residual rain as they wait for the doors of the Columbus Theatre to open. In Providence, Rhode Island, Mitski’s Bon Voyage tour is about to start, the first date of the mini-tour headlining smaller cities in the Northeast before she embarks on her Be The Cowboy tour.

There’s an almost dream-like quality to the entire night (apologies for the cliché). Sidney Gish makes an incredible first impression with her opening set, joking with the small audience that the setting reminds her of community theatre. It becomes a running joke, almost, throughout her set, and she’s not wrong — the bluish purple lighting gives the venue a Twin Peaks-esque atmosphere, but the seating arrangement emanates a true theatre setting, much smaller than most high school auditoriums.

When we finally see her, Mitski Miyawaki comes out with her hair in a bun, wearing a white button-down shirt. The opening, which I’d find out days later is track six, Remember My Name, of her anticipated record, Be The Cowboy, starts with a distorted electric guitar that glides so swiftly along the first lines: “I gave too much of my heart tonight / Can you come to where I’m staying / And make some extra love?” Without an introduction and minimal talking throughout the set, Mitski’s only vessel into who she is as a person is her art right in front of us. She has the ability to display everything and nothing, her poker face almost calculated as she moves in fluid ways, sometimes exuding the beauty of a dancer through interpretative motions. She sprawls herself on the floor and the lone chair in the middle of the stage; she lays on her back as she kicks her legs to the air as if she were the only person in the room.

The energy was alluring, with every person’s eyes drawn to her like we’re holding our last breaths. Sidney Gish wasn’t kidding about the room feeling like community theatre — it was far from your local DIY gig or a night out at the House of Blues. Mitski’s control of the energy in the room was a punch to the throat in the most flattering way possible. The storytelling in her lyrics makes you feel a certain ache in your gut, as if you’d lived a thousand lives before this, all while she narrates each and every one to a T. There’s a moment that physically gave me goosebumps — it’s at the very end of Geyser, when she begins to mimic the motion of digging into the ground frantically, a homage to the music video in which she does the same thing on a rainy beach. Where her short songs usually carry a narrative, Geyser is full of unadulterated emotion in the vaguest way. I think that’s one of my favorite things about her music — her art is simply art. There doesn’t have to be an interpretation or meaning to every single thing, but the eruption her performance gives transcends something just beyond goosebumps.

It’s a very specific, very personal, visceral feeling to watch a person you’ve never met pour their heart out on stage. For my case, as I was nearly choking back tears during Your Best American Girl, a fan favorite, it’s like gazing at a mirror. That’s not to say I’m essentially making powerful indie rock and touring the country, but as an Asian American girl, to bask in Mitski’s music as well as other associated artists like Jay Som and Japanese Breakfast (a holy trinity) is to feel full of something euphoric.

Here’s what I’ve noticed in the niche community between the Internet and my own peers who love Mitski: the most common thing is everyone’s love for astrology — Mitski’s too. One day in 2017, in which she tweeted about her Scorpio rising, I asked her about her moon sign. Lo and behold, she tweets back, saying she’s a Capricorn moon, and I’m losing my absolute mind. For those of you who don’t know, there’s more to zodiacs than your usual sun sign, there’s also the ascendant/rising (how you appear to others), and your moon sign (how you are inside/emotionally). The point here is that I share my Libra sun, Capricorn moon, and Scorpio rising with Mitski, so for this whole time I’ve been listening to her, I constantly get reminded of how similar we possibly are in an astrological level. Despite the honesty in her interviews and her songwriting, there’s a surface level magnetism to her that I can only aspire for in an older, more evolved version of myself. In a recent The Fader interview, Mitski says, “I think Björk said in an interview that all of her albums are just exaggerations of a specific part of herself. I think it’s like that for me.” This shows through her art, in which her record and performance clearly displays her multiplicity.

Mitski glides on the stage like she’s alone in her bedroom, barely singing to the audience but more so to herself — performing like she’s in a dream as she wraps the mic cord around herself. It’s something recognizable, to see someone unravel themselves in an almost mind-numbing way. The singer casts a spell on the room as we watch her like voyeurs — especially shown in the lack of phone screens glowing throughout the audience.

