Taping recap: Mitski

photo by Scott Newton

Mitski has undoubtedly carved out her own unique space in modern music – appropriately enough for an artist equally comfortable opening for either the Pixies or Lorde. The Japanese-born/NYC-based singer, songwriter and university-trained composer has her own distinct point of view and a singular performance style that owes as much to theater and dance as rock and pop. With a generous setlist covering her entire career, Mitski and her four-piece band gave us a stand-out show, made all the more special by her announcement on her Twitter feed earlier today that this would be her final tour.

The band took the stage behind a table desk and chair, followed by Mitski herself, holding a mic and standing still at stage right. As she sang “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart,” she did a slow walk from the side of the stage to her desk, taking a seat as the song ended. She sat stock still as the synth pulse of “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” kicked off, going into full-on choreography as the song progressed. She went back to the desk for the atmospheric “Old Friend,” climbing atop at the song’s climax. The band cranked up the volume for “Francis Forever” and “Dan the Dancer,” which contrasted nicely with her stoic performance style – at least until the leg kicks began on “Dan.” A plethora of sampled claps heralded the arrival of “Washing Machine Heart,” which garnered immediate cheers and encouraged Mitski to leave the desk. She returned to the prop for the throbbing “I Will,” ending the song standing atop it.

The music became noisier and more insistent for “I Don’t Smoke,” which Mitski performed with her arms as much as her voice. The more straightforward “First Love/Last Spring” earned a more energetic performance from the auteur, as if she was fueled by nervous energy. The dramatic “Geyser” followed, with the table desk taking on a role closer to dance partner than prop. Leaving the table on its end, she stalked the stage for the vibrant, aggressive “Townie,” before straddling the chair like a Bob Fosse character for the danceably poppy “Nobody.” She re-embraced the table for the tightly powerful “Liquid Smooth,” before taking to a microphone stand for the clamorous “A Pearl.” The languid, spacey “Thursday Girl” found her back on the table, as did the heartworn “Lonesome Love.”

After a quick sip of water, she sat on her knees on the table as guitarist Patrick Hyland strummed the chords to “Your Best American Girl,” which moved from meditative pop song to loud rock thumper, complete with whipped hair. The more melancholic “I Bet On Losing Dogs” followed, which also used the soft/loud dynamic to great advantage, as Mitski took over the desk once again. She then turned the desk over and stood behind it for the angry, strident “Drunk Walk Home,” brandishing her mic stand like a soldier practicing with a rifle and crawling on the floor in defiance. She ended the main set with the heartbroken pop anthem “Happy,” after which she left the stage.

It was only to retrieve her guitar, however, as her musicians continued to play. “My band, everyone,” Mitski remarked as they quit the stage, leaving her alone for the stark “A Burning Hill.” She then left the stage herself, leaving her adoring fans to cheer wildly. She returned, of course, as did keyboardist Kyuhyun Marie Kim, launching quietly, almost resignedly into the lovely “Two Slow Dancers.” She then thanked both the audience for supporting her in doing her “favorite thing in the world,” before praising the ACL crew as “the kindest, most accommodating, least pretentious people” with whom she’d ever done a TV gig. Then it was time for the big, show-closing anthem: “Carry Me Out,” a clear crowd favorite and the perfect way to end such a special show. We can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as part of our upcoming Season 45 this fall on your local PBS station.

Giveaway: Mitski

photo by Bao Ngo

UPDATE giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by Mitski on Tuesday, June 4th at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by noon on Friday, May 31st.

Winners will be chosen at random and a photo ID will be required to pick up tickets. Winners will be notified by email. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required. No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras computers or recording devices allowed in venue.

New taping: Mitski

photo by Bao Ngo

Austin City Limits is thrilled to announce the debut taping of acclaimed indie songwriter and performer Mitski, who will join us on June 4, 2019.

Mitski Miyawaki, “one of the most interesting songwriters of her generation” (Paste Magazine), achieved breakout success with 2016’s critically-acclaimed Puberty 2, and soon after circled the globe as a headliner and as an opener for both The Pixies and Lorde. She was hailed as the new vanguard of indie rock, the one who would save the genre from the white dudes who’ve historically dominated it.  Her carefully crafted songs have often been portrayed as emotionally raw, overflowing confessionals from a fevered chosen girl, but on her stunning fifth album, Be The Cowboy, Mitski introduced a persona who had been teased but never so fully present until now—a woman in control.  Recorded with her long-time producer Patrick Hyland, the album is not a departure so much as an evolution from previous albums. The title “is a kind of joke,” Mitski says. “There was this artist I really loved who used to have such a cowboy swagger. They were so electric live. With a lot of the romantic infatuations I’ve had, when I look back, I wonder, Did I want them or did I want to be them? Did I love them or did I want to absorb whatever power they had? I decided I could just be my own cowboy.” There is plenty of buoyant swagger to the album, but just as much interrogation into self-mythology.  

Be the Cowboy has earned widespread acclaim, topping critics 2018 year-end best lists. It was named the #1 album of 2018 by the likes of Pitchfork, New York Magazine, ESQUIRE, Consequence of Sound, and more, and  #2 by NPR Music, The New York Times (Jon Pareles),  and SPIN. Pitchfork proclaimed it “Mitski’s most triumphant record to date, a refining of her many strengths, splashed across the largest canvas her arms can carry.”  The New York Times raved: “[Mitski] has grown ever bolder musically, moving well beyond the confines of indie rock and chamber pop to try synthesizers, disco beats, country and more, while savoring the sweep of her voice…On this album, even more than she has before, Mitski makes the music her partner.”  “An album defined by impeccable construction and open defiance of the confessional mode,” noted NPR.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before each taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings. The broadcast episode will air on PBS later this year as part of ACL’s upcoming milestone Season 45.