Capitol Hill Block Party 2012: Father John Misty

Bebe Besch / July 21, 2012
Father John Misty at Capitol Hill Block Party by Bebe Besch

After a frighteningly wet morning, Father John Misty brought not only the sunshine, but also an emotionally enthusiastic first performance to the main stage of the Capitol Hill Block Party. As the personal project of former Fleet Foxes’ J. Tillman, many spent their first time watching to get a glimpse of the man in action for themselves – was he really as great of a front man as everyone has been saying?

Those asking any such questions were soon convinced as Tillman and team worked through songs off of his debut release, Fear Fun, a rock album with serious nods to country and blues. The album’s lyrics are sometimes awkwardly intimate, and when Tillman begins to belt them from stage, you get one of those all-body shivers from the intensity. A fan favorite was certainly “This is Sally Hatchet,” but the song with the most obvious physical and mental intensity was probably “I’m Writing a Novel,” in which Tillman often screams with clenched fists and drops to the stage floor after vigorous hip swaying and finger shaking.

His whole set wasn’t a serious matter, however. The banter between each song was comically juxtaposed to the incisive display before it. Tillman discussed how an audience member, who had yelled “I love you!” and his relationship had changed by responding “but what does that even mean anymore?” and after particularly challenging songs, he pushed the set forward by announcing we were “Moving along…” as if the song that prefaced was no big deal. Father John Misty’s set was closed with his first single, and perhaps the creepiest song on his debut, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.” The reverb from the bold chords of the song mixed in the outdoor setting added an extra eeriness that only complemented our local J.Tillman as he was rolling along the stage floor for his last song of the day.

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