Mick Jagger. Steven Tyler. Freddy Mercury. Elvis. When the term “rock star” is thrown around, those are some names that come to mind. It’s bold, but the potential star power of Father John Misty is in a similar league based on his performance last night at Neumos. With the floor and balcony packed like sardines, there was a feeling of anticipation ricocheting from person to person about the performance of the former Fleet Foxes member. This show was one of the first stops on J. Tillman’s tour promoting his debut release as a solo artist – the LP released through Sub Pop entitled Fear Fun. Everyone had high expectations, and based on the exclamations heard following the show, not a single person was disappointed.
Musicians constantly label their work as “genre spanning,” attempting to claim that their influences are far flung and varied so as to imply that what they’re producing is impossible to peg into a genre. For most, this is far from the case and upon first listen to an album, the listener will be able to place the band in a column and leave them there. It’s thrilling to say that this is anything but the case for Father John Misty. With his set last night, each song was a fusion of something. Whether it be classic country and classic rock, or soul and folk, or a combination of all four and then something else sprinkled on top, J. Tillman’s new project is magnetic for its sonic variety and eclecticism.
With a set list including songs “Only Son of the Ladiesman,” ”Now I’m Learning to Love the War,” “Everyman Needs a Companion,” and the closer “Funtimes in Babylon,” Father John Misty awed the crowd with his song writing and singing abilities. He’s thoughtful and clever with his word play, leaving the listener hanging on every word and note he sang into the audience.
If you weren’t lost in his lyrics, you were probably mesmerized by his antics on stage. Constantly in motion from head to toe, Tillman was electrifying. He was a ball of energy shimming his skinny hips from side to side, his hands either flailing in the air surrounding him, tugging at his hair, or placed on his hips in a way that would make a back-up singer circa 1970 proud. He’s a performer, it oozes through him and combusts on stage leaving the audience demanding for more.
Perhaps because this was a Seattle show, and Tillman has called Seattle home for almost a decade, the interplay between him and the crowd was something unique and not often seen at concerts. At times, he was bickering in a playful manner with an audience member about the merits of The Crocodile or discussing how one MUST wear a tank top to properly perform a ballad; Tillman kept the audience on their toes. You were never sure what was going to come out of his mouth next between songs, or, what was going to go into his mouth for that matter. One of the highlights of his set was the performance he and his band put on for “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.”
With the rest of his band remaining on stage, the audience was left wondering what was happening when Tillman left. When he returned with a cigarette dangling from his lips, it became clear he likely left the stage to solve the problem smokers face constantly – a full pack but no lighter to be had. When he lit up, his band began the intro to the song and he joined them singing the opening lyrics, “Jesus Christ, girl/ What are people gonna think?” In between flicks of his hands, leaving ash falling around him, he convinced the audience that maybe the cigarette companies were right – smoking is sort of sexy. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” was distinct for more than just his Camel (or, it could have been an American Spirit). The song has a melancholy to it that is seductive, and it’s no surprise it was one of their last performances as it’s one of the most catchy songs on the album. Live, it’s even better.
Father John Misty put on a memorable show last night, and he did something bigger than impress music fans. Leaving Neumos, the crowd was buzzing over Rock and Roll – discussing a resurgence that has been long overdue. This band is something to behold; an act to make believers out of people who have written Seattle off as the birthplace (and burial ground) for grunge.
Opening for Father John Misty was the memorable and ridiculously entertaining Har Mar Superstar. Specializing in funky RnB, Har Mar Superstar’s singer and resident stripper Sean Tillmann titillated the crowd throughout his energetic set – disrobing throughout each of his songs, leaving him in just a pair of sherbet stripped briefs by his last song. Performing songs backed by Jefferson Catfish Quinn on guitar, Macey Taylor on bass, and Father John Misty himself (J. Tillman) on drums, Har Mar Superstar got the crowd amped and dancing.
Har Mar Superstar is just that, a superstar, and while he jiggled and gyrated, he lit up the crowd. With a bod reminiscent of Ron Jeremy, he exuded sex appeal and and confidence, leaving the audience wanting more after each song. When he jumped from the stage and into the crowd, it became clear that he knew no limits and would do everything possible to entertain and excite the audience. Har Mar Superstar is a true showman, and just an all around joy to watch – no matter how close his bulge gets to your face.
Enjoy the Gallary below, all photos are by Amber Zbitnoff.