The last moments of the show get stripped bare. The band does their instrumental take-off as Mitski leaves us with an impromptu intermission, to which she comes back with her blue acoustic guitar, and suddenly, it’s just her. More tears come (of course), specifically during A Burning Hill, a bittersweet ballad off of her last record, Puberty 2. She sings, “Today I will wear my white button-down / I’m tired of wanting more / I think I’m finally worn” while in her white button-down, and it’s like the stage is the audience’s own diorama. In the tiny venue with just her blue guitar, lights down low as everyone sits in silence, listening to Mitski has the same exact effect as listening to her record for the first time just after midnight. It’s just her voice, you, the glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling, and whatever multitude of feelings that burn in your chest.

One of the very few things she says throughout the entire show is a thank you to the audience at the end of her set, a humbling and quietly thoughtful exit as if it were her first show ever. There’s not really a way to put into words an experience that sticks to you like honey, how fast you’re snapped back to reality once the lights come back on and the audience gets up from their seats, but it’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget.

 

Header photo by Em Gray.

 

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Concert Review, festival

Sunday Recap: Fortress Festival

Fort Worth’s Fortress Festival is a rarity in music festivals in that it is just that: a festival of music. In today’s entertainment world, festivals aren’t good enough until they have over the top accessories like ferris wheels, comedy shows, movie viewings, celebrity attendees, and an excessive amount of vendors. Boston Calling is becoming that type, having recently added a film and comedy aspect to the event. It feels like we are becoming less satisfied with one source of entertainment and constantly in need of distractions. Why I liked Fortress Festival was that it was completely dedicated to the music. Yes, there were the typical overpriced vendor and merch tents surrounding the premise, but nothing too showy that took away from the music. Well, with the exception of a hair styling tent.  The complimentary braiding and glitter accessorizing led to an infestation of glittery braided festival goers, which felt odd since it wasn’t Coachella. In the spirit of the festival, I got glitter braided, then immediately regretted the decision.

Fortress Festival is in its second year and is still small enough to feel like a personal experience. Unlike Boston where an April day could be cold rain, snow, or 90 degree weather, Fort Worth is pleasant this time of year. Festival goers were able to enjoy each act without worry of rain. Located in the cultural district of downtown Fort Worth, Texas, the festival neighbors the acclaimed Kimbell art museum as well as the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, where ticket holders received free entry there. I will say that witnessing band-mates from Pear Earl dance around the Kimbell fountain to Courtney Barnett’s set was a personal highlight of the festival.

Now let me tell you about the music. Midnight Opera was the first act of the day and unfortunately only a handful of people were in the crowd. People slowly trickled in throughout the day, and it really only got packed towards the later side. Ronnie Heart, once described as “future funk,” really blew the crowd away. His dance moves were on point, and his flute player rocked as hard as any flute player could rock. Local act Andy Pickett did not dance like Heart, but the energy was prevalent in his singing, piano playing, and his rockin’ horn section. His smooth soul singing is reminiscent to the 70’s and 80’s, but the young crowd seemed to be digging it. Pickett’s interactions with the audience added a nice friendly touch. Pearl Earl gave quite a performance, as well. Drummer Bailey Chapman was especially fantastic, whipping her hair back and forth putting her heart and soul into each song.

Courtney Barnett. Photo by Ismael Quintanilla

And of course, the bigger acts did not disappoint. Lee Field & the Expressions danced and sang, their happiness completely contagious and tangible. Tune Yards acted as a double espresso shot, providing an energetic burst for the tired afternoon. I don’t know how else to describe Courtney Barnett’s set except that she totally rocked, as she showcased her punk side screaming into the mic.  I missed The Texas Gentleman in order to secure a good spot for Father John Misty, but I will say they sounded great from a distance.

