Mitski takes hold of Union Transfer with an arresting performance

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Mitski | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

“When I last came here I was opening for another band and I remember thinking that this was some huge stadium venue,” said Mitski Miyawaki from the stage at Union Transfer on Friday night. “But now, it seems like the perfect size.”

Mitski was wrong. The wide, cavernous hall of Union Transfer was nowhere near large enough to contain her, though I’m not so sure any venue would. There is filling a room, which Mitski indeed did for the duration of her long-ago sold out show, and then there is owning a room. Few artists working today display the kind of quiet command which has become her trademark, able to arrest as easily with a soft croon as an impassioned howl.

Many who made their way to the Spring Garden venue on Friday night witnessed an impressive summer storm roll through the Philadelphia area. The sky, serene and calm, was slowly overtaken by ominously dark clouds, bringing with them sideways rains. This is a Mitski show. This is Mitski.

Mitski | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

Songs “First Love/Late Spring” and “Drunk Walk Home” – both off her breakout record Bury Me at Makeout Creek – begin simply with little more than Mitski’s powerful voice filling the stage, but before long they breakout, transforming into full-band, sonic experiences. You’re not sure how they got there, but somehow it all makes sense.

Then there’s “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” a song coming toward the end of the set which saw Mitski on stage by herself, her band having moved backstage. Just Mitski, an electric guitar, and her wailing vocals, yet somehow one of the most powerful, rock and roll moments you can imagine witnessing. The song isn’t even two minutes long but the momentum she created rumbled through the ground in record time. It was the kind of moment you go to shows for, where everyone stops looking down at their phone or trying to get the best instagram photo and are ripped from distraction to focus on an artist in her element.

Mitski was truly a sight to see, here’s hoping she swings by Philly again soon. Below, check out a gallery of scenes from the show, which featured opening sets from Half Waif and Julia Jacklin.

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