Father John Misty wakes up, deletes ‘1989’

Father John Misty

By cosmically lassoing Monday’s pop-scene zeitgeist, Josh Tillman and company (heretofore known as The Father John Mistys) found themselves trending in the hearts and minds of the post-modern millennial class by releasing their Velvet Underground-inspired versions of the Ryan Adams/Taylor Swift 1989 experiment in aesthetic appropriation.

As if it were all a dream (and since nothing on the Internet lasts forever these days), the songs disappeared early Tuesday from FJM’s Soundcloud page.

Haunted, allegedly, by the ghost of Lou Reed, Tillman explained his decision — in plenty of detail — on FJM’s Facebook page:

I had a very strange dream that I abruptly woke up from around 3am early this morning. I was crab-walking around a neighborhood in New Orleans that, though it does not exist, is a recurring location in my dreams. My childhood friend Brian Kawamura was was telling me I still owed the tennis rental place $7000 when the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan was suddenly standing over me, saying over and over, “The only thing crazier than a peasant who believes he is King, is a King who believes he is a King.” He put one of those birthday Burger King crowns on my head and out of the clouds a sort of “Switched on Bach” version of “Ode To Joy” began to play. A crowd which had formed around me began to sing along, with tears streaming down their faces. The crowd was obviously hypnotized and I assumed if I crept away discreetly no one would notice. The earth became a sort of treadmill, and though the locations (The Great Wall of China, a McDonald’s where I had my 3rd birthday, the town from Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, Vignola’s restaurant in Rockville, Md.), “Ode To Joy” and the crowd remained all around me. All of a sudden it was time to soundcheck, which I was late for, and Barack Obama offered to give me a ride on Air Force One. He told me he needed urgent advice regarding some important policy decisions, and we spent the day in Hawaii playing basketball, petting his dogs, golfing and the like when I, gripped with anxiety, told him I really needed to get to soundcheck so we needed to discuss the ruling of the free world. By this time he had turned into an obscene visage of my Father and said, “I have one injunction for you, son: That you enjoy life. It is by this mandate that all is ruled. It is the true tyranny; the equalizing force that binds us all.” I jumped out of Air Force One and landed on top of this massive pink, sparkly, glowing blob that stretched for miles beyond miles, covering entire cities, and I had to keep gulping down chlorophyll because the thing was emitting insane levels of EMF’s, so my mouth and hands were stained dark green. Down inside the blob I could see thousands of familiar faces and one of them was Lou Reed on a catwalk hand-cuffed to supermodels who had adopted babies handcuffed to them and Lou said, “Delete those tracks, don’t summon the dead, I am not your plaything. The collection of souls is an expensive pastime.” Then I woke up.

Listen to Father John Misty’s take on “Blank Space” below while you still can.

Gruff Rhys goes on a conceptual adventure, East India Youth demand aural attention at The Chapel

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Photos by Diana Cordero // Written by Brooks Rocco //

Gruff Rhys with East India Youth //
The Chapel – San Francisco
November 18th, 2014 //

The lead-in to last Tuesday night’s show at the Chapel was one of uncertainty. How does former-Super Furry Animals lead Gruff Rhys command an audience with a table full of gizmos and contraptions? Who is that English bloke in the herringbone suit? Why is there a book on the merch table? Where is everyone?

All of these questions were answered in due time, as the room began to fill, and the schoolboyish East India Youth opened the show. With an eager but refined presence, he began his set arpeggiating on his Roland MIDI keyboard with a pulsing, triumphant piano, which slowly morphed into a beautifully enveloping wash of fuzz and color.

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This, the opening of his brilliant 2014 record Total Strife Forever, was an equally impressive introduction to his set, which, much like the album, spanned the lay history of electronic music, from Detroit techno, to acid house, to Merzbow-like noise, to the more ethereal moments of Jon Hopkins, or Thom Yorke’s solo music.

There was no reason for East India Youth to stray from material from the aforementioned record, as the flow of the album, with it’s ups (the lush pastiche of ‘Dripping Down’) and it’s downs (the sublime and warmly ambient ‘Heaven, How Long’), and it’s absolute whoppers (the furiously pounding ‘Hinterland’), were already plotted marvelously.

