Mitski at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA, October 19, 2018 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Mitski at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA, October 19, 2018,

Nov 02, 2018 Mitski
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Earlier this year, Iggy Pop said that Mitski Miyawaki, known more commonly by just her first name, is “probably the most advanced American songwriter that I know.” Most people would take such a comment as hyperbole, even if the artist in question is someone that they like. Not Mitski’s fans. Any live show that Mitski puts on acts as a reminder that arguably no other artist outside the mainstream right now has a fanbase as reverent, devout, and ardent as she does.

Mitski’s audience at storied Philadelphia venue Union Transferthe first stop on her ongoing, entirely sold-out, 24-date North American toursang along to almost every song she played from her three most recent albums: 2014’s Bury Me At Make Out Creek, 2016’s Puberty 2, and this past August’s Be the Cowboy. If the crowd’s reception this night was any indication, the Mitski Hive (as Vinyl Me, Please described her fanbase in an article related to VMP’s special Essentials release of Be the Cowboy earlier this year) is as rapturous about the grunge-infused, desperate romanticism of Bury Me at Make Out Creek and its slightly refined, even more deeply heartbreaking sister Puberty 2 as it is about the high-stakes, dramatic, pristinely produced pop of Be the Cowboy. Whether new songs such as “Me and My Husband” or longstanding classics such as Bury‘s “I Will,” hundreds of people sang along with Mitski. You would think she was Beyoncé if you knew no better.

And to many people, she’s just as much of a deity. The reason Mitski has such a devout following is that she tends to pack absurd amounts of crafty metaphors and images regarding failed romances, unreasonable societal standards, and love so desperate it takes such forms as pinky-promise kisses and jumping off roofs (recurring narrative devices across Bury and Puberty 2) into two-to-three minute songs with melodies so strong they’re impossible to not to sing along to. No matter the shape her songs take, Mitski has an unparalleled ability to use precisely the words and sounds needed to make her listeners experience the same turmoil, nostalgia, reflection, and (occasionally) contentedness she recounts in her art. And with song lengths as short as hers, she never overstays her welcome.

With short songs come short albums. A 90-minute Union Transfer set gave Mitski more than enough time to play most of her Bury, Puberty 2, and Be the Cowboy songs (plus a couple of selections from 2012’s self-released, pre-hype Retired from Sad, New Career in Business). “First Love // Late Spring,” a tried and true Bury classic, took a live form that was something like 10 beats per minute faster than its barren, bass-driven, midtempo recording, and Mitski’s band took the liberty of adding a Cure-like set of guitar arpeggios to its mournful, organ-drenched chorus. “Thursday Girl,” a Puberty 2 deep cut, featured a jolting guitar fill not heard in the recorded version, which relegates six-strings to background pitter-patter in the verses and restrained growling in its anguished chorus. Be the Cowboy‘s “Washing Machine Heart” featured extra layers of overdrive and distortion in its outro, whereas the guitar in the recorded version is completely buried under the throbbing bass synth and higher-pitched, eerie digital notes that close out the song.

Mitski’s backing band (one person each for guitar, drums, bass, and keys/synths) enabled her to be hands-free the entire set, minus her unsparing solo performance of crushing Puberty 2 closer “A Burning Hill,” the night’s third-to-last song. This is intentional: Whereas many previous Mitski tours have seen her on stage with as few as zero and as many as three other people, now, with no instrumental obligations, she’s free to move her body, particularly her arms, hands, and head, as she pleases.

Be the Cowboy‘s tour has seen Mitski incorporate slow, steady, robotic gyrations into her stage presence in a way that precisely recalls the movements St. Vincent added into her live persona while touring her 2014 self-titled album. Since Bury arrived that same year and had distorted guitars and deeply personal lyrics about depression and romantic loss, many were quick to label Mitski as a St. Vincent disciple. It’s only now with her new stage antics that this comparison gains much merit. Watching Mitski operate her forearms like pendulums during lurching, deeply distraught Bury highlight “I Don’t Smoke” was enthralling, as was her lifting her pinky up as she sung about pinky-promise kisses during the slowly-gestating chill of woefully overlooked Puberty 2 track “Once More to See You.” She even threw in some bicycles, because no bodily performance art piece is complete without ab exercise.

Of course, this is all in service of the songs. A visual presentation as outré as the one Mitski is presenting on her Be the Cowboy tour might not be received well if it didn’t accompany absolutely fantastic musical performances, which, of course, it does. A major contributor to the inescapable, commanding melodies Mitski comes up with is that she can sing like nobody’s business, both live and on record. Her voice is as welcoming and gentle as it is assertive and overpowering; she both drowns the world in hot flames and beckons with such grace that you can’t help but feel like you’re hearing from an old friend.

