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Father John Misty At The El Rey, Friday, August 26th 2016

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Here I was again, among hipsters checking out Father John Misty in a pre-FYF fest and sold-out show at the El Rey Theater, It was part of the After-Dark shows, a series of gigs around town featuring artists playing at the FYF fest during the weekend. Father John Misty has a nice spot on Sunday night, on the main stage just before Grace Jones and LCD Soundsystem, meaning that Josh Tillman, ex-Fleet Foxes with a humble solo beginning, must be doing something really right.

I arrived in advance to save a nice spot, and I was looking around me…Can we call these people hipsters, am I a hipster because I am there? It’s natural to ask yourself questions when you attend a Father John Misty show, he is the type to pose in a middle of a song, keep the pose for half a minute while saying out loud something any performer would normally keep for themselves. ‘What am I doing?’ he said when he stopped everything while stretching his right arm to the ceiling, as if he was suddenly frozen in time and hit by some existentialist crisis.

I was just standing next to two guys, one was a photographer and the other one was saying he would be covering Pitchfork’s upcoming festival in Paris, so I couldn’t have been closer to hipster country. At this point, I was curious to know if Misty would have another meltdown on stage, if he would be talking about the crystal he stole in a shop in Silverlake? Have you heard this story? A very Father John Misty story revealed on his own Instagram page: he admitted to have stolen the crystal, had a feud in Twitter with the owner of the shop, and is now advertising rose quartz earrings, with the caption: ‘You definitely DO want the energy of these rose quartz earrings in your life.’ And to keep himself in the indie news, he is also selling some  ‘Life of Padre’ shirts, largely inspired by the merchandise of a famous rapper … This is the life of Josh Tillman, oscillating between indie artist rock star, imposter, provocateur, thief and funny man. I have always the impression he is making fun of people, but that love around him was real, there was even a girl next to me who had made a poster ‘Father John Misty, be my music pastor’… wasn’t this cute?

Openers Tess and Dave played a strange and sweet set with first, a sound lost in 60’s power pop, and such a weird Father John Misty look, with fake beards and real ones, that I first thought it could be a parody, an elaborated one with great music, back up dancers and glitter. Then the music became space age 70’s rock with electric guitar solo and I totally understood why they were opening for Father John Misty, it was theatrical, a comedy and a tragedy (wasn’t even a sword involved at a point? and Dave was the type of guy to receive flowers on stage.

But I guess the biggest news was probably the unexpected apparition of a famous pop star. At the first song, ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’, a blonde woman suddenly came in front of me, she looked very excited but I couldn’t see the stage anymore so I taped her in the back and said ‘I was there first, you have to move’. It’s very annoying when people do that, I had been waiting for more than an hour at the same spot, and some woman thinks she could come in front of me like that?? She moved and didn’t make any fuss about it, but she was followed everywhere by a guy who gave me a weird look and seemed to say ‘what are you doing?’ He visibly didn’t understand why I was so tough with her. The blonde danced in front of the stage, then left and went back to where she was before… I heard her saying ‘it’s my shoes’, when she left the front stage, and when I saw what kind of platform high heels she was wearing, I totally understood her pain. I also heard someone screaming ‘I love you so much’, and I realized she was some kind of celebrity, but I hadn’t recognized her yet!! It turned out that Lady Gaga was attending Father John Misty’s gig with the unleashed enthusiasm of a fangirl! … Isn’t it the biggest compliment of all? Lady Gaga was there, and she looked like his biggest fan.

But should we be surprised? Gaga is the queen of acting, she is always morphing into a new form and look – and that’s why I didn’t recognize her! – whereas Father John Misty’s show is all an act. In full character, he is charming the crowd, galvanizing it with his over-the-top dance moves, kneeling down, touching the ground and the sky, he is a superstar with an eccentric demeanor, charming but sarcastic, he fully embraces the myth he has created… ‘You only had one job’ he told the girl who was holding her poster upside down, ‘You only had one job’, he repeated with the most depressing tone. He was hilarious.

The entire show is a sing-along, everyone knows the lyrics, everyone sings and everyone is arms-in-the-air the entire time, holding phones that Misty occasionally picks to have fun with during a few seconds. He is a true showman as usual, he mimics his songs and takes this same disillusioned expression every time. As usual he was alternating the crazy moves backed up by a sonic thunder, a volcanic eruption of sounds, with more-grounded songs played with upbeat guitars. He was  contorting his long thin body in every direction, falling on the floor, leaning over the crowd and touching as many people as possible or rather letting as many people as possible’ touch him. If he even offered his body to the crowd and he fell down flat on the front rows of caring arms and he makes sure that everyone is getting a piece of Father John Misty at one point.

Many songs could have been the highlights, and may be ‘Bored in the USA’ was one of them, during the song, Tillman put a few phones in his pocket, or in a more intimate place above his belt, then suddenly returned them to their owners while saying, ‘I have gold shoes, I don’t need phones!’ He was wearing some impressive gold boots indeed. ‘True Affection’ transformed the stage in a hot discotheque, and of course ‘I Love You Honeybear’ was received with big acclamations but at this point all the songs were received with the same cheerful clamor,

Joshua Tillman, fully embraces the myth he has created, he fully becomes Father John Misty every time he performs and it’s all an act or is it? I have seen him a few times, but a Father John Misty show is never the same, it’s pure entertainment and If such theatricality could easily feel exaggerated, it never looks that way, Tillman is an effortless performer and a gifted songwriter who knows how to turn sarcasm into great art.

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Setlist
Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
When You’re Smiling and Astride Me
Only Son of the Ladiesman
The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.
Nothing Good Ever Happens At the Goddamn Thirsty Crow
Funtimes in Babylon
Nancy From Now On
Chateau Lobby #4
I’m Writing a Novel
Now I’m Learning to Love the War
Bored in the USA
Holy Shit
True Affection
This is Sally Hatchet
I love you, HoneyBear
Encore
I Went to the Store One Day
Real Love Baby
The Ideal Husband


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