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Irish Tour: Father John Misty


Father John Misty’s sold out show in Galway’s Roisín Dubh on Thursday the 22nd of October fell during the same week as the city’s Comedy Festival. This proved interesting for two reasons; the first of which being that none of the venue’s bigger, alternative buildings were available for the show, resulting in a perhaps uncharacteristically intimate gig for Josh Tillman’s self-defining moniker. Secondly, it made for a curious observation as to what people really get out of watching a performance of any kind. When watching a comedy show people obviously are out to laugh until their cheeks hurt, to be told why the things they do are silly, to be told why the things absolutely everybody else does are even sillier, to poke fun at governments, educators and ourselves. Going to see a musician then, you’re generally going to hope to achieve some feeling, be that a desire to dance or to have some emotions triggered. It was something bizarrely fitting then that Father John Misty’s performance tonight occurred when it did, because not only was that emotive musical side satisfied, the spectacle of the character’s performance was just as rewarding. Watching and listening to Misty’s performance was like discovering your favourite character in a book or TV Show, or hearing a comedian tell a joke that, while over the top and removed, somehow hits you right where it’s supposed to.

Firstly though was the intense support slot provided by Anna B Savage whose set is short and jarring. She does not say a word between the songs taken from her debut EP, which adds to the overall emotional impact of the gritty yet spacious guitar sounds that accompany her astounding vocals. Her voice hovers somewhere between that of Laura Marling and Wild Beast’s Hayden Thorpe but retains its uniqueness in its inflections. When it is strong it is seething, when it is quiet it is as brittle as ash. Lyrically, the songs are harrowing. Often, the music that we define as sad gives a sense of what has passed, of something nostalgic or reflective. The feelings instilled in the listener then are often more reflective, more reposeful, more sombre. Savage’s lyrics are delivered in such a way that doesn’t grant you that security. Throughout her set there is a sensation in the gut that is disturbingly close to that of when you have one of those conversations with a person. The sort of conversation you look back on in your bleakest points, felt in real time, through the medium of Savage’s stunning vocals and appropriate instrumentation. Lines like “She could only sleep with the image of a gun between her teeth” leave the now completely full,room squirming at the poignancy and capacity of her output.  While, sure, this was aided by her intensity in persona, it probably wouldn’t have killed the mood that much if she had introduced herself at some point, at least so more people could have learned who she is. She deserves that recognition.


Father John Misty and his band take up the entirety of the stage, the presence of the frontman filling the rest of the room immediately. Throughout the set, from which very few songs from his two LPs I Love You, Honeybear and Fear Fun are left out, Tillman’s frame looms over the crowd like a shadowy orator, singing of occurrences that are deeply personal and rooted in specific experiences, from psychedelics, to novel writing and journey taking, from love (‘I went to the store one day’), to disdain (‘The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt’). Yet somehow, as in a novel or dramatic performance, the audience is completely captivated by the man and his words, in awe of the way he takes obvious subjects like love and drugs and presents them with a candid honesty that remains endlessly clever and tongue-in-cheek. Between songs, Tillman is coyer than one may have expected, remarking on the cosiness of the venue, dedicating a song to “significant others that were dragged here”, and joking about how a particular song was a “mega hit on the American internet”. That song was ‘Bored in the USA’ and was the finest example possible of Misty’s capacity as a songwriter, a musician, an entertainer and a character. The song sums up everything that Tillman tackles in his music. It’s rife with universal and personal uncertainty, world-weariness, fear, boredom, sarcasm and disillusionment. The lyrics are bitter yet hilarious, cynical yet somehow sincere and just as on the record when the song reaches its peak on lines like “Keep my prescriptions filled/And now I can’t get off/but I can kind of deal” the crowd erupts into laughter. Contrasting that crooning ballad to the heaviness of songs like the monstrous ‘The Ideal Husband’ and ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings’ hits home a fact that was being gradually proven through the show.

That Father John Misty’s variety both musically and thematically has given him every right to plant himself sluggishly into the throne of the disillusioned king, the self-deprecating champion and the hopelessly romantic misanthrope. Eoin Murray

Roisin Dubh, Galway by Sean McCormack

Mandela Hall, Belfast by Colm Laverty

is the co-editor / photo editor. She also contributes photos and illustrations to The Thin Air print magazine.