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Never See Your Favourite Artists Live

Never See Your Favourite Artists Live: A Concert Review of Lisa Mitchell’s ‘Zombie’ Single Launch at the Corner Hotel We arrive at the bustling Corner Hotel band room, bee-lining for the gap at the front. The crowd is a mix of: 1. other twenty-something girls who have grown up on a diet of Missy Higgins, Charlie & Lola, The Rainbow Magic Series and hand-me-down stripey-toe socks and 2. the cool parents responsible for introducing them to Albury local indie-pop songstress, Lisa Mitchell.

A concert review of Lisa Mitchell’s ‘Zombie’ Single Launch at the Corner Hotel 

Content Warning: mentions alcohol, drug use and sexual assault.

We arrive at the bustling Corner Hotel band room, bee-lining for the gap at the front. The crowd is a mix of: 1. other twenty-something girls who have grown up on a diet of Missy Higgins, Charlie & Lola, The Rainbow Magic Series and hand-me-down stripey-toe socks and 2. the cool parents responsible for introducing them to Albury local indie-pop songstress, Lisa Mitchell.

We stake our claim against the barricade and a couple of girls tell us that we’re standing on their jackets, asking if we can move over.

“Ahhh of course! Sorry!” we say.
“We just assumed everybody was being too lame to get up the front!”
They exhale in an attempt at laughter.

We move across and press ourselves against the cold metal. Waiting.

The energy of our group is all over the place. Nancie, a new friend, who I’m trying my best to entertain and impress, is just as eager to see Mitchell as I am. We bounce songs, lyrics and memories off each other like two kids on a trampoline. Georgia’s exhausted to the point she can’t even bother feigning excitement on my behalf, and Finn, well, he’s just happy to be out of the house.

After 10 minutes of trying to force my excitement onto everyone except Nancie, Mitchell drifts onto the stage in a summer breeze, wearing a dress right off the back of Stevie Nicks; ankle length, earthy toned, shining velvet with elbow-cinched sleeves. She picks up her white and gold tele-shaped guitar, throws the couple stray pieces of dark waist-length hair behind her cheeks and launches into Bless This Mess.

Oh, I go running ‘round the Galaxy, baby
Waiting on my life to come save me
But there’s nothing like infinity, baby
It’s this mess that I bless when I break free

The disjointed chorus of voices compliments the narrative. They stir to the sweet, punchy piano, jolted awake by the strong, slightly distorted strumming of Mitchell’s guitar. I settle into the feeling of a night that I’m sure will have me walking out the door buzzing to get home and pick up my guitar.

I’ve consistently returned to Lisa Mitchell’s debut album Wonder (2009) since hearing it for the first time at 13 or 14 years old. It’s an early morning walk through the woods out the back of your grandma’s house, the light coming through the trees, the melting of snow. It’s a drive home in the twilight-zone before sleep after a day at the lake, your feet tucked up under you as your head rests on the car door. They sing softly alongside you with the window down and you realise you’re in love.

Valium was the song I performed at my high school talent show, shaking, my foot too heavy on the piano pedal. Oh! Hark! was the soundtrack to the countless, fluffy YA novels devoured on bus rides to school. Providence (from her sophomore album Bless This Mess) was the song I religiously belted and cried to whilst driving my mum’s car to my shitty job in my gap year before uni. When I was heartbroken and trapped and desperately willed for an out from my body, it was my reminder that I was alive, that I was breathing and that soon, oh so soon, I would be free of my tiny little hometown. 

The song finishes and Mitchell greets the crowd, her voice as soft and lovely as her melodies. Her slightly-stoned demeanour surprises me, making me giggle.

The lighthouse-beacon trill that signals the start of Pirouette fills the room and I feel as if I completely lose control of how my body is going to react. I jump up and down, the stainless-steel base of the barricade vibrating into my bones. My toes lift off the ground as I attempt to get as close to the stage as possible. The swaying guitar reverberates and I hear the waves gently lapping against the rocks.

Come lay down in the water
We’re all sons and daughters
Rest your head on the altar, oh
Come lay down in the water

She was drenched in pink and blue light and I was completely mesmerised.

Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got.

For the majority of the set (bar the new single, her beautiful acoustic cover of California, and The Boys) Mitchell plays unreleased songs. Now, I get this. I understand the excitement of playing new material to an attentive crowd and the rush that comes with people hearing your lyrics for the first time. It’s unparalleled, showcasing the latest, most accurate creative representation of yourself. It’s like sharing a secret with the room. But there’s a rule here: the way the touring and release cycle works is that you put out songs, people listen to them and then they buy tickets to your show because they want to see you play them live. You shouldn’t mess with this, it’s inconsiderate. You may be sick of a song but you stick it out, you bring yourself back to where you were when you wrote it. The people in the crowd have supported you by paying money to be in that room, you owe them as much to play them the songs they love. However, if you are completely unable to find joy from a song you’re bored of (as was obviously the case with Mitchell), if you aren’t energised from the crowd singing it back to you, for the love of god, please don’t perform it. A friend once said to me “if the performer isn’t there one hundred percent emotionally [it’s not going to be good]”, and he’s right, you can feel it. I’d waited the better half of a decade to see Mitchell perform Coin Laundry live and I spent the entire song waiting for it to be over because she looked like she’d rather be doing anything else.

