Under a misty sky, the dreamy synth music of indie pop artist Mitski floated through the air to fall upon the ears and leaves of fashionable show-goers and blustering trees alike.
The singer played songs full of romance and melancholy (with a generous helping of ‘80s synth sounds) to the crowds piled on the festival lawn at Deer Lake Park.
The show began with blue lights illuminating a plain white door plunked centre-stage.
Enter: Mitski, in a flowing white dress with puffed sleeves the likes of which Anne Shirley of Green Gables would pine for.
After song “Love Me More” opened the show, the audience jubilantly sang along to fan-favourite “Washing Machine Heart,” then met Mitski’s TikTok-viral song “Nobody” with delighted screams.
The singer danced and leapt across the stage in Kate Bush-inspired erratic movements at slow-motion speeds and powered through her set list — only stopping halfway through to address the crowd: “Look at you!” she exclaimed. “I love you!”
The audience was sad-girl city with Gen Z fashions out in full force: fishnet stockings patterned in crescent moons and stars, rainbow hair everywhere, long patchwork skirts, corsets over prairie dresses and a plethora of Doc Martens.
Guest artist Hooray for the Riff Raff opened the night, amping the crowd up with song “Saga” and trilling spoken word piece “Life on Earth.”
Supported by a skilled band, Mitski’s music is sometimes jarring and often discomfiting — perfectly suited to a dusky summer evening, like a Picnic at Hanging Rock haunting crossed with the rage of a fairy-tale princess locked in a tower.
Her lyrics, so often full of apology and wishing things to be another way, seemed to be a comforting balm to the audience. Revellers squealed at song after song, as if any sounds from the artist would be gratifying.
As night crept up on the lake, it was the eerie clock-like clangs of song “Heat Lighting” that highlighted the beauty of the show.
“There's nothing I can do, not much I can change, I give it up to you,” Mitski sang to her audience, palms up in offering.
And what does Mitski give her audience?
She gives the kind of emotional response ancient Greek theatre-goers sought in tragic plays: catharsis.
The trees sway, Mitski sways, and the audience sways together in a shared understanding of perennial regret. But through those clear-voiced vocals, Mitski fans rejoice in the chance at making beauty — in fashion or song — out of that emotion, in the hopes of reaching some “strange serenity,” if just for a night.