At Union Transfer, she missed at most one note, during her penultimate performance of Be the Cowboy closer “Two Slow Dancers,” during which only her keyboardist accompanied her. In interviews preceding Be the Cowboy, Mitski mentioned that there are moments on the album where her voice breaks, such as during her immensely popular disco-style bop “Nobody,” that she didn’t edit out. It’s only natural, and hell, even charming, that her voice broke for a second as she sang “Two Slow Dancers”; Mitski fans know to expect a minimal but gut-punching ballad to end her albums, and “Two Slow Dancers” might just be the most powerful version of the Mitski Closing Song that she’ll ever pen. Of course she might lose her balance a little while singing it to thousands of strangers.

It feels improper to talk about Mitski and her Be the Cowboy tour without discussing two of the album’s songs in particular. “A Pearl” and “Remember My Name,” the album’s fourth and sixth tracks respectively, may well be the two most nauseously impactful songs she’s ever written. The latter song, which, save “Geyser,” is arguably the album’s closest bridge back to Bury and Puberty 2‘s lo-fi-ish, often overdriven riots, opened her set. The bass snarl that starts “Remember My Name” proved brilliant for introducing Mitski’s performative stage persona to the crowd, and the remainder of the track grinds along with tension that burns like marshmallows at the edge of a campfire. A song that employs a double meaning of the word “star” to address what people leave behind after dying and the effects that fame can have on a person, it’s as flooring in its aggressively strummed guitars and fiercely stomped percussion as it is playful in its depiction of its narrator as jaded and exhausted. Naturally, everyone in the crowd sang along even though it was the night’s first song.

“A Pearl,” on the other hand, is as delicate as a song so incisive ever could be. Its opening chord alone foreshadows an ominous oncoming, and only two seconds after it’s strummed, Mitski begins singing about a relationship that, by the chorus, turns out to be deeply toxic, precisely because Mitski’s narrator is having Stockholm syndrome for a previous toxic relationship. Rolling around a pearl in her head to transport herself back to her fights with her former lover (“I fell in love/with a war/and nobody told me it ended/and it left a pearl/in my head/and I roll it around every night”) is very possibly the most hyper-specific, unprecedented metaphor she’s ever used, and for that reason, it just might be her most powerful lyric committed to record. As the song swells from the undistorted and crystalline, but somehow terrifying and unsettling, guitars that outline its verses to its dramatically sung, slightly more distorted chorus and then its dread-inducing, thick synthetic swirl of a midsection that precedes a brief, horn-outlined key change before settling into an even more jolting reprise of the song’s already earthquaking chorus, Mitski makes her war audible. Even though it’s one of her newest songs, the audience sung along to it with perhaps more tenacity than any other song that night. Surely, many people will remember her name.

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April 23rd 2009

this album is amazing!

April 26th 2009

What a weird combo. ‘The Last Picture Show’ is a great film.

Frank L.
April 27th 2009

This movie so rocks.  I loved it.

April 27th 2009

It’s weird, “That Beep” sounds so much like Annie. AIH have definitely changed up their style.

April 29th 2009

A lackluster DVD so mediocre that it’s been reviewed twice on this website!

concerned fan
April 29th 2009

Can I get a comment on the music of Conor Oberst and not his comments or who he dedicated songs to.  Please.  It’s not too much to ask from a music website is it.

May 2nd 2009

I still haven’t seen this movie. I’ve really admired Aronofsky’s previous films though.

May 2nd 2009

What a terrible DVD cover. WOW. Terrifying.

May 20th 2009

I’ve never been a big fan of Silversun…meh.

May 22nd 2009

“The material isn’t always up to par the way earlier between-the-records EPs were, but it still beats the hell out of Plans.”
THANK YOU. and agreed.
May 26th 2009

great review! both shows rocked!

Nina Kurtz
May 26th 2009

This reviewer really transported me to the show! Great writer for a great performer.

Diamond Jewellery India
May 27th 2009

Hello Kyle lemmon, Really very nice information on Buraka Som Sistema. Really very nice and fantastic info on black diamond. Thanks for your nice info.

Bar stools
May 28th 2009

I just wanted to say I really liked your review of House of Mystery. It was good to know how it has developed over the years. Keep up the good work.

May 30th 2009

This is an ok ep.  I have to say that none of their recent material is even close to their earlier albums.

