Photos + Words by Ava Butera
A few nights ago, I had the pleasure to witness one of the most talented musicians of my generation, Miss Mitski Miyawaki at The Sylvee in Madison, WI. Though I was exhausted and was fully aware that the concert was going to end late, I conquered through because I knew that there was no way I’d be turning down the opportunity to see Mitski.
In 2018, I went to The Melodrama World Tour when I still lived in Miami and showed up early because I had heard great things about Mitski – who was Lorde’s opener for the North American leg of the tour. She was the first one to take the stage and she furiously played her guitar, and was backed by an equally as talented band. In between songs, Mitski interacted with the crowd, her voice soft and calming as opposed to her powerful vocals and meaningful lyrics I heard when she performed. Shortly after she finished her set, I was instantly hooked and yearned for a time I could get to see Mitski again.
And on April 3rd, my wish came true.
As I walked into the venue, I saw handfuls of people wearing full cowboy garb. And at first, my oblivious mind thought, “wow, who knew the farmers of Wisconsin liked Mitski?” But soon enough it finally clicked that these were not in fact farmers or cowboys, but dedicated fans of Mitski who chose to dress up as the title of her latest effort, Be the Cowboy. This was refreshing to see and I instantly regretted not choosing to wear my cowboy boots to the show.
First up was Mitski’s opener, Jay Som. The band radiated such positive energy and everyone in the crowd was vibing along to their indie-influenced set. Lead singer, Melina Duterte kept whipping out the witty phrases and at one point referred to Madison, WI as “Maddy-Wis”. This had the crowd laughing and intrigued.
Shortly after they finished their abbreviated set, the crowd was anxiously waiting until Mitski would take the stage. Soon enough, her manager dragged out the infamous table and the crowd cheered almost louder than they did when Mitski walked on stage. This table is the one you see in the photos. Mitski incorporated this table into her performance to create an impactful form of interpretative dance. Throughout the set, watching her dance on top of the table and even fighting with it as once – which I assumed represented a difficult relationship – was truly mystifying.
At 9:15PM sharp, the lights went dim and Mitski slowly waltzed onto the stage as she belted out one of her oldest songs, “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart”. This song set the tone for the somber yet amiable atmosphere for the night. Mitski conveyed such emotion during her set and choosing to open with this song was an excellent choice. For the rest of the beginning of her set, she chose to play songs spanning her entire catalog including ones from Bury Me at Makeout Creek, Puberty 2, and of course her critically-acclaimed effort, Be the Cowboy. Though the beginning of her performance created a moody ambiance, by the middle of her set she was happily dancing around the stage as she played the rock-influenced coming of age song “Townie” and the popular, “Nobody”, accompanied by upbeat bright orange and yellow lights.
Though half the crowd was either in tears or all smiles by the end of her set, everyone could agree on one thing: that Mitski puts on a fantastic and breathtakingly beautiful show. I hope to see her again soon and encourage those reading to go out and catch her on her current leg of the Be the Cowboy Tour.