Mitski firing on all cylinders

  • NQ's Lewis Catlow reviews Japanese solo artist, Mitski, live at the Ruby Lounge

Mitski Miyawaki, known monoymously as Mitski, is a 26-year-old Japanese-American singer-songwriter.

Born in Japan, eventually winding up in New York City via numerous places including The Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey and Malaysia. It’s safe to say Mitski is well travelled, and tonight in Manchester’s Ruby Lounge she is certainly unfazed.

You wouldn’t notice that the venue is not sold out tonight, even as Bristol’s Personal Best warm up the seemingly full audience with their blend of indie rock, tinged with a slice of pop-punk, for good measure. As they put it in their bio on Facebook, “Spirited power-pop and blissed out indierama”.

Their tight, punchy songs keep the majority engrossed, with pockets of talking groups of people floating around at the back clearly waiting for the headline act. “I wanna kiss you in the street, where everyone can see” from set highlight This Is What We Look Like has the crowd energised, and the atmosphere is electric.

As Mitski and her bandmates enter the stage you wouldn’t imagine that this playful, joyous person could write such heartfelt, melancholic sad tales of daily anxieties and struggles in search for happiness in adulthood. The heavy-hitting drummer starts to pound the intro to Dan the Dancer.

For a three-piece band they are extremely tight, the guitar player excels in both rhythm and lead alongside Mitski’s bouncy basslines. The set-list mainly consists of last year’s critically acclaimed Puberty 2 and 2014s Bury Me at Makeout Creek, which are the best of her four-album discography, very impressive at just 26 years old.

First Love / Late Spring is the first of many singalong tracks they play tonight. As Mitski and her two band mates, who give impressive backing vocals throughout, gently sing the chorus “So please hurry leave me, I can’t breathe, please don’t say you love me”, the crowd softly responds. The harrowing tale of a lover, who was meant to ease the worries and anxiety of life, breaking her heart and adding to her woes, creates an emotive feel inside the venue.

I Bet on Losing Dogs quickly follows, with the band barely taking a breath. “You guys behind the pole, thank you so much for coming tonight”, she jokes about the unfortunate position taken by some attendees in the middle of the crowd.

Crowd favourite Your Best American Girl quietly creeps in, “If I could, I’d be your little spoon and kiss your fingers forever more” the crowd shout back at Mitski, and she doesn’t even sing, leaving the opening verse to the crowd.

The quiet/loud, fuzzy but catchy aspect of this song is reminiscent of bands like The Pixies and even Weezer. The distorted guitar and fuzzy bass perfectly bring in the penetrative chorus and the crowd loves it, “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me/But I do, I think I do,” sings Mitski and the crowd, in entire unison. After the song finishes she acknowledges the crowd’s efforts, “You guys remind me of why I do this.”

Stripped back, dream-pop crowd pleaser Happy starts with its monotonous electronic drum pad, “When you go, take this heart/I’ll make no more use of it when there’s no more you” and her agonising storytelling of someone losing every battle is assured through her idiosyncratic, but beautiful voice.

As Mitski is left to entertain on her own, the lights are dimmed, the crowd awaits in silence. Everyone’s attention focuses, eyes locked. She is comfortable to play her pain-ridden, folk-punk, solo. Class of 2013, which is a sombre tale of a regressive stage in Mitski’s life when she had to move back in to her mother’s home, is the perfectly fitting, final song for Mitski and her band tonight.

It’s clear that Mitski’s talented tales of one-time lovers, quarter life crisis’, and feeling lost and lonely resonate with everyone who’s ever listened to one of her records, and most definitely tonight.