Father John Misty consummates one night stand with Tempe
Fathers, Johns and Mistys came out to see the performer on a wonderfully pleasant April 20 at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. The crowd was definitely bearded, and it seemed like a lot of kids ditched their dads with tickets so they could celebrate elsewhere.
Opener King Tuff crawled out from underneath my couch cushions, or so I could imagine. The greasy hair, the glasses and the aspiration for something greater are all part of looking for something you've lost in a couch. The band promised "tonight's going to be f---ing amazing," and that "we are down to celebrate the holidays," given that the show was on April 20.
Love was in the air during this deep-fried set, with lead guitarist Kyle Thomas promising to kill bassist Garett Goddard, adding that he would do the deed with love. The music was high and tight, dipping down into fuzzy depths you'd expect from a group like this.
Audience members reflected the themes of the music — the men looked like they were shipped in from a beard and horned-rimmed glasses convention, adorning themselves with sad plaid. I was surrounded by at least seven couples during the opener, according to some careful arithmetic.
The hierarchy of heterosexual male-dominance was out in force last night, to be sure. There were 10 white men on stage throughout the night — leaving little room for another perspective that the year 2015 sorely cries out for. Neo-masculinity, an identity clothed in misanthropy and privilege, reached its zenith with Father John Misty on stage.
Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, opened with "I Love You, Honeybear," the title track off his new album. His gyrating seduction took place in front of a giant heart with cursive neon lettering that read "No Photography." The heart changed colors according to the music being played, and most of the set was lit with this centerpiece and Marquee's always on-point lighting.
"True Affection" was another standout early on; the energy level was set from here, with an epic light show that centered on Tillman's kneeled body in the center of the stage. This performer knows how to brood and complain all while casting enormous energy from his stage presence alone.
Later in the show, Tillman crooned "Nancy From Now On," twisting from the original recording I've fawned over since the formative "loss of innocence," to borrow an English major's favorite phrase. There was a synth addition that destabilized the song in a way that demonstrated Tillman's ability to deconstruct even his older catalog.
Tillman didn't just impress by cavorting around on stage, he also had an impressive display of banter that almost didn't fit the larger venue.
To start, he cried out "I love you too, mostly because I don't have to prove it to any of you," later saying "we'll find some way to prove it before the night's over." The night was indeed full of him proving his love of the stage, including animatronic hand gestures and Christ-like poses on the drum kit, all while kneeling into the crowd from the stage.
He later described himself as "a cranky old man screaming at a train," adding that he was surprised his "Andy Rooney-style" musings were the subject of applause.
He mentioned Coachella, where he had obviously taken the opportunity to tan like a real Southern Californian. "What's wrong with little old Coachella," he asked, after the crowd booed. "It's everything it's cracked up to be."
Even later in the show, after taking a few heady questions, Tillman observed that "this must be a college town," assuming the crowd "eats a lot of Chipotle." He reminisced about his 25-year-old life in which he could eat as much of the popular burrito chain as he wanted and "still get laid."
The encore, of which he sarcastically insisted there would be none, was made up of "Bored in the USA," the Leonard Cohen song "I'm Your Man" and "Every Man Needs a Companion." During "Bored in the USA," Tillman stole someone's phone, recorded himself playing the end of the song, then claimed that he wanted to do it right. He then started the song over and re-recorded the beginning of the song on the same person's iPhone.
Setting aside this clean-shaven reporter's gripes about neo-masculinity, Father John Misty hits to the core of emotional distress in the age of cell phones, Chipotle and Coachella. His presence on stage, as a modern-day Cassandra living in a corporate shell, transforms and critiques most of the "problems" we confront as consumers of music and all else.
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