Father John Misty Gives Fitz a Religious Experience
Photos by Jack Gorman
Father John Misty Fitzgerald's April 23, 2015
As liters of sweat dripped from my face while standing on the balcony of Fitzgerald's on Thursday night, I couldn't tell whether the overwhelming heat in the room was the result of a broken AC unit or Father John Misty's sultry, sexy moves onstage. As the show progressed, he teased the audience by introducing one of his songs with, "It's about to get even hotter, even more intimate," while proceeding to talk about how he wanted to take off his shirt; substantial screams came from the girls in the front row every time he touched his top button.
Misty then proceeded to move around the stage like he does: prancing around, getting on top of the kick drum, twisting and turning like he was at a church revival or maybe experiencing an exorcism. I looked to my right and a girl was hanging from the wooden beam above the balcony. Where was I?
This stage show is a far cry from the work Josh Tillman first became involved in. Tillman has been steadily releasing music since moving to Seattle from an Evangelical Christian household in 2004, where he released a few small records through independent labels before drawing more attention as the lead drummer of indie-folk band Fleet Foxes. After leaving that band in 2012, Tillman adopted the name Father John Misty and went on to really unleash the innermost workings of his witty and sarcastic mind through his new music — something that he wouldn't have necessarily been able to do sitting behind drums for another band.
What Tillman's new persona spotlights is his passion and theatricality, and thank God, because it is overflowing: the running around onstage; the constant falling to his knees and bending backwards on the floor while fans in the front row reach to touch him; the illuminated heart-shaped backdrop on stage that reads "No Photography"; or the way he puts his knees together and moves his hips back and forth looking like some sort of bearded, lanky Slender Man. Even that moment when Misty quickly removed his guitar from his shoulder and threw it to the other side of the stage into the hands of some stagehand who was waiting there to catch it — it almost seems like he plans these stage antics months before, yet it still feels extremely visceral at the same time.
This is the case with Father John Misty's lyrics as well. His songs tend to be so sarcastic, so witty, and so obscure that you sometimes have to rewind and listen again to be able to truly get it. His lyrics and the way he expresses them are almost preacher-like, and many times last night during the show it felt like you were at some Western church for Sunday-morning mass but with the preacher saying stuff like, "She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes," while flicking his wrist and batting his eyes like he was imitating some girl he saw at the shopping mall the other day. It's incredible to me that his music is this witty and sarcastic, yet he is still taken so seriously as an artist.
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As much as he might want to maintain his indie credibility and boho persona, Tillman has the passion and raw talent that form the makings of an icon. As he sang the lyrics, "And no one ever knows the real you, and life is brief," I got smacked in the face with the ponytail of the girl standing in front of me and couldn't help but take a moment to bask in the artistry and pure irony that is Father John Misty.
Personal Bias: I may have listened to "Holy Shit" before when I needed a good cry.
Overheard In the Crowd: "He's being ironic! HE'S BEING IRONIC!" Also, "I think I see Sam Smith in the front row."
Random Notebook Dump: Let's take a moment for the people who lost pretty much all of the water in their body through sweating last night. Also, for how smelly Fitz was going to be after the show.
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