For a few years Josh Tillman as J Tillman built his mystique on mystery, novella songwriting, and generally relying on just that to speak for itself. As Father John Misty, Tillman’s pendulum has swung toward the other extreme, now perpetually playing with a bombastic mystique and generally taking things too far. The thing is, Tillman doesn’t need all that. He’s composed some damn good songs with a uniquely mischievous bent. And Friday, any personal demons the songs might’ve initially been helping him to exercise now seem to be tackled with Tillman having settled into the role as entertainer, albiet with HarMar Superstar his Yoda as much as say, Neil Diamond.
“Feelin’ Misty” is saying on the shirt. It’s a magnificent summation of the existential angst combined with the irrational burning a need to undo oneself that Father John Misty seems to represent. Given how much I drank that night and suffered the next day, I was obviously feelin’ Misty. As I vaguely recall, last time Misty swung through was also the last time I woke up groaning. I guess maybe I’ve been drinking too deeply of the Father’s illicit brew.
Plebeian Paradise, it’s so good to see you again. It’s been about a year but every July you come to Seattle, sashshaying your way into the conscious of local residents who then proceed to complain to me about how awesome it used to be before I moved here who then in turn show up in droves to populate the aforementioned metropolitan arcadia despite their reservations. It’s a vicious cycle of self-hatred, sunburn and inebriation. I suppose I should include the concept of “fun” or “enjoyment” in there, but we all know that simply does not occur. Patrons of summer festivals, would you have it any other way? Block Party, what will you be wearing this year? I’d bet a sixpence on a can of PBR that has been sitting in the trunk of a 1993 Honda Accord all day that it will be the following:
Dudes – Tight blue jorts that your kid sister would have worn when she was nine years old and imitating Clarissa Explains It All, a graphic t-shirt with a picture of a “fierce” animal on the front (Grizzly Bear, Grey Wolf or Golden Retriever all accepted) and white Keds (no laces, duh). You can substitute the animal shirt for something that Pee Wee Herman might wear, that is allowed.
Ladies – Thrift store Jordache jorts that make your butt look like you gave yourself a wedgie for a good 40 minutes before you left your house (you can’t spell “summertime figure” without “sheeplike faux modesty”), a brightly colored blouse that looks like it was attacked by moths and boots that Burt Reynolds wore on the day of his famous Cosmopolitan shoot. Yes, you can substitute the blouse for a bevy well placed cigarette burns. That’s totally cool with me.
Oh my god, don’t forget your sunglasses.
As far artists and recommendations go, you can either look at the official lineup/schedule here or you can heed the advice of Sound on the Sound’s own Kathleen Tarrant and follow her recommendations.
As for what I’m looking forward to, continue reading at your own peril.
Capitol Hill Block party is Seattle’s chance to take in a wide variety of music- from local, homegrown bands, all the way to national acts bringing their aural fare to the blessedly cooler Seattle summer.
Father John Misty ::: photo by Josh Lovseth
Father John Misty – 4:00 pm (Don’t miss this set. Whatever you do, whoever you have to elbow sharply- do not miss it.)
Youth Lagoon – 6:30 pm
Thee Oh Sees – 7:45 pm (Prepare to get a little bruised while dancing. Use those elbows you used to get to the Father John Misty set.)
In the last few months, first sprouting up on twitter as the vulgar, hilarious, and thought provoking @FATHERJOHNMISTY, then in salacious music videos, and most recently in an electrifying 5 minutes on Letterman prior to a headlining tour, Josh Tillman’s new stage ego has been emerging as the year’s preeminent antihero. Departing from the spare, seated, acoustic, mysterious, lyrically dense, and generally quiet fare of his previous decade as a solo artist under the moniker J Tillman, Josh Tillman as Father John Misty, the provocative wiggling wacko fronting a five-piece, now was having little trouble keeping everyone’s attention. Tillman reflected early on “The last time I was in this room and it was this full, I thought about how much my music sucked.” On stage Monday night Tillman was definitely feeling his own music and redefining himself in person for the town he once called home.
Having unapologetically shed the trappings of his former self (“whoever that guy was”), even eschewing acoustic guitar duty while on stage, the FJM behind the mic-stand still bears the unmistakable natural tenor of Josh Tillman. But now instead of just singing pretty with a band to push the pace, he’s tearing through his lines with a fervor and busting out a move or two as he works the spotlight. In Fear Fun and the videos it spawned, Tillman reviles in his new home’s affect but still revels in its spell. In Father John Misty he’s making himself larger than life, but despite this new flamboyant stage persona, Monday was the most naked we’ve seen Josh Tillman. His previously clinical approach to literary folk has now given way to Tillman singing out how he really feels, fists and eyes clenched at moments, his tongue no longer held on grounds of politeness or expectations.