Throwing a Fender bass around his neck, he whipped his body around while pounding the strings, adding a nice dose of live-ness to the electronic set – though how much the physical bass actually came through the sound system was a curio.

After the newcomer’s set, most were converted to East India Youth’s unique take on modern minimalism and sound-scapery, as they awaited the eccentric, though decidedly less dark Gruff Rhys to take the stage.

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Taking the stage with a un-inflated life preserver around his neck, and after notifying the audience of the routes to all fire escapes, Rhys cooly requested that we all watch a short film, which would lead us towards the evening’s theme. A late 70’s BBC-esque documentary about the Welsh claim of American settlement pre-Revolution set the mood, with a dense conviction of the absurdity of the claim. To say that a loony Welshman had hopped in a boat, travelled to the Gulf of Mexico, befriended the Indians, and built castles in the 15th Century New World is historically batshit, but just rife for a concept record.

And Gruff recorded that concept record earlier this year with American Interior, a surreal journey through the American heartland by a character named John Evans, a Welshman seeking these Welsh-Indians, through song and spoken word. The show, mostly acoustic, was enhanced by multimedia in the form of an iPad controlled by Rhys, focusing on a slideshow and conversation, leaving the crowd laughing along with the extremely dry sense of humor of the Welshman on stage.

A varied night of unexpected aural and visual delights, brought to us by two visionaries from across the pond.

It’s good to hear Conor Oberst happy

Conor-Oberst-@-Fillmore_postPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Brooks Rocco //

Conor Oberst with Jonathan Wilson, The Good Life //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
October 4th, 2014 //

“Crank Gillian in my monitor. Guitar and vocals, all the way”, the frontman requested with an impish grin.

With hundreds of songs written and nearly two dozen records tucked under his belt, it would be easy to forgive Conor Oberst were he to appear burnt out from an already bountiful and robust career, a seemingly never-ending touring schedule and a notably difficult year. But during moments like the final All-Star ‘family’ jam at the end of Saturday’s inspiriting show at The Fillmore, punctuated by jubilant appearances by country legend Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings and the fantastic Felice Brothers, the singer never seemed more alive.

Buoyed by a band comprised of long-term collaborators along with members of opening act Jonathan Wilson’s own touring ensemble, Oberst deftly led the audience on a scenic journey through some of his best work, both vintage and virginal. Opening with “Hundreds of Ways”, the lead single from his excellent and underrated new record Upside Down Mountain, he enraptured the audience from the beginning with his earnest crooning, smart melodies and a refreshing lack of artifice.

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Perhaps on a high from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (read our review here), which has immersed the city in an overflowing bubble bath of good vibes (Conor’s Family Band played on Friday), the crowd swayed along to Oberst’s occasionally guarded, but authentic and revealing verses. And indeed, as a well-seasoned artist, the show never seemed to drag or let up, from the sweetness of Bright Eyes’ “Bowl of Oranges” to the glorious highlights of “Desert Island Questionnaire”. This is a thoroughly enlivening rock ‘n’ roll band that knows exactly what it’s doing.

Jonathan Wilson for his part, also knows what he’s doing (having co-produced the aforementioned Upside Down Mountain), though at times seemed much more confident playing as a member of Conor’s band rather than fronting his own. Sporting a backwards ball cap and a scraggly, street-kid trench coat, Wilson with his band seemed less sure of his place in the folk-rock canon. As he experiments with his own style, he shines as a collaborator and producer of the excellent musicians he surrounds himself with, especially on this tour.

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All of which culminated in an exultory trio of encores filled with Hardly Strictly heroes. As Dave Rawlings slithered out masterful, melodious country twang over the John Prine tune “Pretty Good”, Conor could be seen soaking in deeply the sublime voice of Gillian Welch (which, indeed, the sound guy eventually cranked up loud enough) and his good fortune to be sharing the stage not only with legends, but with an audience that has grown along with him to the heights he now visibly enjoys. It’s good to hear Conor Oberst happy.

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Father John Misty launches solo tour, performs with giant iPhone

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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.

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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)

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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.

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