Walking up to Webster Hall on a cold November night, the thought of seeing Mitski at a sold out show in the 1,500 capacity Grand Ballroom is surreal. This is a room where I’ve seen The Wonder Years and The Front Bottoms, pop-punk superstars. I’ve been invited to see Mitski at house shows throughout the Hudson Valley. I’ve tried to see her at the Music Hall of Williamsburg or Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium to no success. Seeing her name posted below the venue’s name along with the words “Sold Out” filled me with the kind of excitement you only get from seeing a quality artist reach a level of success they deserve. Mitski has placed herself as an artist that can deliver the sort of huge show that Webster Hall calls for.
Opening up the show were Canada’s Weaves, who really delivered more than the audience bargained for. Jasmyn Burke can control the stage with a very laidback demeanor. Weaves sound a little bit like Vampire Weekend in the way they make feel-good music that can jump from sounding punky to ska-influenced in a matter of seconds. It’s been such a long time since an opening act had caught my attention the way Weaves had. The end of the set was sexy with Burke and her bassist singing into the same microphone, and the music made the audience move at the very least.
The UK’s Fear of Men had the middle set, but their brand of mellow, synthy post-punk didn’t translate very well in a live setting. The band isn’t bad, but the energy that Weaves brought into the room lost momentum once Fear of Men started playing. The band was fine though. I’d be willing to give them another shot at a different show.
Mitski’s popularity has soared to the point that her stepping on stage to setup her gear elicited cheers. Her past two albums have shown that she can make classic songs that are equal parts catchy and emotional. From the opening of “Dan the Dancer” to “Class of 2013,” Mitski showed just what has made her an indie-superstar. The louder numbers drew larger reactions from the audience as you could hear everyone singing along to the choruses of “Townie” and “Your Best American Girl,” but Webster Hall was dead silent during the softer songs. Mitski is equally powerful for both, whether she’s singing “Fuck you and your money” or “Please don’t say you love me.” The classical training she’s received has always shined through in her intricate instrumentals and wide range of vocals, but it was shocking to hear how soft-spoken Mitski is between songs. When she made note that this was a safe-space for everyone, it was much more reserved sounding than any other declaration I’ve heard at a show. Her reserved demeanor only makes the powerhouse vocals on a song like “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars” all the better.
Mitski followed Monday’s show with a much smaller scale at Brooklyn’s Villian. While it seems Mitski may never leave the DIY realm entirely, her headlining gig at Webster Hall only seems to be the start of a much bigger stage of her career.
James Crowley is on Twitter.