Father John Misty. Photo by Ryan Vestil

Father John Misty’s performance was worth both the wait and the almost destruction of my knee caps. Misty’s dreamy ballads had audience members singing each and every word, even the songs that were leaked from his upcoming album (God’s favorite Customer, coming out June 1st). Fans got to hear classics such as “Chateau Lobby #4”, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, and “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” as well as some newer tracks like “Mr. Tillman.” Dancing, twirling the mic stand, and looking straight into our souls, Misty was an excellent performer. He sounded great live and the only disappointment was his rejection to the crowd’s ongoing encore request.

Fortress Festival is one of the smaller festivals, but it is worth going to. I came for Father John Misty, but the smaller acts really made the day. Even though the glitter in my hair may be temporary, I hope Fortress Festival is here to stay for awhile.

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Concert Review, Hip Hop, Rap

Concert Review: BROCKHAMPTON @ House of Blues, 2/5/18

Everything about BROCKHAMPTON is unconventional. During 2017, the band released three feature-length albums over the course of six months, entitled the Saturation trilogy; each of which received high critical acclaim, with Saturation III peaking at 15 in the US charts. The collective of around 15 members produce everything themselves; creating their albums, music videos and merchandise all at their shared home in Los Angeles.

The group quickly developed an enthusiastic fan-base attracted to both the music and it’s content. BROCKHAMPTON discuss topics often ignored in popular culture, let alone in rap music, such as: sexuality, mental health, rape culture and addiction, amongst others. Despite the nature of some of these topics, BROCKHAMPTON’s music is full of energy and isn’t as hard-hitting as one might expect, with songs such as STAR, during which members of the group interpolate countless popular culture references over the course of the three minute track.

On February 5th 2018, I arrived at the House of Blues venue in Boston an hour and a half before doors opened to BROCKHAMPTON’s sold out show. Around a hundred or so people were already lined up, despite the bitterly cold temperatures of 20 degrees. Some fans were dressed in orange jumpsuits, with blue face paint – mimicking the costume often worn by the boy band in their music videos and live performances.  The audience consisted of all genders, primarily teenagers and those in their twenties.

Once inside the 2500 capacity venue, without any opening act, group member, Ameer Vann walked onto stage alone and slowly got changed into an orange jumpsuit. Within moments the other 6 primary members of the group ran onto stage in matching outfits, brock1.jpgwith the booming single BOOGIE opening the set. The boy band stormed through fifteen songs in quick succession. Each rapper was constantly jumping around the stage, dancing, interacting with the audience or providing backing vocals/ad-libs for the other members of the group – the energy and atmosphere was unlike any concert I’ve been to.

One unusual aspect of BROCKHAMPTON is that, despite being a rap group, “bearface”, one of the central members, just sings- only contributing to 5 songs over the entirety of the Saturation trilogy. After an hour and half of the main rap-heavy set, all other members left the stage, leaving only ‘bearface’. Prior to this, he’d just sitting on stage with a guitar, watching the previous set. He performed the slow-paced, emotional BROCKHAMPTON tracks SUMMER and TEAMleaving the crowd, who had been crazily moshing before, swaying from side to side with lighters raised in the air.

After the short solo set, the other members returned for an encore, which included performing their hit song, STAR, five times consecutively – each time requesting a larger mosh pit, bringing members of their crew (such as their sound engineers brock2or videographers) on stage before finally inviting thirty or so jump-suited, blue-faced loyal fans up- it was madness.

The 2018 national tour is entitled Love Your Parents Tour – A Live Experience By BROCKHAMPTON. I can’t think of a more fitting description of the concert than it being ‘a live experience.’  The music of BROCKHAMPTON is unique, energetic and emotional. I would highly recommend giving BROCKHAMPTON’s Saturation trilogy a listen, and seizing the opportunity to see them live when they return to Massachusetts for May’s Boston Calling festival.

