"Be The Cowboy: Mitski’s Sold-Out Show at the Columbus Athenaeum" by Tricia Stansberry

April 13, 2019

On a cold, rainy Saturday night I ventured downtown to catch Mitski’s sold-out show at the Columbus Athenaeum, a building that’s been around for over a century and also doubles as a wedding venue. I was immediately blown away by the sheer number of people who had been waiting in the rain for hours before doors opened. The camaraderie amongst these individuals warmed my heart, with people recounting past times they’ve seen Mitski and listing off their favorite songs. While we waited in the pit for Mitski to come out, there was a growing energy in the venue as every square inch of the large venue became occupied. I had never seen Mitski before so when I saw a table and chair being brought out as the stage was being prepared, I was curious how these elements would play a role in her set.

As Mistki walked slowly onto the stage, she began singing “There's nobody better than you / it took me a while till I knew,” and the crowd erupted as people began to sing along to “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart,” the opening track from her 2013 album Retired from Sad, New Career in Business. Mitski took a seat at the table and began a passionate rendition of “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” off of her beloved 2018 record Be The Cowboy. As she continued with tracks such as “Old Friend,” “Dan the Dancer,” and “I Don’t Smoke,” Mitski climbed atop the table and utilized this furniture in ways that can only be described as performance art. The energy in the crowd during favorites like “Geyser” was palpable. During “Nobody,” such a beautiful, melancholic feeling infiltrated the crowd as she sang “I know no one will save me / I'm just asking for a kiss / Give me one good movie kiss / and I'll be alright.” The lights grew blue as the crowd repeated every “nobody” back to her. It was a really beautiful moment and I’m glad I was there to witness it.

Mitski’s set at the Athenaeum was a longer one, much to my delight as well as everyone else around me. She treated us to a two-song encore. The first being “Two Slow Dancers,” which begins with the line “does it smell like a school gymnasium in here?,” to which Mitski gave a knowing smile as this auditorium built in 1896 really did smell like an old gymnasium! Everyone in the crowd laughed and enjoyed the last moments of this incredible set. The last song she performed was “Carry Me Out,” which was incidentally the last song I listened to before I arrived to the venue, as the lyrics “I drive when it rains / at night when it rains I drive / and the headlight spirits / they lead me down the styx” felt appropriate in the rainy, gloomy weather. When the set was over and I looked behind me to everyone else in the packed theater, I was blown away with the sheer number of people who fit into this old theater. But I was not surprised, because Mitski put on one of the absolute best shows I’ve ever been to.

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