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That’s A Wrap! What’s Up? Re-Cap: Father John Misty Presented by Rams Head Group

Oct 08, 2015 04:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds

Photo courtesy of Father John Misty

Father John Misty Preaches to the Choir

Father John Misty performed to a crowd of devotees at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore on Monday, September 28th in support of the latest album, I Love You, Honeybear. J. Tillman (Joshua Tillman) was born in Rockville, MD. Growing up with his religious background there was almost no cultural influence and no secular music allowed. Around the age of 17, his parents finally allowed him to listen to secular music on one condition. The music had to have a “spiritual theme”. He started listening to a lot of Bob Dylan. As an adult, Tillman moved to Seattle and actively pursued his music career eventually joining famous folk rock band, Fleet Foxes as their drummer in 2008.

In 2012, Tillman released his debut album under the moniker Father John Misty called Fear Fun, which garnered a great deal of critical acclaim. As a young boy, Tillman thought he might be a pastor when he grew up. Now as Father John Misty, he continues on his spiritual quest shepherding his fans with psychedelia sounds paired with satirical insightful lyrics, “Obsessing over greying hair, Knowing just what people wanna hear, Bingeing on unearned attention, I’ve said awful things”.

Tillman is a tall drink of water and he makes quite an entrance. He is a dynamic enigma who manages to slither on stage while remaining steadfast as a mighty giant. He stays in character, a majestic maverick using wordplay while singing tongue in cheek, Bored in the USA from the latest album. He captures his own image with a ‘smart’ phone that he has usurped from a fanatic in the crowd. This common man felt driven to escape the real life experience with his idol in order to document it and upload the video later only to share the stolen moments with the masses who will glaze by it – a superficial fandom devoid of musical spirituality. Sadly, this concert-going phenomenon full of stolen moments has become all too commonplace these days. Meanwhile, a heart-shaped neon sign hung above the drummer blinks “No Photography”. The audience is hip to this irony. Father John Misty finishes the song, his lanky arm fully extended gradually closing in on his face for his shameless close up. He is his own audience in this moment. This social commentary is what makes Father John Misty such a brilliant artist.

He commands the audience with his musicianship and uses his microphone stand like Poseidon’s scepter, carrying it and swinging it around with great authority and in the next moment carefully lays it down on the stage so he can jump in the air landing and standing on his throne that is the top of the bass drum. With his back to the audience, he dominates the drummer’s accents with his oversinging being a rockstar. In between songs he breaks character to give the cell phone back to the ‘fan’ then turns on his heel with his back towards the audience and quickly back into character waving and saying, “Hello, to the 1 percenters in the balcony! How’s the view?” After a raucous two encores Father John Misty waves like the Queen of England to us ‘1 percenters’ in the VIP balcony. He blows us delicate kisses that I imagine would feel like bee stings upon landing on one’s cheek. We leave the spectacle humbled feeling a little less self-important and look forward to digesting the newest album at home like a good book – in one full uninterrupted listen from beginning to end, the way it was intended to be experienced.

Melissa Lauren, Community Events Editor and former WRNR and WTMD DJ, writes the weekly What’s Up? Events Blog and E-Newsletter every Thursday. To subscribe visit