 

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Anti-Folk, Concert Review, Indie Pop

Review: Regina Spektor @ Smith College, 11/14/17

By Janis Pham & Jess Slattery

On Tuesday, November 14th, Regina Spektor held a special solo performance at Smith College in Northampton. The concert was delayed for half an hour due to technical difficulties, but standing outside of the venue did not deter the droves of fans from showing up to see her perform. Before Regina even took the stage, her fans were shouting their admiration out from the crowd. Sitting down at the piano, Regina opened with “Folding Chair”, inviting the audience to enjoy the show with her with the first line, “Come and open your folding chair next to me.” After every round of applause, she’d modestly whisper into the microphone a small thank you, and would receive joyful laughter from the audience in response.

The John M. Greene Concert Hall was sold out for her performance, but she navigated transitions between songs with such intimacy that it felt as if she were speaking directly to each audience member. Although it was a one woman show, Regina filled the stage with her presence that ranged from mild to booming, accentuating the emotional currents that run throughout her music. She has the uncanny ability to move between pop, folk, opera and musical theater without batting an eyelash. Yet, nothing about it felt abrupt or misplaced. She moved from the song “Pound of Flesh”, a frantic and haunting piece as dramatic as the title suggests, to the tender ballad “Obsolete” without hesitation.

Regina’s small talk and banter were some of the highlights of the show. Between her songs, she often made comments about her day and her appearance, especially when it came to her shoes. She remarked about how tight her shoes were, but joked that the show would go on despite the “suffering she endured for art”. The spiel went on for a few songs, but she eventually paused between songs to retie her shoes.

She is sassier live than she is in most of her studio recordings. What is surprising, never having seen Regina perform live, is how similar her voice is to her recorded versions. It is clear that she relies more heavily on her talent than on electronic voice modification. The only time her voice faltered was during her performance of “My Man”, when she progressively became more flat throughout the song. Despite this, she never faltered and continued on with a gracious “thank you,” in response to the applause.  

Many of her songs have social commentary, whether that be through their lyrics or through the structure of the song itself. “Ballad of a Politician” speaks to the theatrics of men in suits making deals in isolated rooms. She has several light-hearted tunes that play with the structure of most generic pop songs. “Reginassauras” cutely plays on words. “Music Box” allows her to whimsically play with sound effects and noises that almost make the listeners forget about the dark and chilling subject matter that is laced throughout the song, explaining her desire to escape life’s routine by taking a “big gulp” of dish soap.

One of my personal favorite songs that Regina performed was “Poor Little Rich Boy“, a scathing criticism of the superficial masks we put up to give the appearance of perfect lives and hide our self-doubts. With her right hand, she played the keyboard and with her left, she hit a drumstick against a chair with such aggression that I was, at times, surprised she didn’t fall off her bench. All in all, it was an enjoyable experience. 10/9, would recommend!

Image via Rolling Stone. 

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Concert Review, Rock

A Night At The Bowery: An Intimate Evening With Turnover

Preface

Nov. 16, 2017 was a date I had marked on the calendar since a hazy summer morning in early July. I found myself on a screened in porch of a female’s house I slept in the night before. Toking a joint, I was hoping to chase away the pounding in my skull so I could make a dash to the streets. That’s when I heard the scratching of a needle on vinyl from the room beside me.

“Adolescent dreams turn to adult screams, paranoid that I won’t have all the things they say I need,”  were the first lyrics I caught by Austin Getz, the lead 

turnover1singer of the band Turnover, off their latest record at the time Peripheral Vision. It spoke to me in a way that brought me back to my youth, days where I grew my hair long below my shoulders, dying it black, and adding a blonde streak to my bangs. Nostalgia. Early 2000’s pop punk lyrics, similar to bands like Taking Back Sunday, The Used, and Mayday Parade. Basically any band I had used to make my AIM bio. The thing I liked about Turnover was how they used emo lyrics, but with a new wave sound. A indie-rock, dream-pop tone, with a melodiousness to make you want to drive through the night in the rain. I was hooked.

