Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Concert Review | Father John Misty at The Firebird in Saint Louis

Photo by Louis Kwok of Music Vs Man

I'm a steady hand, I'm a Dodgers fan. 
I'm a leading brand of a one night stand. 
I'm a ladies man.

Joshua Tillman, who now performs and records under the name Father John Misty, used to be a dishwasher.

I know this because he told us last night at the Firebird. He would wash dishes, and then play Lord of the Rings pinball, a machine that also exists along a wall of the venue of which he was performing.

"You know, sometimes I would wake up, after passing out, to the Lord of the Rings menu screen, which was one of the most heroic things in life imaginable," he told us. "All the while actually living one of the least heroic lives imaginable."

That got a few laughs, as did his humming of the Lord of the Rings theme music, which he would also wake up to.

Yes, he was once the drummer for the Fleet Foxes, but the hushed glory of "Helplessness Blues" seems light years from where Father John Misty is today. He quit that very successful band, ate enough mushrooms to "choke a horse," and started to create an album during an "immobilizing period of depression."

And last night, he sold out the Firebird, joked with the crowd about the word "moist," and shook his head at the thought of singing R. Kelly, like he did on something called S.S. Coachella. This is not a man interested in repeating some karaoke performance that got a bunch of hits on the Internet. And yes, we should have known that.

Instead, this is an artist who is as real as they come, fully able to belt out any song he chooses, including the last song of the night: a cover of Canned Heat's "On The Road Again."

He started out with Fear Fun's "Funtimes in Baylon," arm extended in the air one minute, firmly planted on his hip the next. His voice was always clear, and he never stood still for too long; in fact, his performance was transient to a fault: Father John has no idea when to stop.

You could say that is the beauty in his artistry and his latest album. Things sort of pop up in his songs, lines like, "Well, I'm no doctor, but that monkey might be right." You want to laugh, or at least think. Father John Misty makes you think, but not in that sulking, "what the fuck happened to my life?" sort of way. His songs are carefree, but not careless; they make their point, and hustle to the next party in town.

How will all this end up, though? I'm not so sure Father John Misty cares, or even thinks too far ahead. Fuck you and your five-year plan -- that's what I get from Father John. 

On his second-to-last song of the night, "Everyman Needs A Companion," Father John became animated when singing perhaps the most important lyric of Fear Fun: "I never liked the name Joshua/ I got tired of J."

And it became clear: give this man a choice, and he's not going to cave to the masses.

Do your thing, Father John.

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