Mitski + Palehound + PWR BTTM @ Casa Del Popolo – November 24th, 2015

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Past all the ultra-trendy places on St-Laurent, I found Casa Del Popolo (“House of the people” in Italian), a quaint bar/bistro/music venue. The Casa was packed with people but I made my way to the back door leading to the room that would host 3 bands tonight. The first thing you notice, as you enter the space is that it is a very small and intimate space that could probably hold 100 people max. Some have compared it to CBGB’s, but although the bathroom was a mess, nothing can touch the legendary bathrooms on Bowery Street!

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Tonight was all about girl power, starting with the two boys of PWR BTTM (Ben Hopkins and drummer Liv Bruce). Ben’s dad and brother surprised the band by driving from Boston to attend the show. The proud father helped Ben pick his dress for tonight, and finally figured out where his aged Blundstone boots disappeared to… his son’s feet! After cracking up the audience with tales from the border crossing, they started with “West Texas” off the Ugly Cherries album. Between the entertaining set of garage punk songs, the band was hilarious in their banter and self-depreciating comments on their musical talent. The boys would alternate between drums/guitar roles and got the crowd warmed up for the next acts, which they said were their two favorite bands.

PWR BTTM Set list

West Texas 
Dairy Queen 
Ugly cherries 
Projection
I wanna boy
Serving Goffman 
Cissy
1994
Trade 

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Having interviewed Ellen Kempner of Palehound a few weeks prior to the show, and having the Dry Food album in heaving rotation on my phone, I was looking forward to seeing her play live. Unlike PWR BTTM, Ellen mentioned she didn’t feel comfortable with the banter and prefers one-on-one conversations. As the music starts, the shy demeanor goes away and she enters into her songs with an intensity that is powerful to watch. Both Palehound and Mitski would play new songs, still unnamed, and Palehound did so with the starter song. At times dreamy with “Cinnamon”, catchy with “Molly”, slow and vulnerable with “Easy”, most songs were from the Dry Food album. Going back to the Bent Nail EP, we were treated to “Drooler” and the finale of “Pet Carrot”.

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Seems like Ellen got into the glitter box from the previous band and decorated her guitar for the show, something she said she would probably regret later. What really glittered that evening are the songs that reflected its light back to the crowd, a light of self-reflection and acceptance. The Palehound performance was the highlight of the evening for me, catchy and intimate songs that wrap around you like a warm blanket on such a cold night.

Palehound Set List

New Song
Healthier Folk
Molly
Easy
Dry Food
Cinnamon
Drooler
Cushioned Caging
Seekonk
Pet Carrot

Headlining the night was Mitski from Brooklyn, NY. While being very approachable, she took care of her own merch booth for a while after the show, Mitski isn’t comfortable with the adoration she gets from fans. She calls them strangers who are too familiar with her because they heard her feelings. All three bands tonight share this gift of honesty with their lyrics, which is why the sold out show can feel this intimacy with the artists. Through discomfort comes truth and beauty, which was turned into music tonight.

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Mitski played mostly songs from the album Bury Me At Makeout Creek and a few from Retired From Sad, New Career In Business as well as introducing two new untitled songs, yet to be released. Following in the school of The Pixies, Mitski is a mixture of quiet soulful singing, followed by a release of noise and intensity as if her inner self is screaming to be heard between periods of her being the pretty and mild woman before us. Far from being a teenage girl, I can understand how at the beginning of adulthood, one is expected to follow a certain safe path, yet have all these intense feelings within, that just want to be released. This night was all about the release of feelings and a shared experience that no matter who we are, we matter and we are important.

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Mitski Play List

Townie
First love/ late spring
I want you
(New song)
Francis Forever
I Don’t Smoke
I Will
Drunk Walk Home
Class of 2013
Last Words of a Shooting Star
(New Song)

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Review & photos – Randal Wark

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