Review – Mitski at the Workman’s Club

By Brendan Callaghan

It’s a very rare thing to attend a sold out midweek gig in Dublin. This is probably due to the fact that punters are generally less inclined to go to mid-week gigs – plumbing mainly for weekend entertainment – and consequently these slots are usually filled by relatively little-known acts still establishing themselves on the European scene as they try to build-up some sort of following.

This, however, was not the case last week with the New York based lo-fi noise rocker Mitski, who played her first ever Irish show to a sold-out crowd at the Workman’s club in Dublin’s Temple Bar.

The capacity attendance must have come as something of a surprise to her booking agent who, she told us, was sceptical about booking a Dublin show because of a “lack of a following there”.

Thankfully Mitski had a little more faith in the refined tastes of Irish gig-goers and insisted on the inclusion of a Dublin stop on her current European tour.

Mitski is one of a swathe of new and exciting female singer-songwriters that are currently giving the indie rock-scene a much needed injection of originality and imagination. Along with other artists such as Courtney Barnett, Colleen Green, St. Vincent, Angel Olson and many others; Mitski manages to blend her own very feminine sensibility into what is traditionally considered a masculine and male-dominated form.

Mitski at the Workman's Club, Dublin - photos: Steven White
Mitski at the Workman’s Club, Dublin – photos: Steven White/

In this sense she succeeds in creating a different type of sound; one that has all the sonic harshness and brutality of classic noise rock but is juxtaposed with a voice and lyrics that suggest a tender sort of fragility.

Her songs generally have a soft and quiet beginning with simple, lo-fi bass lines and gently whispered vocals; but once the first chorus hits they usually transform into full, bold and noisy ballads that could be described as a less dissonant and more pop-orientated (early) My Bloody Valentine sound.

For her gig in the Workman’s she began with two of her strongest and most well-known tracks; first with the quick catchy and fuzz-splattered ‘Townie’ and then with the sweet, slow but equally noisy ‘First Love/Late Spring’.

The remainder of the set consisted mainly of numbers from her breakout album Bury Me At Makeout Creek and her recent brilliant follow-up Puberty 2.

The capacity crowd cheered enthusiastically after each rendition and even a temporary blackout failed to faze her as she nonchalantly bantered with band and audience until the power was restored.

As the performance began to reach its crescendo her band-mates left the stage leaving her alone in the spotlight where she pre-warned us that this would be the last two songs and not to expect/chant for an encore.

There’s something a little pretentious about premeditated encores anyway so acts that choose not to indulge in this antiquated stage tradition should be applauded. 

The last two songs were quiet, with a sombre quality that made the packed concert hall seen strangely small and intimate; and there was no sense of dissatisfaction from the audience even when it became obvious that she was going to stand by her anti-encore conviction.

It was a near perfect performance and there was no need to coax one last cheer from the already adoring crowd.  

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