June 5th 2009

FYI just watched this show, sucks! Wished it didn’t but it does. Haha all wealthy people are dumb, evil, and think they can buy anthing… jeeze lets just stereo type everyone. Wealthy people just don’t deserve to live I guess according to all these shows that exploit wealth as evil.

Gonzales - linkin park songs
June 7th 2009

Rockband for real. It’s realy kicks ass) I hope the part two kicks ass as twice)))

Josh Tillman
June 11th 2009

The lyric in “James Blues” is:
“James incurred the wrath of jealous woman
And not long after that
Was spending all his weekends
Trying to relearn
How a young man yearns after a nurse”

It’s about castration.  I have little more of a sense of humor than your interpretation suggests.

June 11th 2009

“have a little more of”.  oops.

Gary Knight
June 18th 2009

Great review, Frank.

June 22nd 2009

This picture represents a huge leap forward for its director..a very nice post Chris.

June 22nd 2009

Wonders never cease, Coachella’s when this both fabulous performers start the event with a great start it is great to watch..

maria jones
June 22nd 2009

The rock band which we can say alternative is My Bloody Valentine..This is a very nice post

June 22nd 2009

She’s so hot/cute/adorable….....She is so cute…

June 22nd 2009

Wow! Marcus, This is a very nice post…Depeche Mode are fabulous..

June 22nd 2009

Some styles are more casual while others are meant for going out on ...poofing up skirts is very good

June 22nd 2009

When Bruce Springsteen finally broke through to national recognition in the fall of 1975 after a decade of trying, critics hailed him as the savior of rock

June 22nd 2009

The bonus features with Doubt on Blu-ray start off with From Stage to Screen, a series of interviews with the cast and crew about…

June 24th 2009

I’m one of the fans of The Killers. They’re cool.

June 26th 2009

I saw them play in Austin a few weeks ago. The new stuff is awesome, and they played beautifully.  My favorite track is “Slow Fade,” a single tear streamed down my face when they played it. So good.

July 3rd 2009

Thanks for such a detailed review. You’ve very keen observation for the details that should be there, indeed.

July 3rd 2009

Hi Chris, you are so right about the borders - the top one is incredible. Great thinking!!!

July 3rd 2009

Bonnaroo has always placed an emphasis on local and sustainable ways of making music. ..Nice Blog.

July 3rd 2009

I was actually hoping for a really good Doubt as a Blu-Ray comp….and it is able to prove itself….

Leslie Andrew Ridings
July 5th 2009

I totally get what you mean when you say “the sound of best friends making music together.” I think their sound is really warm and strangely intimate. I don’t know. It feels like music at a house party and the band is having beers and talking between songs—I like it; but the production is really thin, as you said.

Thanks for the review, Laura.

July 9th 2009

You have to be kidding me Lily.  This show does suck and bad.  Totally unrealistic specifically in how these characters behave.  Stupid crap.

July 10th 2009

Saw Bruce in Philly April 28th and April 29th. ALWAYS a great show! I went with a friend who had never seen him and she said it was more than a concert, it was an event—how right she was.

google cell phone
July 13th 2009

It is really a nice post, its always great reading such posts, this post is good in regards of both knowledge as well as information. i like stuff like ghostland observatory, the hush sound, the kills, indie music, black moth super rainbow, radiohead. anything that sounds weird and funky and has good sound to it. i do not like the teen boy singing the song. generations i like are indie, visual, experimental, psychedelic. along those lines. thank you in advance for the helping me on my music quest.Thanks for the post.

July 14th 2009

Nice Cracker reference!

Wound First Aid
July 16th 2009

A full album is set for release in September 2009. The confidence, wide range of obvious natural talent and exceptional promise of these songs is undeniable. The future for First Aid Kit feels star bright.

film izle
July 17th 2009

thanks for info.

Lisa Hur
July 19th 2009

The “barely” is everything in Wendy and Lucy. The sparse dialogue and lack of plot was the film’s message. Its panoramic moments said so much without saying anything at all. Wendy appears sedated much of the film but in a single moment, a bathroom meltdown, her story unravels. A story no one is sure of. In most every shot of the film we follow Wendy but learn little. We leave her without closure, but feel satisfaction without the closure nonetheless, amazed that such simple experience could be so captivating for two hours. I only wish I knew what her bandage was for and why her sister rejected her. Why else was she hurting and why was it so important for us not to know?

müzik dinle
July 19th 2009

thank you
very much
oo fantastic film

Wendy Redfern
July 20th 2009

This was SO good!!!!

