It was almost like a sleepover. Taking respite from the chill of the New York winter outside, fans huddled around the stage of Brooklyn Roulette, bathed in a warm low light. They strewed their heavy coats across the floor and mingled and giggled with each other while sharing bags of chips and drinks. 

The atmosphere didn’t change once mxmtoon, the epitaph of singer Maia X. M. T., entered the stage. It was a stripped down, acoustic set, so all there was to listen to is Maia and her instrument of choice. There was very little of a barrier between fan and artist, literally and metaphorically. She chatted with fans as if we’re all old friends, teasing crowd members for filming on a Nintendo 3DS and gossiping about how Boston fans didn’t get some of the lyrics right during their show.

Images courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

Plum Blossom Revisited

The concert was an intimate retrospective of Plum Blossom, her debut EP, written when Maia was 18 years old. In November, she revisited her project, re-recording some tracks from the album, like “cliche,” “the idea of you,” and “hong kong” through the lens of her personal and musical growth in the last five years. When talking through her setlist, she seamlessly wove from humorous reminiscing on her past crushes to raw honesty about her teenage insecurities.

mxmtoon’s Slumber Party

This was where the sleepover feeling comes in. By “fever dream,” the show began to feel more like the stage of a sleepover where it’s more early than late, when you’re talking solemnly with your friends about fears and insecurities and the future. There’s an overarching sense of girlhood — the fear of being seen as ugly; the desire to be noticed by a crush; the youthful dream of a perfect prom. But there’s also a feeling of hope, like the act of sharing these fears lightens their burden. As mxmtoon laid bare her feelings, so did her fans, embracing one another or holding hands to sway to the soft ukulele notes of songs like the tender and sensitive “porcelain.” As Maia herself said at one point, “We can all cry together.”

Images courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

It wasn’t all heavy — some lighter moments include sage advice to not go viral for ukulele music, lest you end up associated with the “toxic gossip train.” She set up the romantic number “i feel like chet” with all the ways people mishear “chet.” Some heard it as “I feel like shit” or as the Vietnamese translation of chet, which is “death.” But she takes it all in stride, saying that however one hears it, it can still be relevant: “Maybe you speak Vietnamese, maybe you had a bad day.”

Image courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

You Are Enough

A true standout moment was during “stuck.” The relationship between mxmtoon and fans is far from one-sided, and fans wanted to return some of the comfort they receive from Maia’s music. “Stuck,” a rumination on self-identity, includes the lyrics “am I enough?/ I don’t know / am I enough?” As mxmtoon sang them, fans coordinated to hold up paper signs that read, “you are more than enough for us.” 

Mxmtoon reacted in a charmingly funny yet heartfelt mix of swearing, laughter, and even a little moment of choking up. She even joked, “I literally cry when I see a pigeon alone in a park,” to explain her reaction. But Maia did take a moment to pause and recognize how lucky she feels to be a musician and do what she loves, saying, “It’s not a job; it’s a privilege.” This was followed up by, “I was gonna teach kindergarteners; guys, I was gonna be miserable” to keep things light.

Image courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

Wrapping up with “prom dress,” clearly a fan-favorite song, fans and mxmtoon sang in emotional unison about the fears of not living up to the perfect all-American expectations of high school. The song was a perfect summation of the night, packaging the sting of insecurity with assured notes of hope.

What makes mxmtoon stand out from fellow indie peers is this intimacy with the audience, the reciprocal feeling that as happy as she makes fans, they do the same in return. This concert was more than just a look back at an important album in her career — it was also a clear example of why her future as an artist is blindingly bright. 

Image courtesy of Niamh Murphy.

Be sure to follow mxmtoon on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify for updates on future tours and music.  

Want more concert recaps? Check out our review of Sarah Kinsley in Brooklyn here!