“If I had to describe the music to someone who had never heard it, I’d say ‘pacific northwest hipster honkey tonk'”. Those of the words of my friend Cherisse, sharing her thoughts about the soulful preacher that is Father John Misty. Also ironic given that he is from Maryland. But I do tend to agree, for the man formerly known as J. Tillman has transformed himself from Fleet Fox to modern day Jim Morrison, replete with the dance moves of Diane Keaton a la First Wives Club.
Father John is an artist that is worshipped. Quite literally. Apart from performing in a venue that would suit a megachurch, from the moment he walked out on stage the audience – which numbered in the thousands – vacated their seats and stood and danced and partied for the proceeding 100 minutes.
Apart from the brilliant light show and the face-touching that bordered on self-pleasure, the thing that stood out for me was FJM’s lyrics. Although he had a tendency to mumble a lot, his songs varied from spiritual awakenings – gospel folk tunes, name-dropping Jesus, and luscious ballads – to the humorous and surreal, singing ditties about vinyl records and the like.
He may appear clueless and absent-minded and perhaps even whacked-out, but Father John knows how to perform, and really knows his audience. In the days of auto-tune, top 20 and ever-repetitive radio cycle, FJM is a true artist, uniquely putting his spin (and beard) on the music of the past, while simultaneously rejuvenating the industry of tomorrow.
Plus, there was the grunge-metal interlude.