July 21st 2009

Why are you so LATE on the tallest man UTR?  I’m disappointed and mad at you for it.  I hope you do a feature on him when his next album is release!

Laura Studarus
July 24th 2009

Counting down…freaking out. Come on Friday!

July 25th 2009

thanks for article.

Mike Trevor
July 31st 2009

I downloaded a few songs from this collection, I like it.
I really love it, play it on my laptop regularly.

Nina Sutherland
July 31st 2009

I love “Tracy’s Waters”  , it’s a wonderful mix of Psych folk and Dream pop

San Diego Weddings
August 5th 2009

I loved Grizzly Bear!  It was so calm and intimate in that space

August 7th 2009

So, if I understood this correctly, they are Australians making Brit pop? I’ve seen a lot of this lately. Looks like UK nostalgia never died out.

August 8th 2009

I think I’ll get this from the library if they have it… I know nothing about this band.

August 11th 2009

Wow…you totally missed the boat on the Jane’s review…Claiming you were there to see the one song that was a commercial smash led me to discount your review immediately, but I read on to see if you redeemed yourself.  Nope.  Fans of the band would absolutely disagree with your take, as the band’s true genius was displayed over and over during the set, Perry’s prancing aside.  He’s a consummate front-man, great voice, showmanship, and control of the spotlight. 
And, yes, ugly girls DO have to be sluttier than the good-looking ones.  Stick to reviewing bands you have a clue about.

August 12th 2009

You are, of course, referring to Alexander Mccall Smith’s series. There are so many witty observations in these books regarding male-female differences and the impact that these have on relationships.
Mma Ramotswe believes that women are best suited for detective work because women notice details, are observant, listen, and have more insight into human psychology than men.

share your discoveries
August 14th 2009

Gives Thanks, Very fascinating read, you should be dramatic of your web logs. I’ve been genuinely delighting developing up your situations from meter to time. Looking forward to understand your future positions
Many wonderful selective information, thanks for partaking.  Testament definitely be back more often….

August 16th 2009

i thought it was a good movie

August 18th 2009

This game looks just as terrible as the movie!

Kyle Lemmon
August 21st 2009

At first I thought Hester and Parks were just biting ‘Ghost Rider,” but I’ll have to check it out sometime.

August 21st 2009

They are COOL

August 24th 2009

wow!  that was a lame review.  I think they are great.  Apparently thousands of others do too.  They love them in Europe as well.  U.S. is always the last to recognize real talent.

August 25th 2009

The looks very pretty :)

Thank you for the post and photo.

August 27th 2009

Agreed. This was a dope show. One of the better I’ve been to in ‘09. Check out their performance of “Jump In the Pool” from the show.

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Justin Voigtschild
August 28th 2009

This high of a review score makes me question how you call yourself a journalist. I read the initial issue and it was utter trash with no redeeming value whatsoever. This title could have done for Greek mythology what Fables did for children’s stories and fictional characters. Instead the writer decided to go for the disgusting, unimaginative stories. I agree that Peter Milligan can be hit and miss in what he writes but this 1st issue made me want to throw up and regret spending $1.00 to give it a try. I have read Vertigo comics for about 10 years and this comic is truly the worst executed idea with no redeeming value I have ever had the misfortune to read.

August 31st 2009

I would’ve loved to see Henry Rollins.  He cracks me up!

September 2nd 2009

Thank you for your review. If this show was a decade earlier, I would’ve been there! Also, I empathize on your anger, when people leave before the show is “over” [the encore]. A band like MEW deserves an encore!
“Comforting Sounds” is awesome to hear live. My husband and I were privileged to see/hear them in D.C. a few years ago.

September 2nd 2009

I love this show!  Can’t wait untill next summer to pick up the New Shows.

Funny Quotes About Life
September 5th 2009

Whats Fray for the uninitiated? A buffy spin off comic from a few years back, which I understand never got its story finished. So Joss has decedied to combine it with a buffy story to finish it.
So we have a back history a number of fans may be unaware of and time travel etc thrown in? sounds like an awful idea but it works excellently.
The art is by Korl Moline who i believe did the original Fray comic, he is fairly similar in style to Georges Jeanty who usually does the book so its all pretty familiar.
The story is complicated and takes a little while to see where it is going but the end result and character writing are excellent. Not a good starting point for new readers but a great read none the less.

September 5th 2009

I became interested in this topic and tried to find additional information. Much of it I downloaded from

September 6th 2009

As I visited the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair it was interesting for me to read The Road to Woodstock ( and to compare its contents with what I saw. Great!

address public records
September 7th 2009

The overarching plot, revolving around the secrets buried underneath a clandestine basement, fares much better. Head writer, Matthew Sturges, is learning at a fast pace as the series[..]

