Approaching the press pit on Thursday night, I was shocked and surprised by the lack of people congregating at the front of the stage. So much so that I was hesitant to weave my way to the front of the crowd. As I got to the front, I looked up and see Joshua Tillman, in his quintessential FJM style, perched on top of the drum kit where he kicked off the first song of his set. Any avid concert goer can tell you it is not hard to tell which artists immerses themselves in their music. There is a certain sincerity and honesty that exudes from their performance – even if, in FJM’s case, said performance is firmly veiled behind satire and bad-ass stage antics.
For anyone not familiar with Father John Misty, Joshua Tillman is the ex-drummer for the wildly popular, 6-piece Americana breakout, Fleet Foxes. To understand the balance of raw honesty and satire that Josh so carefully crafts into his work, I recommend watching his recent performance of “Bored In The USA” on Letterman back in November – wherein a clean and pressed, GQ-looking Tillman sits behind a Steinway and croons the first, solemn stanza of the song. The song itself is a David Foster Wallace style earnest commentary on the popular social structures that dominate the United States culture – from social inequality to relationships – beauty to debt – and he even briefly touches on our own mortality. Something that would move you to tears – except, halfway through the song, he shifts his posture and when the the camera angle changes, you see that he’s not playing the standard Letterman Steinway. . . in fact he’s not playing at all. In the place of the $100,000 piano is just a standard, gimmicky self-player. Then as a final, master stoke of brilliance – as the strings swell in the third and final verse, he introduces the best production of the whole song – a laugh track. The stark contrast in lyrics and depth is irreverently interrupted at the end of each phrase making his sincere pleas seem feel fake and fabricated. It’s jarring to watch to say the least and leaves the audience (and Dave) in an awkward silence after the song ends. . .all trying to take in what just happened.
Meanwhile, back at the venue. . .
a fan tosses a bouquet of white roses on the stage. Josh picks them up and thanked the girl, personally, in front of the thousands of people. A gesture that made her entire night, and shows how real of a person he is. If that alone is not enough to convince you of his character, one second he is talking to the crowd about how disappointed he was that there wasn’t a showing of the movie “Twilight” and the next he has hopped off the stage and stood on the fence with the crowd, singing while recording in the finest selfie style.
Overall it’s easy to see why Father John Misty draws people to his art and why I Love You, Honeybear is heralded as one of the best albums of the year.
It is always very fun and interesting, to see how different concerts bring out different fans, it seems obvious but nobody really realizes how big of a difference just a little bit of music can make. For instance – looking back on the Wu-Tang Clan concert last summer there was gang squad police, tons of thugs, but tonight at father John Misty had a bunch of skinny hipsters that loved the music, swayed and danced without a care in the world. Music is so powerful because it defines and express’s a person’s inner most self – it’s how they feel inside.
As father John Misty closed up co-headliners Black Rebel Motorcycle Club began their stage set-up – there began to be a big hole or gap in the crowd, which I found peculiar because usually this is when the crowd becomes bigger and you can’t make it through anywhere, but here again there was a large lack of people…
But about 10-15 minutes later a whole new group of people filled in- interesting enough, most of them were wearing black clothing, black makeup (men & women) and painted fingernails – to match who they came to see.
Under the loud, dull drone of a bass guitar, BRMC entered the stage – dressed in all black and leather. Frontman and lead guitarist, Peter Hayes with cigarette in mouth, led the set with Leah Shapiro, one of the most bad-ass female drummers, controlling the pace.
Some of the best Rock you’ll ever experience. . . and the fans went crazy.
Overall, the diversity of this concert was quite refreshing, because Father John Misty was calm and cool, dancing himself across the stage, whereas the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club comes on and the light, chill tone diminishes- bringing on an intense dark feeling.