Joking between songs, he seemed amused at the turn of interest in him and this new vision of himself, and even more amused in confusing our expectations about his own mythology and what that might mean about how he operates. Just after the first song he pulled out a plastic ziploc bag with a few cookies of his shirt pocket, and after suggesting he might eat them he then jokingly praised the glycemic qualities and not any mind-expanding properties they might have. Is he intentionally confounding his audience or just making a joke? Probably both. (Have you read his Sup Pop Bio?) “You know it’s all jokes…” he would say when a showgoer took offense to his between songs banter, adding after a few choice seconds of suspense “… except the song parts.”
Depending on your relationship with Tillman’s previous material, Monday’s show might’ve seemed a birth, a wake, make up sex, break up sex, or all of them wrapped into one. For Tillman himself it seemed Father John Misty had skipped the wake and was already dancing on J’s grave. In his official bio he refers to the process of writing this Fear Fun as being intentionally liberating. That he should take to that same mindset for the performance of these songs seems only natural. That it should be the best show we’ve seen all year is just icing on that space cookie.
Father John Misty Montage, proof I have too much time on my hands
Musical performances on late-night TV shows are usually unworthy of commentary, but its been nearly a week since Father John Misty’s coming out on Letterman … and its still all I can think about. Talk about seizing a moment. Instead of a bland, watered-down, less-than performance, edited and scrunched to fit inside TV’s tiny box — the performer formerly known as J. Tillman pranced and danced and sang beautifully — in a way that astonished those of us who’d followed his career for years and viewers who’d never heard of him before.
Tillman’s new album, released under the moniker of Father John Misty, is a study in multiple personalities and shedding heavy expectations as if they were light as feathers. Gone is the introspective, sad, solo artist J. Tillman and in his place, a psychedelic peacock. Plain spoken, with as little pretense as an album who calls out Sartre by name can be, Fear Fun explores the facets of Tillman that were repressed as he tried to fit his acerbic wit, dirty mind and slicing sarcasm into the mold of the mysterious singer-songwriter. On some listens I’m convinced its the most ballsy, brilliant album I’ve heard in years. On others I find myself cringing wondering if its so over the top its awful. It moves maniacally between country, loungey numbers and fastidiously orchestrated ballads. Unlike his other records and the projects he’s been part of, Father John Misty is anything but background music. This is an album and a character that makes you stand up and take notice, listen closely, think and listen again. In a world of albums so easily digestable they’re instantly forgotten, Fear Fun and Father John Misty sticks with you.
After nearly a decade of seeing Tillman hiding behind long-locks, a giant beard, an acoustic guitar or a drum kit — seeing him on Letterman in a closely tailored suit, newly shorn hair, a handsome as hell, confident frontman — it was enough to give you whiplash. Within thefirst minute as he has brushed off the Rolling Stones, thrust his hips, gestured grandly, shot shade at Letterman when claiming his fondness of the Dodgers; I found my jaw literally, physically dropped. Was he mocking us? I’m still not sure. What I’ve come to decide, after a week of replays and conversations with others who’ve had Father John Misty on the brain, is that he was personifying the character. Tillman became the titular ladies man he sang of. He was woman kind’s first husband — flamboyant, sexual, devious, smooth.
But the ladies man is only one of 12 personalities and facets explored on Fear Fun — and I’m curious to see who all comes out to play tonight at Neumos. I’m still not sure whether I’ll land on brilliant & ballsy or too over-the-top, but I am sure I want to see and hear more from Father John Misty. So I’ll be the girl in the front row with the neckbrace on, just in case there’s even more whiplash inducing moves in store.
With the last two days topping 70 degrees, its getting easier to imagine summer is coming to Seattle and so to comes line-up announcements for summer fests … or at least partial ones. Today we get a sneak peek at who’ll be crowding Pike Street this July for Capitol Hill Block Party. We’re especially excited to see Neko Case’s name at the very top along with Father John Misty, Daily Choice favorite Thee Oh Sees and a bevy of local bands like Lemolo, Absolute Monarchs, Night Beats, Dude York and more.
Sub Pop announced today they would be releasing Father John Misty’s debut album on May 1st and Entertainment Weekly debuted his new video for the project. Entertainment Weekly debuted it because a Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation stars in the video, but they got to share a hell of a song too. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is stoned and sexy and sad. Pulsing with swagger and self-doubt, the feel of the song is summed up well in the line, “You came. I think.”
Father John Misty sounds like trouble. And we like love it.
For your email, you can download the single from SubPop: