The Fans Are Inhospitable (Are We?)

By rory hayesApril 10, 2024

The Fans Are Inhospitable (Are We?)
MITSKI with JULIA JACKLIN, Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, March 29, 2024.

As countless critics have observed, the attention-based economy is killing live music. Case in point: Mitski’s concerts represent a wholly embodied performance from start to finish, yet this expectation has fallen flat with the majority of her audience on recent tours. Why? From what I could tell during her Friday night performance at the Shrine Auditorium, around 80 percent of them have a 9:00 p.m. curfew.

I happened to be one of the few people in my section who didn’t need a chaperone. The rest of the crowd was comprised mostly of parents and their teenage kids, dotted with a few USC students here and there. After harrowing experiences when I turned 21 three years ago (it might surprise you to hear that I, too, am Gen Z), I vowed to never attend an all-ages show again. Unfortunately, I had to break that promise. While shower karaoke has served me well for some time, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see my favorite artist live.

Julia Jacklin’s set as the show’s opener was beautiful. Her guitar drummed melodically throughout the auditorium, but I felt like I was the only one seeing her. It wasn’t until nearly the end, when Jacklin played “Pressure to Party” from her 2019 album Crushing, that she won the attention war and phones lit up to record her. Still, it wasn’t long before parents again sat slumped in their chairs, teens swiping through social media aimlessly to pass the time.

By the time Mitski came onstage, everyone in my section was recording nonstop, making scrutinizing comments about her dancing and overall performance: “Why does her hair look like that? What’s she doing? What is she wearing? What song is this?” Though the audience noise drove me bonkers, I was nonetheless blown away. During Mitski’s last tour, she worked with choreographer Jas Lin—and that was when I really began to notice the intentional ritual the artist was introducing to her music, in new, imaginative ways.

As Mitski played some of my all-time favorites like “Geyser” from Be the Cowboy (2018) and a ritzy-ditzy folk rendition of “I Don’t Smoke” from Bury Me at Makeout Creek (2014), I was entranced by every movement. For a longtime Mitski fan, the set list was ideal: a mix of old and new that brought tears to my eyes, the same songs that connected me to the artist in the first place.

At the end of the day, everyone should have access to art (yes, even if that means filming an entire set) and its transformative potential, especially the kind that leaves us feeling wrung out and hung to dry. The Shrine show highlighted how Mitski’s poetry and choreography, in particular, elicit a deep connection to the melancholia of life. Her newest album, 2023’s The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, reminds us not to take anything for granted—I can only hope people stop taking the opportunity to experience live music for granted.


Photo of Mitski by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

rory hayes is occasionally an artist, a lover of music, and a watcher of films. Somehow, they have the patience to maintain multiple hobbies at a time. He is based in Los Angeles where he enjoys lounging with his calico cat olive oil and reading library books.


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