Mitski Review: Put Your Phone Down
Written by Isha Merchant on May 8, 2022
On February 24, 2022, my friends and I piled into the line outside of White Oak Music Hall where we were greeted by cheers and chants by the audience. The outdoor concert space was filled with an eagerness to see Mitski and her opener CHAI.
Mitski is a prominent Asian-American artist who sings about her experiences with identity and race. She pays homage to a variety of music styles but creates indie music with haunting meanings.
We quickly got into the concert area before their first song ended, and we snugly fit into the very back of the venue on a hill. After we navigated through a dense crowd (after all it was a sold-out concert), we came across a nice outlook with a sparse amount of people. Since it was chilly, we handed out hand warmers amongst ourselves and gave some to people who weren’t as fortunate to wear dense jackets as we were. It was forecasted to rain and be extremely cold that night, so we packed together towards the back to conserve body heat. However, the adrenaline from seeing Mitski live was enough to keep us going.
After an amazing show from CHAI, it was time for the largely awaited Mitski to come on stage. Her entrance was somewhat surreal. She emerged on stage illuminated by a wash of light. Her figure was centered in front of the door, which was one of her props, right behind her. She was clad in a CHAI hoodie and immediately began her concert with the song “Love Me More”. The audience quickly tried to capture her presence with their cameras.
My friends and I observed this from our outlook on the hill. We noticed that some people were recording almost entirely throughout the night and that there was little singing from the audience to accompany her. Although this could be seen as “regular concert etiquette”, I find a problem with this as Mitski asked her audience on Twitter just moments before the concert to avoid filming her entire set.
She asks them to do this so she can better engage with her audience. She feels, as both a performer and an audience member, that phones disrupt the “feeling of connection”. Mitski beautifully puts how she feels about excessive recording in her tweets on her Twitter @mistkileaks. It is clear from her tweets that she is extremely passionate about her work as an artist and a performer. She sincerely cares about her fans and appreciates their presence. However, she was met with significant backlash from many who took her request to not record the entire show negatively, and it is evident that many chose to not listen.
Instead of understanding Mitskis’s point of view as an artist, she was met with resistance. Many tweets explained that as fans, they have a right to record and ultimately led to Mitski deleting her tweets later that week.
While I was at the Mitski concert, I saw the passion for performing in which she presents. Her performance was beautifully planned and choreographed. It is obvious that she puts heart and soul into her performances. She is extremely talented and passionate about her work, and that is seen in the details of all her music. I think it is understandable for her to not want the entire show to be recorded, as music is extremely personal to her, and wants to connect with her fans.
Although fans may want to record these moments to keep as mementos, phone usage has notably become increasingly prevalent at Mitski’s concerts. At the concert, I saw that only a few people were actively dancing and enjoying the music, while many were still recording. In fact, I saw some people never put their phones down. It is maddening to have to deal with that kind of behavior as a performer and as a concertgoer.
Although Mitski is not the only artist to deal with poor concert etiquette, she is certainly one of the most prominent. After many of her concerts during her Laurel Hell tour, videos of excessive phones and disrespectful fans went viral on social media platform, TikTok. Similarly, there is a video circulating of artist, Clairo, on her most recent North American Tour which captured fans calling her “mommy” which made the artist visibly uncomfortable on stage. The online outcry for fans to stop treating artists with disrespect is indicated by the many tweets from fans who are outraged by the harassment many artists, like Phoebe Bridgers, often experience due to the appeal to a younger, more “indie” crowd.
Many argue that concert etiquette has always been like this, however, I don’t think that is necessarily fair to the artists themselves. While there may always be ‘dead’ or raucous crowds, there is no need to be disrespectful to the artists who have expressed their discomfort with a situation. Mitski expressed how the art of performing is important to her, and that is why she asks for minimal recording but was met with blatant disrespect by fans.
She speaks about these feelings in her music and in interviews, so seeing the audience disregard her messages is telling of how little she is respected. As a fan of Mitski, I want to welcome her into performing and creating music again and hope others can agree to treat her with the empathy and kindness she deserves.