Take her word for it: Mitski has played in some truly shitty situations.
“To state how cool it is to play here,” she said during a pause in her first-ever headlining set at the Fillmore on Thursday, “here’s an example of an uncool place I played.”
Mitski then proceeded to share a rather hysterical story about a gig she once had during the day at a dive bar outside of Boston where her audience consisted solely of a drunk couple “doing everything but having sex” and an amateur baseball team that had just lost a big game. Later, she also reminisced about a gig in New York where everyone in the crowd was “sad, old white guys who looked like Charles Bukowski.” She also recalled another show where an older woman — high on cocaine — demanded that Mitski kick her in the face.
These stories, Mitski told us, were to emphasize how amazing it was to now be playing the Fillmore. She said the bad stuff only served to make the good stuff better, and for Mitski, the good stuff is here in abundance.
Riding a tidal wave of accolades that followed her 2016 album, Puberty 2, Mitski has established herself as a songwriter and performer with a knack for tapping into both soft lulls of love and loud shrieks of despair. From the precision of her lyrics to the spectrum of her voice, her songs play with structure, but never lack depth.
On the night of Thursday, April 13, she placed her chops on full display, from her furious rendition of “Townie” to the percussive march and sparse guitar that accompanied the hushed opening refrains of Puberty 2‘s stand-out “Happy.”
Before Mitski took the stage, two opening acts took their shot at the Fillmore — and both made sure not to waste the opportunity.
First up was Los Angeles band Steady Holiday. Lead singer Dre Babinski got to work creating an unsettling but serene atmosphere that would linger on for the duration of the night. Especially of note was set closer “So Long” — a fairy tale nocturne with lyrics that posit love as a song “so long it plays beyond the fade.”
Following Steady Holiday was fellow Los Angeles artist Kadhja. Blessed with a voice reminiscent of jazz royalty, and a sound that blends the classic and modern sides of soul, Kadhja and three backing musicians rewarded each and every audience member who had wisely opted to arrive a little early. Even her cover of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” — which Kadhja herself introduced as “the most covered song of all time” — was alluring as her voice poured into new nooks and crannies in the forever-familiar lyrics.
Both acts were thus substantive appetizers to a decadent main course, one which lasted just over an hour and satiated a crowd quite eager to make sure that Mitski knew they loved her.
“You saved my life!” yelled a male fan who was quite possibly several Coors Lights deep but perhaps also sober and sincere.
In return, Mitski offered a quick, coy smirk of acknowledgement before launching into “First Love/Late Spring.”
By the end of the evening, after a sing-along of Puberty 2 lead single “Your Best American Girl” and solo renditions of “A Burning Hill,” “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” and “Last Words of a Shooting Star,” a ravenous demand for an encore led to one last song before the evening concluded.
Next up for her will be the madness of Coachella, and then onwards and upwards. While no one can promise a lady on cocaine won’t request that Mitski kick in her face at some future show, it seems certain that such a character will never again make up the majority of her audience.
There are simply too many of us now — the fans who feast on the beauty of her music with ravenous abandon.