Father John Misty @ Paradise Rock Club 10.25.12
by Amanda Hoover (Journalism), published November 2nd 2012
J. Tillman, formerly the drummer of Fleet Foxes, is not your ordinary front man. At first glance, it doesn’t look like he came to rock the eager crowd. He looks mid-tour tired—or maybe he’s just donning that classic, uninterested, hipster persona. Wearing a Grateful Dead shirt so old that it’s missing more fabric than it has left, he begins his set at Paradise Rock Club with an existential monologue, noting that, “Some of us, due to the ties of our subconscious, will not sleep tonight.”
From his performance, it’s hard to tell if Tillman hasn’t in fact slept in ages or if he’s living in a constant dream state. He starts his set off with Fear Fun’s first track, “Fun Times in Babylon.” His voice is on point—a product of his tour diet of Adderall, cocaine and beef jerky, he jokes dryly in passing before finishing off another beer and tossing it aside—as he sings about smoking up and moving to Hollywood. The set rises and falls throughout his performance, building energy with fast paced songs like “I’m Writing a Novel” or the brazen “Well, You Can Do it Without Me,” before slipping into mystic tunes like “Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” and “This is Sally Hatchet.”
Tillman isn’t one for crowd involvement. He never encourages the audience to clap along or sing in unison. He never introduces himself or his band. He doesn’t reach his hands out to touch the members of the audience pressed against the stage. Yet somehow, his performance isn’t cold. On stage, Tillman swivels his hips and shakes his entire body like a wild combination of Mick Jagger and Elvis, pantomiming the lyrics with his hands as he sings, but he never even cracks a smile when the crowd cheers and laughs. During his claim to fame “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” he’s thrashing on the floor, then he’s up and clinging the microphone for dear life before falling back again and pounding his fists against the stage. And that’s when you realize, Tillman just doesn’t give a shit. He’s not feeding off the energy in the audience or the atmosphere—there’s something else, some wilder force that’s driving him. It doesn’t matter if you dance or sing with him or cheer for him—he doesn’t need your gratification. Tillman’s singing and dancing for himself, and he isn’t afraid to make it weird.