Every week up until ACL officially lands in Zilker Park in October, we’re bringing you a closer look at some of the awesome artists in the lineup. We’ve partnered with some of the best music writers in the industry from Austin and beyond to profile the range of talented musicians headed our way — from big-name headliners to buzzworthy up-and-comers. This week’s feature comes from Live Music Blog’s John Stephens.
Imagine a man sitting alone at a corner table in a dimly lit bar, sipping what could be a thick amber cocktail through a twisty-straw, slumped there in a straight jacket and openly referring to the evening as casual. Maybe this exact scene hasn’t happened to him, but for the heartily obtuse Josh Tillman, lead man for Father John Misty, this scene isn’t very farfetched.
Anyway, a 3 a.m., LSD-induced karaoke performance of R’s Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” can serve as an actual depiction of the all-observational Tillman, whose knack for divulging the jutting truths about human emotion through lyricism and melody is remarkably acute. I’m not trying to say he’s the new Freud, lounging in some castle-like compound whilst reading and writing volumes of analytical psychology. Tillman rolls with a different system, which sometimes includes hurtling south down the west coast, alone in a van with a giant supply of magical mushrooms and a slew of dark, hilarious and loveable ideas.
These ideas, which in May of 2012 revealed themselves as songs on the band’s debut album, Fear Fun, are exactly what make Tillman such an artistic force – they reflect a plain-spoken characterization of humanity, whether that reflection involves activity amongst others (as in the son at his father’s funeral in “Only Son of the Ladies Man,” who finds himself amidst “troubled hearts” and “lonesome daughters”) or the simplicities of isolation (see/hear “Every Man Needs a Companion,” where the author immediately admits his longing for “someone to turn his thoughts to”).
This sort of song-writing can only be the product of dedicated traveling and traversing, and not just the freeway type of traveling, but the inner, introspective route as well. Indeed, Tillman has proven himself to be a master and commander of this kind of metaphysical ship, and with his fellow beauty-conspirators of Father John Misty, every audience who sees them perform is lucky enough to become a part of the ride.
So what can you expect from the live show? I can only tell you from my own experience, and although it was only a single show at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans, it’s a show that I hardly go a day without thinking about. It’s as though I’m trapped inside of that venue, which is certainly something to celebrate, like some joyous and spine-grasping moebius trip. As a humble onlooker, it’s clear the band has a stellar tightness that triumphantly generates a show with actual meaning, an artistic portrayal of time and effort and the process of poetics.
Riddled with desire, humor, mischief, sex and drugs, Tillman’s lyrics, surrounded by a euphoric array of instrumental cohesion, tend to spill like a curious river flooding into the ecstatic crowd, such as when he croons to the audience the guilty lyrics of ‘Now I’m Learning to Love the War,’ – “Let’s just call this what it is/ the jealous side of mankind’s death wish/ when it’s my time to go/ gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose.” To put it simply, Father John Misty provides creative substance and a hella fun party, and their act at ACL is sure to bring just that. And not only is the spacey, alt-country rock-and-roll a divine musical event, Tillman’s outer-world aficionado dance moves are pretty damn inspiring – at least, you’ll want to groove your own ass off, too.