On Friday, Mitchy Collins stood at the front of the Rickshaw Stop’s small stage and seemed uncomfortable. He pulled his beanie down tighter, peering out at the tightly packed venue through round, orange-tinted glasses. His pants were a little too short, revealing a strip of white sock between the hem and his shiny black shoes — a sort of Michael Jackson and John Lennon rolled into one.
He took off his beanie and shifted his longish hair from one side of his head to the other, looking nervous — until the fuzz of a backing synth crackled through the amp and the snare drum clattered to life behind him. His voice echoed out in megaphone quality, “I wish that I was out right now / I wish I was a couple shots down.”
Suddenly he seemed taller, more confident, like the music was filling him up. No longer a quiet amalgamation of fashion influences, Collins truly became the lead singer of LA pop group lovelytheband.
He didn’t dance. He stood still, enunciating in front of the mic stand, stoic even through the syncopated, dreamy chorus of “pity party.” There wasn’t a doubt that he’d written every word and that he believed them.
In an interview with The Daily Californian before the show, Collins had said that when he writes songs, he’s “writing to write them, you know, to get it out,” and the same likely goes for his performance: He sings to get it out.
But more so than his songwriting, which Collins said he doesn’t do for an audience, his performance goes beyond self-expression. After “make you feel pretty,” Collins introduced himself, talking about his parents, his love of the Bay and the sports he follows here. He asked the audience members what they thought of the teams. He asked them if they were excited to hear some music. He said he was excited to play them music. Later, he opened up even more.
Just before lovelytheband played “broken,” its biggest radio hit, Collins talked about the stigma of mental health and emphasized that his lyrics are more than a record of his emotions: They say that it’s OK to feel those feelings. No one is alone in feeling them — not him, not anyone listening to his music.
It was refreshing to hear Collins speak openly about his depression, about not wanting to get off of his couch and about his incredulousness at having created a hit like “broken.” It’s one thing for lovelytheband to make music about something like mental health — loud pop anthems with booming baselines and snazzy guitar riffs that distract from a lyrical depth.
But it’s entirely another thing for Collins to stand statuesque in front of his mic stand and talk about his experiences in plain words with no kick drums or keyboard synths. The message of his songs is then no longer optional — not lyrics you could tune out in favor of the beat — but words you have to hear.
In this way, Collins perhaps embodies an artistry he did not intend to: one where he creates music not just for an audience that happens to like his music but that is listening to what he has to say — and is maybe even taking his advice.
After a full set of bops such as “alone time,” “maybe, i’m afraid” and “i like the way,” Collins ended with an encore of “filling a void.”
It was by far the quietest song performed that night and the most confessional. Collins sang to minimal backing, “Well, you’re just a Band-Aid for my loneliness / And I’d say that’s the best case.” The audience swayed softly.
“She leaves before the sun’s out / While I’m dreaming of somebody who I need now,” Collins sang.
The Rickshaw Stop audience members may not have been the somebody who Collins needs, but they were there for him that night.
Olivia Jerram is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].