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Mitski, Half Waif (sold out)

  • High Noon Saloon 701 East Washington Avenue Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)
Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz.

Mitski is a person, not a band, a detail she had cause to emphasize when recently addressing the topic of preferred pronouns, tweeting, "my unique situation is every1 calls me they/them but it has nothing to do w pronouns+only to do w every1 assuming I must b a band not 1 girl." As short-sighted (and pretty chauvinistic) as that assumption is, there's a compliment at the core of the misunderstanding. The musical ideas Mitski dispenses can seem complex beyond the scope that could be reasonably expected from any one person. 

Mitski Miyawaki launched the project with a pair of self-released albums recorded while she was a studio composition student at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music, and stepped it up with a more formal effort in the intriguing 2014 release Bury Me At Makeout Creek. Mitski's fourth full-length, 2016's Puberty 2, is filled with piercing tracks that exude starkness even though they're sonically full and audacious, smartly incorporating ingredients from dream pop, shoegaze, baroque folk, noise rock, and seemingly every other specialized subgenre that sets college DJs aquiver to make an ingenious concoction all her own.

Even those who've got Puberty 2 memorized can expect revelations at this show, since sly reinvention of the songs onstage has always been part of the master artistic strategy. "Your Best American Girl," already restrained and refined on record, can become a wall of sonic ache onstage, the mountain climb to crescendo and emotional release replaced by squalls of deliriously discombobulating noise. Or Mitski might emphasize the starkness of a song like "Once More To See You," challenging the crowd to listen with the same quiet intensity she's developing behind the mic.

Opening duties are covered by Half Waif, the performing moniker of Brooklyn singer-songwriter Nandi Rose Plunkett. Leaning into synthesized ravishments, Half Waif can come on as gentle as the name implies, but Plunkett also incorporates crafty pop elements and ethereal beckoning to keep soothed listeners guessing. —Daniel Seeger