After opening with “Fun Times In Babylon,” Father John Misty swaggered with his mic stand and said, “If you’re going to try to explain what this is like later, no one is gonna understand.” There was a collage of national and spiritual symbols hung up behind the stage with bare breasted women frolicking under a rainbow. And crowning the collage was a depiction of Father John Misty himself, unashamedly showcasing his backside. A life-sized stuffed white leopard sat on top of a speaker. It was May 15th at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro and the Father John Misty circus had begun.
Josh Tillman has been running this show for well over a year now, with Father John Misty’s first album, Fear Fun, dropping in May of 2012. But before he adopted the persona of a rollicking rock and roll superstar, Tillman was the drummer for Seattle’s lush harmony driven Fleet Foxes. And even before that he started releasing quiet acoustic albums in 2003 as J. Tillman. He’s been around and he knows everyone knows it, but on Fear Fun, he showed us that he doesn’t give a fuck. Tillman shed his lonesome weariness for a Waylon Jennings twang delivered with Oscar Wilde sass. And he was born again as a more confident and engaging artist.
When Tillman opened the floor for a Q & A session in the middle of his set, the first question addressed his superbly suggestive dancing. “Will you go to prom with me?,” a girl asked. “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes,” he answered. And when someone asked, “What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?,” Tillman responded, “Every Friday I get to go to the indie rock bank and get my gold bricks.”
All jokes aside though, Tillman puts on a damn good show. During “Everyman Needs A Companion,” he crooned more beautifully than on record. He danced his ass off while retaining a perfect falsetto in “Nancy From Now On.” But on “Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings” for the first time the whole show, the spotlight was turned off of Tillman and in the darkness the band flung into hedonistic abandonment. Later it was only fitting that the Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” was included in the three song encore. The Father John Misty show was a little dirty and maybe even a little insulting, but in all his weird glory Tillman delivered. Gratification has never felt so strange.