Sunday, August 4, 2013

Father John Misty at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

"If there's a banter hall of fame, I'm available," Father John Misty (performing name of Josh Tillman, former Fleet Foxes drummer and J. Tillman for his earlier solo work) said at one point during his concert last Wednesday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I, for one, would vote to induct him. Tillman is quite a talent as a songwriter and vocalist, but I think the biggest thing I'll remember from the concert is that he had the best stage banter I've ever heard. It's the main reason I was inspired to write a review. Tillman said some really hilarious stuff, and I'd like to preserve it for posterity.

The show, part of the Rock Hall's free summer concert series, was unfortunately moved indoors due to the threat of rain, which never materialized. In fact, the weather turned out be perfect for an outdoor concert. (I do wonder how far in advance the decision had to be made. The show started at 7:30, and a look at at 4 pm showed that there was 0% chance of rain through the time that the concert would be ending.) This move was especially problematic for opening band Night Moves, whose set was a fairly miserable experience for me. Nothing against the band, though; it's just that the museum lobby, full of chattering people and too warm from the sun streaming in through the large glass windows, provided a horrible atmosphere for a concert. Fortunately, during Father John Misty's set the crowd was more attentive, the music volume was louder, and once the sun went down, the general atmosphere of the room improved tremendously.

Tillman and his band played a great set of country-tinged folk rock, including either every or almost every (I wasn't keeping track) song from Fear Fun, the sole Father John Misty album thus far. As I said, though, I mainly wanted to write about Tillman's stage banter. I'm fully aware that a lot of this stuff won't come across as funny in writing. Tillman's acerbic delivery, combined with the often out-of-left-field nature of his remarks, really made it all much funnier in person. But I'll do my best at recounting some of his better lines.

Referring to the pictured signs, Tillman inquired, "Who the fuck is Gwen Moby?" (A good question, I might add.)

There's currently a piano set up outside the entrance of the Rock Hall as part of the Play Me, I'm Yours exhibit. Tillman complained about how many times he had to hear people play "that fucking Adele song" when he was outside smoking.

A large banner with a picture of the Rolling Stones hung from the ceiling off to one side of the lobby. In between acts, a spokesman from the museum made some remarks, including references to event sponsors. Early in his set, Tillman said something about wanting to thank another sponsor, the Rolling Stones, who had been so generous in sponsoring events like this over the years. Later, he gestured toward the banner and said, "Look at them. They're such bros." (I use quotation marks here and throughout although these are, of course, paraphrases.)

Tillman occasionally went off on rambling stories that were, quite frankly, fairly bizarre. He told one story about how the show we were attending was, in fact, the beginning of an exhibit about the career of Father John Misty. The exhibit was to show him working his way up to arena shows, then becoming a heroin addict, then going to rehab, then, twenty years later, releasing a "middling comeback album" which would win a Grammy.

In perhaps my favorite bit, Tillman said he liked to imagine the Rock Hall in a post-apocalyptic setting, 300 years in the future. The building, he imagined, would be the home base of a cannibal tribe. In this post-apocalyptic society, the surviving humans would wonder at the significance of all the trinkets in the museum. The leader of the cannibal tribe would wear Michael Jackson's jacket. And one day, someone would pick up Jimmy Page's guitar, and write a really great song, and this would be the beginning of the rebirth of human culture! Tillman remarked that he should make a movie using this concept - I'd go see it.

What else? At one point, Tillman asked the members of the band what item of theirs they'd like to put in their museum exhibit. (He came across as very cynical about the museum, and about a lot of things, for that matter. I wondered whether he genuinely disliked the museum and its corporate nature, whether he was just a bitter person in general, or whether it was simply his stage persona. I don't know, but it was entertaining as hell.) The first band member said he wouldn't want to give up anything to put it in a museum. Tillman said, "How about your attitude? But I don't think it would fit!" (Oh snap!) He continued by saying that his bandmate's "ability to put up with Josh Tillman" was worthy of being displayed in a museum. The response to the question from the second band member was a cheesecake, and Tillman said, "So now our exhibit is a fucking piece of cheesecake in a glass box."

Near the end of one song, Tillman went to the back of the stage and mocked strumming on the huge faux guitar visible in the background of this picture. After the song ended, he complained to the sound guy that his guitar wasn't turned on (at this point, I don't think most people in the audience got the joke). "You know, the giant guitar that I brought especially for this song," he continued. "That guitar back there. Come on. It's called professionalism!"

It's probably worth mentioning that Tillman commented several times on how drunk he was. There was plenty of professionalism on display in the musical performance, though. Fear Fun is a really solid album, and the music and Tillman's voice shone in the live seting. The end of the main set was stunning. After the band finished album closer "Everyman Needs a Companion" and the applause subsided, Tillman tacked on an additional verse to the song, playing alone on an acoustic guitar. This segued directly into the album's lead single and standout track "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," a song with a much heavier rock sound than anything else on the album. The live performance was heavier still, and sounded fantastic - when the bass kicked in, I could feel it, and on top of the flashing lights and crashing guitars, it created a little moment of bliss. The song was a fitting climax for the concert. Incidentally, several times in between songs some people standing near me (one of whom was also fond of loudly exclaiming "Father John!") wondered aloud when Father John Misty would play that one song of his which they knew. When "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" started, one of them said, "Oh, this is the one!"

The concert was capped off with an encore, two new songs sandwiching a cover of the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." I had been worried that the move indoors would ruin the evening, and the opening band's set greatly deepened my worries. But it turned out to be a fantastic show. Father John Misty is quite a performer, and I'd highly recommend seeing him live to anyone who has the chance.

1 comment:

  1. Gwen is Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, and Moby is Moby. They collaborated on a video for a song called "Southside" and those two signs are from the video.