By August of 2017, Turnover released their third studio album Good Nature, again growing into their sound. This album swayed more into a dream-pop-california-smokeadoobie-surf some gnar-melt my ears-awesomeness-vibe. Yes, this album was different than their last two, but it was different in the way you’d hope a band you like evolves and changes. Good Nature is the kind of album I’d tell my friends to listen to cover to cover- it brings you up, and on a sunny day walking to class, it’s unmatched.

The Venue

After months of anticipation the day was finally here; I arrived in Manhattan’s Lower East Side around 6:30pm and found my way to the Bowery Ballroom, doors opened at 7pm. I was met by two bouncers at the door and shockingly enough, no line. Turnover sold out both of its NYC shows, so I found it strange I could get in so quickly.  I walked down a dark staircase into a dimly lit bar with a collection of concert goers, ages ranging from early 20’s to mid 30’s. I grabbed a drink and sat next to a couple who I asked if they were here to see Turnover; of course they said “yes” and we made conversation for a bit.Turnover2 The Ballroom where the show was to be performed wasn’t visible to me yet, as we’d have to exit through another door when the first bands came on at 8pm. I approached the bar for another drink when, walking right in front of me, stood Austin Getz, lead singer/guitar of Turnover, followed by his drummer Casey Getz and bassist Danny Dempsey. There were a mere 30 people in the bar, and there was the band: just hanging out.  At that point I knew I was in for a different concert experience.

I made my way into the concert hall at right at 8pm for the first act Gliterer (which I’ve looked up since and it seems like they literally picked him up off the streets of New York because he can’t be found in a Google search). The Ballroom is Rock N’ Roll heaven, selling out the venue with a max capacity of 575 people it was the perfect amount of filth and intimacy you’d expect from a Lower East Side establishment. Before any bands even touched the stage, the smell of cigarettes and weed engulfed the air. There were no security guards putting out the lighters and the smoke, it was NYC, it was Rock N’ Roll, and it was time for the music.

The Show

Gilterer took the stage at 8pm, which was strange at first because he was alone with no instruments, so I figured he was just one of the stage hands setting up for the first band to take front and center. Then he approached the microphone, saying “Thank you all for coming to the show early, I’m Gliterer. I just want to thank Turnover and Elvis Depressedly for having me out tonight.” Hitting play on his Macbook, the sound of synthy-dream-state beats escaped through the speakers, followed by some pretty painful lyrics relating to ghosts of girlfriend’s past. I respected the act, it takes balls to take the stage alone, especially with no instruments, but I’d tell Gliterer not to quit his day job. After about five songs Gliterer exited the stage saying his thank you’s and was met with a pretty warm applause for the act.

Elvis Depressedly, a lo-fi indie-rock band from North Carolina took the stage. Lead singer Matt Cothran entered the stage wearing black spandex pants accompanied by white Daisy Duke short-shorts and a pink glittery sport coat, echoing the style of punk rock royalty like the New York Dolls, who played this stage decades before.  The band’s music was met with open arms and singing voices. The crowd had a psychedelic feel and turnover 4there weren’t many eyelids held above half mast, “Have you ever had a serious anxiety attack when you’re on the stage in front of hundreds of people?” Cothran said to the fans, he was met with crowd laughter, though it didn’t seem like he was joking. He stared outwards from the stage with a blank face, eyes buzzing around his glasses’ frames like they wanted to jump out.  It was all part of the act: the sound of soft guitars were met with loud cheers when Depressedly began playing their popular song “Angel Come Clean”, Cothran singing “I’ve been taking Xanax, listening to Morphine”, a song that talks about taking anxiety drugs while listening to bands named after drugs, which I think is comical. Overall, Elvis Depressedly had a great stage presence and sounded the same as you hear them on the album, they made for a fun show and the crowd was engaged throughout, it even lead me to buying their vinyl post show.

