This weekend I carpooled with friends to see Mitski w/ PWR BTTM and Palehound at The Rumba Cafe in Columbus, OH. The entourage include me, Tré, Alex, and Brittany. Alex introduced each of us to Mitski (her & Britt saw Mitski in July!) and planned the excursion, because she’s a very driven person with A+ planning and follow through.
When Alex asked if I wanted to go to the Mitski show with her a few months ago I hesitated to answer. I have a lot of negative associations with highways, cars, driving, being around people where there’s no ‘safe space’ to take refuge in, etc. My anxiety has kept me in my hometown, for the most part, for the past 5ish years. I struggle with avoidance behaviors, meaning I avoid situations that have made me anxious or have caused panic attacks in the past.
Avoiding stressful situations is normal and very important to mental wellbeing, but it becomes a problem when avoiding stressful situations becomes avoiding any potentially stressful situations. Which, you know, is life. I’ve been able to work through some of these issues now that I have help from a medical professional, but doing things is still hard. I still have to breathe deep to squash the beginnings of panic attacks before doing things that, for a variety of reasons, trigger my anxiety. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I’m lucky enough to have caring friends and partners who help me out (or don’t get mad at me for my nonsensical fears and anxious behaviors).
Preparing for a road trip (even a three hour road trip) takes a lot of mental preparation for me. We decided to take Alex’s car because it’s the fanciest and most reliable (by a long shot). She was, as always, caring and open about asking what I wanted/needed/was comfortable with for the journey. Having Alex and Tré support me, even though I can be overwhelmingly anxious, is really helpful and calming. I still feel like my-anxiety-will-ruin-everything-for-everyone-and-theyre-just-being-nice-i-shouldnt-even-go but you know, I’m making progress. I went to the show, huzzah!
The venue was a one-room bar w/ cool colored lights, a small stage, and a patio in the back. It felt like the bars at home, the ones I often avoid but don’t actively dislike. The atmosphere was excited yet relaxed in a comforting sort of way.
PWR BTTM played the first set. I hadn’t listened to them before the show and they were great! The band is made up of two human beings (presumably), Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins. Dressed in glitter and cute outfits, they played an awesome show! One of the reasons I loved PWR BTTM was that they’re queer people writing queer songs. Representation is nice and being queer is hard sometimes. They also had totally chill interactions w/ the crowd during their set. Next, Palehound played. The lovely Ellen Kempner’s voice serenaded me through the bar’s walls as I spent most of their set on the back patio to calm my anxiety. It worked and I reentered the bar to watch the end of Palehound’s set, grab another amaretto sour, and squeeze my tiny body to the front of the crowd to watch/listen/experience Mitski!
For a post w/ Mitski in the title it’s taken me a while to talk about her. Nevertheless, Mitski’s set was amazing. Between PWR BTTM and Palehound me and Alex went to buy some merch from Mitski in the reclusive merch-corner of the bar. Mitski was smiling and talking with a girl who bought a shirt while Alex and I waited. We approached the table and Alex thanked Mitski for coming, relayed a message from Andrew on Twitter, and bought a ‘Unfollow hum’ shirt (as did I!). Alex was a cute, nervous mess. She’s a pretty put-together kind of gal and it was sweet seeing her interact with someone I’ve heard her talk so passionately about.
When Mitski started her set the one-room bar was excitingly quiet. Everyone seemed to be smiling and holding their breath in anticipation (though that might have just been me). I stood a foot away from Mitski and her pink guitar, with Alex and Tré on either side of me. Mitski kept her eyes on the crowd as she sang songs about heartache and life. Her performance was not performative.
She played her music, spoke kind words to the crowd, and shared her melodic feelings with us without the physical or emotional distance of many other artists. As a crowd, we were there with her–singing along to the songs we loved, closing our eyes and listening to a new song she’d written, and letting the music make us feel things in both a collective and individual way.
Mitski spoke to the crowd briefly between most songs. She gave a shout out to all the people of color at the show and thanked them for coming out even though it can be hard for them, especially in the indie scene. She thanked us (me, Britt, Alex, Tré) for driving to get there as we’d had a slightly anxiety-inducing twitter interaction the night before.
Listening to Mitski live was a great experience. I’ve listened to Bury Me at Makeout Creek alone quite often and it was nice to feel connected to a larger experience. For me, the entire journey to see Mitski was sort of a strange journey to feeling more like myself. It’s really easy to forget that I enjoy going places, being with people, experiencing new things. It’s easy to try to convince myself that my life will be easier if I cut out everything that makes me anxious. But, when I do that, I cut out so many things that I love, that I could love. Taking the journey (out of state!) to see Mitski helped me remember that.
I guess, to conclude this convoluted blog post, I want to thank my friends, the strangers at the bar, the band members of PWR BTTM and Palehound, Mitski, and the police officer who didn’t give Tré a ticket for improper turn-signaling for contributing to my very good night. I hope to have more nights that could probably scare me (but might not) in the future.
Photos by @trefelidae
Read Alex’s blog about the show @ thismoxy.com