Mitski – Live at Palisades – 7/17/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)
by Steven Spoerl
Last night Palisades played host to a bill that guaranteed the venue would sell out well before doors, so expectations for the evening were considerably higher than usual. The night was headlined by Mitski (who has earned her fair share of words on this site) and made room for other site favorites like Brooklyn upstarts Normal Person and The Epoch favorites Eskimeaux. Throw in Elvis Depressedly (who now comfortably reside on Run For Cover’s increasingly fascinating roster) and any promotion outside of the show announcement practically becomes unnecessary; this one sold on its own.
Normal Person played first to a small but appreciative audience (it would progressively swell in size until the room was finally at capacity for Mitski) and brought their all. Their sole EP, the fantastic #0001, has been floating around online in some form or another for years. Recently, the tape was granted a physical release (a copy can- and should- be ordered from It Takes Time here) and it was the band’s first show to promote the tape. As is always the case with the various LVL UP side projects, Normal Person is a band that comes stacked with intimidatingly talented musicians. I only managed to catch the last stretch of their set but it was incredible enough to inspire the thought that it’ll only be a matter of time before they’re headlining these kinds of shows.
Next up was Eskimeaux, a band that’s part of the prolific Epoch collective and riding high on a wave of national acclaim for O.K., one of 2015’s best records. Unsurprisingly, the majority of their set pulled songs from that record and were played with the characteristic passion that The Epoch has become renowned for exhibiting. Nearly every song came laced with an approach that alternated between delicate and furious, spurring feelings of empathy and heartbreak in the process. It was abundantly clear that these songs carried significant meaning for guitarist/vocalist Gabrielle Smith, who delivered them with an uninhibited grace, leading her incredible band (Felix Walworth’s jaw-dropping drumming is worth singling out) through the emotional fraught terrain and- ultimately- delivering one of the best sets of the year.
Following something like Eskimeaux almost requires a certain wildness and that mania was something that Elvis Depressedly was more than happy to supply. My friend and fellow writer Sasha Geffen once said that Elvis Depressedly were “a band that records in lowercase but plays in all caps.” It’s a quote that, for whatever reason, has stuck with me over the years. I was anxious to find out what she meant and wasn’t disappointed to see the band fully embrace a much more chaotic and maximized version of themselves. They’ve assembled a strong band for this tour, which includes Greg Rutkin of LVL UP (and openers Normal Person) behind the kit. Significantly punchier than they are on record, Elvis Depressedly wound up creating a perfect bridge between Eskimeaux and Mitski with a career-spanning set largely mid-tempo numbers that had some psych flourishes and played into vocalist Mat Cothran’s outsize persona.
At this point, Mitski Miyawaki’s project has more than earned its headliner status and it was heartening to look out into the audience to see a diverse crowd of people that was dominated by a front section that skewed more towards the under 21 bracket (Mitski’s guitarist, Callan Dwan, would later reveal to me that she was very grateful for both the venue and the crowd’s size). Towards the very start of her set, Mitski addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support and encouraging the historically marginalized communities to be proud of their roots and “take up as much space as you can”, with a disarming sincerity that’s seen far too infrequently. It was a moving plea that was rooted in honesty, a dynamic that’s been translated effortlessly into her music (which is one of the many reasons behind Bury Me at Makeout Creek almost topping this site’s Best Albums of 2014 list) and is fully ingrained in her demeanor.
With ex-Diarrhea Planet drummer Casey Weissbuch (who’s also the mastermind of Infinity Cat‘s extraordinary cassette series) anchoring the trio, the band dove headfirst into a memorable set that wound up recapturing a lot of the magic of the last Mitski set to get coverage here (no small feat) while supplementing it with new intricacies. Deceptively nuanced and- a recurring theme throughout the night- unerringly heartfelt, it touched on various points throughout the songwriter’s discography, while- understandably- leaning heavily on the Bury Me At Makeout Creek material. If Mitski was baring her soul on the Palisades stage, the audience was reciprocating that generosity with extremely vocal support between songs.
At one point, in one of the evening’s most genuine and communal moments, Miyawaki ran backstage to collect the bottled water on hand for the artists and passed it out to the audience to help them cope with the uncomfortable humidity that only a small space packed with bodies on a warm day can bring. It was one in a series of moments with the band and the audience playing off of each other, which was itself a slight reflection of how well the band played off of each other during a very affirming set. Following the pained howling that closes out “Drunk Walk Home”, the band left the stage leaving its principle voice alone with the spotlight. Two tender songs later, the set was wrapped, and the audience was screaming for an encore that never came. Even if it had, it probably still wouldn’t have satiated the audience’s desires- and, really- why bother tampering with a perfect closing note?
A gallery of photos from the show can be found here and a video containing some of each act’s strongest highlight can be found underneath the gallery.