“How much do you think we’re gonna cry tonight?” I ask my friend as we enter the Neptune for another legendary Little Big Show, this one featuring the incomparable Mitski. The 18th iteration of KEXP, Starbucks, and STG’s Little Big Show series, which donates 100% of the ticket sales a local non-profit, definitely put the “big” in Little Big Show, with the tickets being sold out weeks in advance. The non-profit featured for this show was Seattle Music Partners whose mission is to empower kids in low-income schools through music education. They introduced us to a very cool 13 year old flutist, which the audience was incredibly enthusiastic about. You’d think it was Bon Jovi on stage rather than a local pre-teen girl and I can imagine that must have been an incredibly encouraging experience for her.
Speaking of encouraging, the interesting thing about this lineup, along with most Mitski lineups, is the prevalence of Asian women on them. Last year Mitski, Jay Som, and Japanese Breakfast embarked on what was possibly North America’s first Asian-American female triple-bill tour. Little Big Show #18 was very similar and special in the fact that all four artists are women of color. If you think this is insignificant then you probably don’t go to a lot of shows. Many bookers give themselves a pat on the back as long as they’ve got one female artist on the lineup, let alone an entire lineup of women of color. So it was a special night indeed.
Seattle Music Partners:
Kicking things off promptly at 7:30 was DJ Yung Futon. A staple of the local CUSTOMS crews, Yung Futon has established her presence over the last three years and has been maturing and expanding her sound rapidly since. Inspired by the likes of Kiasmos and Tourist, Yung Futon started from fiddling with her controller on her mattress to joining the CUSTOMS crew on their 2014 Asia tour where she made her debut at Club STOMP in Osaka, Japan. If you don’t know her name maybe you should ask Toro y Moi, LONE, Hayden James, and Qrion about her. She’s opened for all of them and at Little Big Show she made it clear why she deserves to hang with the big names. Her energy, taste, and skills were impeccable and she got the night started on a perfect note.
DJ Yung Futon:
Stepping onto the stage wearing the most amazing red, sequined suit (which I found out later after speaking to her that she hot glued on herself), Dre Babinski of Steady Holiday definitely had everyone’s attention. With just herself, a guitar, a violin, and the bedazzled suit on stage she managed to keep the entire audience enwrapped in every word she whisper-sang as if it was meant for each of us individually. Babinski’s latest EP entitled Terror was made in reaction to the election and the rampant increase in xenophobia and racism within the country and with her delicate voice, she sounds like the spokesperson for every disenfranchised person who has none. If this makes her seem like a somber person though, she is in fact quite the opposite. Bright, bubbly, eager and happy to talk with fans (even letting me do a very amateur photo shoot with her), Babinski is an absolute joy.
With our next artist, things got a lot more sultry. Experimental soul artist Kadhja Bonet took the stage with two band members and immediately put the Neptune in a sexually sleepy state with their slow, subtle drums, intricate finger picking jazz guitar, and Bonet’s angelic, velvety voice. One audience member described it like a “rainy day lullaby” and I think it would be difficult to disagree with that assessment. “Honeycomb” was a clear standout for showcasing her chops and by the end the audience clearly believed in the “fickle majesty” of Kadhja Bonet.
The moment everyone had been waiting for. Kleenex was coming out in preparation for the inevitable moment we all got too in our feels. Our girl was here. Wearing a mid-length, form fitting skirt and a button up sweater, Mitski looked more like she was about to go to a job interview rather than strap on a guitar for a sold-out show at the Neptune and somehow it made sense. This is a human who defies almost every stereotype or expectation thrown her way, both in her lyrics and in the way she approaches the rock star life. In “Townie” she told us “I am not gonna be what my daddy wants me to be” and she’s kept her promise, carving out a special place for herself in a male-dominated industry by being completely honest and true to herself.
The first 3/4 of the show Mitski was joined by two band members while she played the bass. Playing a pretty even mixture of songs from 2014’s “Bury Me At Makeout Creek” and her latest release, Puberty 2, it seemed as though she covered most all of the hits, including “Townie” and one of 2016’s best songs of the year, “Your Best American Girl.” Then her band members left the stage, Mitski swapped her bass for a guitar, and things really got intense. Using only the grit and emotion of her voice and simply structured guitar, she made a room of roughly 800 people hold their breath while she played “A Burning Hill”, “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”, and “Last Words of a Shooting Star.” By the time she came back for her encore to play the emotionally charged “Class of 2013″, my Kleenex was soaked, my makeup was ruined, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Dan the Dancer
Once More To See You
I Don’t Smoke
First Love / Late Spring
I Bet On Losing Dogs
Your Best American Girl
Drunk Walk Home
A Burning Hill
My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars
Last Words of a Shooting Star
Class of 2013