“I want to take a poll,” said Mitski Miyawaki “Raise your hand if this is your first concert.” Immediately, a quarter of the all-ages crowd at Surly Festival Field raised their hands and screamed. “Wow!” she said, “I did not expect this many people to be here, I have to be honest.”
Even to Mitski, her popularity among a younger crowd – some of which are young enough to make this their first ever concert – is surprising. Her songs cut deep, and to many of the teens and pre-teens who are fans, they bring out emotions and feelings myself and previous generations may not have had the songs for. Almost every song received an uproar of shrieking from the crowd from the first beat. Even the slower, more mundane ones. Fans mimicked the hand twirling, parade waving, and robotic dance moves Mitski did on stage. From the back of the crowd, waves of hands would shoot up in the same direction as Mitski’s. While Mitski has long been critical of the worshipping and idolization that has followed with her indie-pop stardom, Tonight she seemed to enjoy basking in the shrieks and screams of her fans.
She returns to the Twin Cities for the second time since March, extending her Laurel Hell tour into the summer. While the show at Surly Field may have just been a rehearsal to weed out any technical bugs for the summer festival season (She headlines Pitchfork Music Fest Saturday) It didnt stop her fans from selling out all 6000 tickets. Not every audience member was a zoomer with glitter eyeliner, teddy bear backpacks, and a breakup text ready to send to their boyfriend. Older fans like me stood toward the back to give the kids their experience, holding our surly beers and parlour burgers and enjoying the show just as much as the younger crowd, just not as outwardly emotional. If parents were not already tasked to the absolutely enormous merch line to score tee shirts, they were standing next to their kids in the audience, shooting glances at them at songs like Working for the Knife, when Mitski would use the microphone as a knife across her throat, then lick it, and drag it up the middle of her dress as if it was phallic. I am not gonna be what my daddy wants me to be Mitski sings on Townie, parents taking that as a rebellious act of freedom, while their kids hoped their parents were oblivious to the double meaning behind the word daddy.
“Its kind of horrifying” said singer Indigo De Souza, in reference to the pressure felt opening for Mitski. Her voice was very versatile in her songs, at times angelic and climatic, other times ragged and shouty. By the similar shrieks and screams from the crowd, it was clear they were there for her, too. If they were not already, they became fans instantly. She’s got two albums out in the world for fans to enjoy, 2018’s I Love My Mom and last year’s Any Shape You Take. Like Mitski, her lyrics are raw and emotional, which makes the “horrifying” feeling of opening for one of her idols understandable.
Mitski on the other hand did not seem to feel like any sort of pressure was on her. With the audience like putty in her hands, she commanded the stage with bold dancing on songs like the viral Nobody from 2018’s Be The Cowboy. The audience raised their fists and punched along to the staccato piano notes of Should’ve Been Me from her new record, Laurel Hell and clapped along to Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart from Mitski’s second album, Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, which turns ten next year.
The Only Heartbreaker has a hidden hometown connection, co-written by Dan Wilson of Minnesota’s own Semisonic, which i’m sure some of the older part of the crowd would appreciate, alongside Mitski’s more new-wave material reminiscent of bands like Naked Eyes, and anything by artists like David Byrne and St. Vincent. Even with synths and lo-fi beats moving her songs along, her voice has inflections similar to Joni Mitchell, who would be a good next step for many of these younger fans on their musical journeys.
One of the big things missing in music these days are songs that continue to grow on you over time. Unlike the artists I mentioned earlier, Very few musical artists out there today have the ability to produce songs that you can listen to years from now and hear again in a new light, or for the first time. If Mitski is a beacon for the kind of music the next generation is going to listen to, sell out shows for, and even stem their own musical projects from, then the kids are alright.