Father John Misty

“Get ready to listen to the last goddamn singer-songwriter song you’ll ever need to hear.”

Father John Misty kicked off his world tour in San Diego at Humphrey’s by the Bay, following the recent release of his album Pure Comedy. Father John Misty, whose real name is Joshua Tillman, was in lively spirits. Preceding his Coachella performance, he was playing the onstage role of messianic preacher, lyrically condemning the social constructs of modern life that largely characterizes his ethos as a performer and artist.

He lays it on a bit thick with the self-aware white guy shtick he’s become so comfortable being, and at a point it becomes hard to tell if he enjoys it or if there’s a painful self-aware realization that he’s capitalizing on many of the same issues he sings about. Perhaps it’s part of what makes his songs as well as his performance so compelling. He’s a man smart enough to take advantage of cultural absurdities for his own gain, but who maligns the very existence of them.

His ten-verse lyrical epic Leaving LA sees him sing, “another white guy in 2017 who takes himself so goddamn seriously.” Tillman gives his all in the song, and for thirteen minutes, the mask of sarcasm and irony seems to fade away in place of the human behind it. This balance of tender sincerity and insight is what keeps Tillman from floating away on a bed of pretentiousness. Without it he’s just another snarky white guy with some sharp lyrical jabs, but with it, his music and his performance take on an elevated meaning and a pointed critique.

Mid-way through his song Nancy from Now On Tillman stopped and lit a cigarette, staring into the front row, before commenting “I appreciate you being so existential about it” to the man who was drunkenly urinating in the front row. “I can confidently say I’ve never had someone pissing on people at one of my shows.” It seemed oddly appropriate.

Photos and Review by: Brian Strauss (Foxx Press)