Vadim Uvazhny
September 8th 2009

Did anybody watch this film? Share your impressions, please.

Heathrow Airport Parking
September 8th 2009

Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I’m more of a visual learner,I found that to be more helpful well let me know how it turns out! I love what you guys are always up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to my blogroll. This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information.. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post.

Bradley Albert Burkley
September 9th 2009

I’m in the middle of reading this book and was stoked to see it reviewed in one of my favorite mags. The review is pretty strait up, as is the book. Interesting for those who know about Steve Kilbey or not. For those who have been in or are in music groups, with it’s drama and challlenges, No Certainty Attached of particular interest.

September 10th 2009

“smashing success” = 6/10?

John Everhart
September 11th 2009

It’s a fine record, but not quite worthy of a 7 or 8, which are reserved for top twenty of the year candidates, which this honestly isn’t for me. But if you’re a fan of Polvo, you’ll like it, and even if you aren’t, it’s an excellent invitation to explore their great back catalog. And “smashing success” is removed from its context of “As far as unheralded reunions go,” as many are downright insipid, and this one is anything but that.

Fire science
September 14th 2009

Who designed Stephanie’s Jacket in science of sleep and where can I get a similar coat?
Science of Sleep is a movie and her military jacket is cute

September 18th 2009

I concur my friend.

September 20th 2009

The hype machine sold Sweet Tooth #1. It was pretty good, but I’m hoping we’ll see a little more happening in issue #2.

Then again, I ought have a little more faith in Lemire, he’s pretty damned good.

September 21st 2009

Will there be a second season of the No 1 Ladies Detective agency?
find public record

September 26th 2009

Can’t wait until this year’s concert. Fantastic stuff. Sooo hot though. Bringing plenty of water this year

DVD Rentals by email
September 29th 2009

Ok this is by far the best series ive seen so far its got great story line, Animation, and good art work…. But one problem is the disc has trouble reading on a Xbox. I putted in the disc once and it worked 2nd time it got defective. Great series to watch a must see

Mark Redfern
October 3rd 2009

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. It’s got a great soundtrack too: Jens Lekman, Tilly & the Wall, The Go! Team, Radiohead, and others.

sobakawa pillow
October 4th 2009

wow, San Francisco’s Girls must have been very bad. It has been a while since I have read such a damning review of any band

sobakawa pillow
October 4th 2009

Jenny Lewis is a babe. I also like the killers. I think they are class

October 6th 2009

The track wasn’t used and in fact went unheard for two-plus decades, but Gordon and Mingus occasionally unpacked it live. In any case, one can only hope that when Mingus finally flipped the calendar past the greatest year in jazz, dude hit the mattress for a well-deserved nap.

October 10th 2009

Great reviews. Loney Dear has been my favorite band because their music touched my soul and makes me feel good. Live they are incredible. I saw them in Fortaleza, Brazil, and I’ll remember that day for a long time.

October 13th 2009

I like bands what make good musics. And banana splitses.

October 14th 2009

Did UTR ever do a review of the Rhino San Francisco nuggets box set?

October 21st 2009

As a fan of the series who buys it month-to-month, I guess I’m biased in that I enjoyed it. I would be interested to see if non-Fables readers enjoyed it.

It’s great to see my favourite magazine cover my favourite comic. I check for a mention of it in every printed-issue of Under The Radar, and so far have only seen it in there this month!

October 21st 2009

Wow! Sounds like a fun show. Now if only we could get him to come out west…

October 22nd 2009

mellow but good/interesting mellow, not boring mellow.  also check out whitest boy alive (same singer)

tuxedo trousers
October 23rd 2009

Where can I buy waterproof trousers not over trousers?
tuxedo trousers

October 23rd 2009

who the hell says “blogosphere” anymore?

October 25th 2009

its a Grower not a Show - er!

October 26th 2009

I wish this had been posted earlier. They had a show where I live tonight, and I could have gone ... oh well.

October 26th 2009

This is a fantastic review.  I’m one of those people that consumes all things Pearl Jam (50+ live shows).  You nailed Backspacer perfectly.  I want to tell you how great it is but it isn’t - it is a step in the right direction though.  Nice job.

indoor wall fountains
October 27th 2009

The overarching plot, revolving around the secrets buried underneath a clandestine basement, fares much better. Head writer,

camping tourist
October 27th 2009

What is the best tourist attraction in the Philippines?
camping tourist