Father John Misty launches solo tour, performs with giant iPhone


Written by Brooks Rocco // Photos by Marc Fong

On May 1st 2011, President Barack Obama announced that nearly 10 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the United States had killed Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama Bin Laden. But the President did not make this announcement inside of a giant iPhone.

June 12th 1987, on the 750th Anniversary of the founding of Berlin, Germany, US President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall!” But this was not a proclamation made from inside a giant iPhone.

July 4th 0 A.D., Yeshua of Nazareth (later canonized as ‘Jesus’) was allegedly crucified for our sins. But on a crucifix, not an iPhone.

On Thursday, October 4 2013, at Slim’s Music Club & Bar, San Francisco, California (37.771492, -122.4132385N37° 46.2895′, W122° 24.7943’), Joshua Tillman, performing under the moniker ‘Father John Misty’, played the first night of his American solo tour inside of a giant iPhone.

Perhaps as a garish nod to today’s unconscionable habit of spending too much goddamn time photographing experiences rather than actually experiencing them, or perhaps as a sardonic ‘fuck you’ to those content wizards in charge of drawing up lines around artists that turn them into slide-show ponies on the never-ending entertainment loops we despicably adore, the giant iPhone served as an unceasing and brutal reminder of what our egoistic and poisoned humanity hath wrought, which was soon lost on Father John Misty’s nearly sold out crowd when, after a sip of tea and a knowing laugh, he strummed his guitar and began to sing.


Playing a mixture of older tracks from his now gracefully aging Fear Fun (Sub Pop, 2012), alongside a selection of new songs likely to appear on his forthcoming record, Josh Tillman channeled his former alter-ego J, taking us all on a mellow ride down his own personal lazy river. A tender version of “Nancy From Now On”, a lushly arranged “Fun Times in Babylon”, the excruciatingly honest new ballad “Bored In The USA“, and another new one chronicling the formulation of religion, language, black holes (in souls, of course), boredom, drugs, human frailty, distress, and the beautiful futility of love set the crowd quiet, considerate, and attentive.

That said, Slim’s is not an open mic cafe filled with bohemians & bean bag chairs. It is a rock n’ roll club with a full bar, and plenty of people in attendance were undoubtedly wondering when exactly we gon’ get our whiskey shoes on. The air was filled with a simmering anticipation for the savvy and snarky theatric that Father John Misty shows have become known for — which indeed he nailed during his last stint at SF’s Fillmore. This, being the first night of the solo tour, was really just the first test in this solo experiment, and due to FJM being FJM, he’s having fun toying with the ideas and clichés of the “solo show”; of the artist-as-content; as the one-man-act-cum-singer-cum-songwriter; as the “guy you’ve all paid to see”. All in all, he seemed a little nervous, though rightly so. The tour’s only just begun, he’s not the iron-clad and confident Ubermensch that played the 10th Annual Henry Miller Memorial Library Benefit two weeks earlier to a silent, attentive, and mostly stoned crowd, sitting ‘neath the redwood trees. (see video)


I briefly spoke to Josh before that show at Henry Miller, and he mentioned that he was nicknaming this the ‘Father John Misty Disappoints Everyone Tour’, noting that there would be plenty of people unaware that this would be just a dude with a wooden string-box sitting on a stage. Though I never got that vibe from the crowd at Slim’s — I heard no audible “HEY WHAT THE SHIT IS THIS”’s from anyone. There were occasional twinges of discourtesy when it became clear that no one was going to be dancing in this club. As a result, the stunningly graceful new tune “We Met In A Store” was more than just a little marred by talking, iPhoning, heads and minds wandering, etc., which took away from the song’s soaring climax. It’s tough to get people to pay attention when you’re just an app in an iPhone.

That said, other than a few nervous hiccups, the man’s voice absolutely soared in even this early night of the tour, and it’s only bound to get better. Ditching the band in favor of a solo tour, utilizing the name that’s been on that fast ascent to wherever-the-hell-it’s-going is a ballsy move, and the hyper-aware Josh Tillman is gearing up a truly memorable run.

To anyone put off by the lack of a backing band: rest reassured that seeing this artist open up in what is likely the most vulnerable state he’s put himself in to date is well worth the price of admission for anyone who considers themselves a fan. The old songs have matured, the new songs are sickeningly sweet, and hey, he even takes questions from the crowd!

“Why haven’t you done this sooner?” one up-fronter queried.
“Well, the market research didn’t demand it,” Josh Tillman replied, inside of a giant iPhone.

It appears the market is now demanding his iTunes.



  1. Dipsea Boy says:

    Great review! It was my 8th FJM show, and it was moving in a way that a full-band concert can never be. I also so at his show at Hardly Strictly, which was amazing in term’s of Josh’s ability to hold the attention of a crowd of freeloading stoners . Then I went up to Portland (Misty head, anyone?) to see his act in a sit-down theater. The Portland show topped them all as it was quiet enough for Josh to command the room.

    Can’t wait for the next tour … although, I’m tempted to see the final tour date in LA on Nov. 2.

  2. Love Father John…Have you seen his whole rant about Coachella and “The Brexers” It’s insanely wonderful. He is kind of Jim Morrison meets Andy Kaufman. Love it. Great article!

  3. Welcome to the Bam Fam Brooks


  1. […] Ma – Uncertainty (from Howlin [Mom& Pop]) After listening to Josh Tillman croon from an iPhone for an hour I got an urge to dance, so I spun the yarn of time and space and roped a ride toward […]

  2. […] Father John Misty performed through a giant iPhone on his recently wrapped solo tour. Perhaps J. Tillman wanted to treat the audience to the same visual that has been thrown in his face the past two years. But Father John Misty gets bonus points for referring to himself as “content.” […]

Leave a Reply