It was from this point on that I could no longer enjoy the show. I felt cheated and entirely unenthused, abandoning my plan to wait for Mitchell to come out of the green room. I was going to ask her to write some lyrics from Providence on a slip of paper so I could get them tattooed.

But now, months after the gig, I can’t be sure if Mitchell’s performance was actually disappointing, or if it just failed to meet my (possibly) ridiculous expectations. When someone’s music becomes such a huge part of who you are, it’s impossible not to place a huge emphasis on getting to see them live. As a music lover from a rural town in Far North Queensland, any opportunity to see one of my favourite artists live still feels like a complete and utter stroke of luck. But as time goes on and my past concerts page on Song Kick grows, I’ve come to realise so many of these experiences didn’t end up being what they were supposed to be.

The Killers: I’m in Boston on a family holiday, visiting my grandparents. I’m 16 and have no one to go to the show with me. When I’m not being dazzled by the stage design and Brandon Flowers’ sequin suits, I glance over at the couple seated next to me, wondering whether they think it’s lame that I’m here by myself. I dance alone to Mr Brightside (a bucket list moment I always imagined my friends to be with me for) and try my hardest not to feel cripplingly self-aware and awkward in my gangly body. I fail miserably.

Violent Soho: the second real (parent-free) music festival, a 9am start after five hours of driving the afternoon before. A day of breaking in new Dr Martens, dehydrated, starving, glitter stranglers clinging desperately to our cheeks, dusty Townsville heat, the last of our energy pouring out of our lungs as we scream along to Covered in Chrome, breathing back in dirt. We’re together and free and enjoying what’s supposed to be the first shot in the supercut of our youth. Somebody puts their hand up my friend’s skirt. The first of many gig-centric sexual assaults that no longer take us by surprise but continue to ruin our nights, much like that reoccurring guy in the death circle who finally gets his chance to push a woman to the ground. Girls aren’t welcome here, his eyes say. I find it funny how the crowd of metalheads earlier in the day were far more accommodating than the horde of pushy, burley, Aussie-garage-rock loving dickheads. My mum picks us up from the McDonalds near the festival site; we eat fries and discuss anything else.

Flume: exhausted from months of sleeping in hostel beds and living out of a backpack. We didn’t leave early enough to be put in the standing area, so we watched from the nosebleeds. Georgia was wasted. She kept climbing over the girls seated between us to get to me, grabbing the hair of one of them to stabilise herself more than once. I apologised profusely. During the last song I bashed my knee against the chair in front of me, disturbing an old sleeping soccer injury that in its grumpy early morning state prevented me from leaving the stadium in an upright position. I spent our second last day in Germany bed-ridden, moping and watching Breaking Bad.

Catfish and the Bottlemen, Wolf Alice, Gang of Youths, The Lumineers: memories constructed from the re-watching of Instagram stories as opposed to my own recollection. Blurs of blue hair and an all-orange outfit, screaming from a seat on a friend’s shoulders, ruined mascara from the raw excitement and somewhat artificial bliss. A lack of focus and complete inability to watch the stage instead of the lights above, the result of an eighteen-year-old’s lack of experience on how much is too much, naïvely mixing things that she shouldn’t have. Sensory overload, vomiting on my shoes before the set even started. Blackout. Panicking on the way back to the campsite, demanding my friends give me a play-by-play of the evening because I couldn’t remember a thing. Wired and freezing cold, lying awake in the tent, running through the set list over and over in my head to make sure I didn’t forget it in the morning (unsuccessful). Another high school soundtrack pushed to the side for unreleased music the following night. The disappointment exacerbated from my attempt to pull from a dry well of serotonin for the last set on the last night of a three-day festival. Brain zaps and hallucinations on the plane ride home. Garbled thoughts through radio static for days on end. Lesson finally learnt.

You’re always going to have a better time seeing a band you don’t know. All the best gigs, all those life-changing, song-inspiring experiences came when I wasn’t looking for anything, when I knew a couple songs or none at all. To reluctantly quote my neglectful high-school boyfriend, “if you don’t have any expectations, you can’t be disappointed”. But for those of us burdened with the soul-crushing comorbidity of chronically high expectations and a terminally personal and emotional connection to the music we love, this line of treatment isn’t really on the table. When you’ve listened to an album on repeat, cried to it, danced to it, fallen in love with it, when it’s been the backdrop to a period of your life, it’s impossible to expect anything less than a spiritual experience when you get the opportunity to see those songs performed in the flesh.

So, all we’re left with is a pretty cut and dry solution: save yourself the disappointment and just don’t. Love the music, show your support; share their posts on social media, pay for the album instead of streaming it, wear the merch, even buy a ticket, but if you truly want to save yourself the pain, never see your favourite artists live.

 
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