Turnover entered the stage moments after Elvis Depressedly had walked off, stage lights at full blast. The band began tuning their own guitars while a generic indie playlist played in the background. Fans screamed the names of members of the band while they worked on their instruments. Then, without even a drop of the lights, the cool sounds of surf- indie-rock began pouring out of the amplifiers. They opened with the song “Super Natural”, which was poetic to the way I felt.  Austin’s voice, alongside a smooth guitar riff and relaxing bass tones, sounded like driving down the coastline of California with theturnover 5 person you’ve always dreamt of. I don’t think the audience missed a single lyric in the hour and a half Turnover was on stage. They followed up with “Nightlight Girl” another classic off of their newest album. From beginning to end the band stayed true to who they are, mixing and matching songs from their last two albums. With songs from Peripheral Vision brought mosh circles and stage dives from Turnover faithfuls living in their emo/post-hardcore past. The band even mixed in one of their singles “Humble Pleasures” from a 2 track vinyl released in 2016.

“Its intimidating to play the city, because its so unique, and so cool, and so busy all the time,” Said Getz to the crowd of 575 faithfuls.

“We’ve been a band that’s played in the New York area for a really long time, and it’s still nerve-wracking. I can’t say thank you enough, whether we know you or not, thank you so much for being here. It means a lot. THIS IS THE BIGGEST SHOW WE’VE EVER HEADLINED IN NYC.

Post Show Interview

After the show I sat down with Bassist Danny Dempsey, a New York native, to ask him some questions about the show and the band.

Q: So what was it like playing in front of a sold out crowd here in NYC?

A: Well we’ve played in front of sold out crowds here before, this is the biggest we’ve had in NYC. So it’s a pretty cool feeling. I’m originally from long Island so I’ve been playing around here my whole life.

Q: Your sound has clearly changed over the years from Magnolia to Peripheral Vision and now with Good Nature. What can you attribute that to?

A: Well you know it all comes with growing up. Our sound changes as we change, we were 17-18 when we made our first album.

Q: Do you all contribute in the song writing?

A: The songs usually start with Austin.

Q: Austin said this is the first time you’ve played the new album in America, where have you played it?

A: We just got back from being on tour in Europe, so yeah, it was heard all over Europe. But its great to have played it in NYC first.

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Concert Review, Local Music

Review: Humble Digs & Sunshine Bros. Inc. @ Iron Horse Music Hall, 10/14/17

The Sunshine Bros. Inc. and the Humble Digs, both local musical groups, played a fantastic and lively show Saturday night at the Iron Horse in Northampton. Although a late show, beginning at 10 pm, it drew a crowd large enough to fill the floor. Unfortunately for Iron Horse regulars, the balcony area was closed. Starting off, the Sunshine Bros. Inc. came out strong with many originals and a couple of cover songs, namely a surprise version of Let’s Dance by the legendary, late David Bowie. UMass Amherst rapper NliteN took the stage alongside the Sunshine Bros Inc. for a track, which was well rehearsed and hyped the crowd.

The Humble Digs took the stage around 11 pm and began playing a very avant-garde Ode To Viceroy by Mac DeMarco, which melded into tracks off of their most recent album “&,” and never before heard tracks from an album in progress, “Portrait of Grace.” The Humble Digs bring a lot of energy within every song; needless to say the crowd was rocking out, carried by soothing, walking bass lines, trills and licks from both guitarists and killer beats from the drummer. They were melting face, so to speak. During the middle of the set, the Humble Digs brought out a fan favorite: Fearless, by Pink Floyd; one of the best covers of all time, by a local artist. The Digs use slide guitar to create an eerie and intriguing version of a rock classic.

Things to look out for in the future: the Sunshine Bros Inc. just released their debut EP “The Sunshine Tape” mid-September, and can be found on Bandcamp, and Facebook. The Bros. will be playing shows in the Valley for the foreseeable future. Be sure to check out their Facebook page for more information.

The Humble Digs are going on hiatus! Unfortunately for those looking to see the Digs again in concert, you will have to wait a couple of months. They are going undercover to work on their new album, “Portrait of Grace,” which will be released in the next year. To find your Humble Digs fix for the moment, search them on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify and Facebook.

NliteN can be found on Soundcloud, Spotify and Facebook. He has released a couple of new music videos, accessible on Youtube.

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