Friday night proved to be another fantastic time at The Cat’s Cradle, as the freak-folk rock act of Father John Misty took the crowd by storm with their swagger and prowess. Father John Misty is the moniker taken on by J. Tillman, former drummer of Fleet Foxes for his latest musical project. Bored with the pedantic, sad-sack songwriting of many of his peers, Tillman took a road trip with no destination and a bag full of mushrooms, eventually leading him to Los Angeles in an unexpected turn of events. Tillman hulled up and found himself writing with a new voice, one that’s filled with equal parts of self deprecation and self aggrandizement. With a bit of snark and honesty, Tillman has created a unique and captivating sound that serves as the perfect outlet for his oftentimes poetic lyricism.
Fear Fun is the debut full-length from Father John Misty and it’s been filling my ears for quite some time now, but hearing the songs live breathes a new life into them. Father John Misty is a refreshing take on the current folk music trend, the songs feel grounded with familiar themes, but explore content that contemporary folk artists wouldn’t dare. If your average songwriter spends his albums licking his wounds, Tillman takes an approach of patching them up and raring past the bad times for a drug-filled haze of enlightenment and wonder. Father John Misty feels like classic country clasping on to its rustic roots while adapting to the commercial and occasionally vapid world we’re surrounded with. Tillman had a presence that I doubt anyone could have expected, he crooned and swayed across the stage for an enchanting and lively set that felt more like a rock n roll show than a display of one man’s lyrical prowess. It’s always awesome going to a show where you can thoroughly enjoy all of the acts that you see, and The Cat’s Cradle usually provides just that.
I arrived just in time for the end of Jeffertitti’s Nile, placing myself dangerously close to the speakers. Just my style. The psychedelic sounds of Jeffertitti’s Nile swirled garage punk with folk for a brief yet welcome encounter. I wish I’d gotten to see more than three songs from the band, their songs weren’t breaking the mold or anything, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t a blast to kick off the evening with. As the bands loaded in and out I pondered upon the state of my hearing and found myself a bit taken aback by the off-kilt crowd at the Cradle. Filled with chatter like, “Yeah, I don’t really go to shows anymore. Nobody good plays around here!” and endless Obama/Romney chatter, I couldn’t have screamed louder when L.A’s La Sera took the stage.
La Sera is a bright, upbeat pop act led by Katy Goodman of Vivian Girls. Their songs were the spark of energy needed to get the crowd moving and as the set went on the crowd packed tighter and tighter. La Sera’s music isn’t groundbreaking, but the trails that they blaze for themselves are certainly worth walking down. Their lyrics are intelligent, yet approachable, never too dense to lose yourself in but with enough attention to detail to leave the listener satisfied and waiting for more. Songs like “Please Be My Third Eye” display this perfectly, Goodman prefaced the track with a simple, “This song is about telepathy”, then jumped into another short blast of pop goodness. With soaring vocals and a driving rhythm section, La Sera was a welcome addition to this diverse lineup and the perfect lead-in for Father John Misty.
As Tillman and company took the stage I turned around to see a surprisingly dense crowd that was arguably more excited than me for this show, something thats always wonderful to experience. The energy was palpable, and as “Fun Times In Babylon” kicked off the set it was clear that the crowd was in for a treat. Tillman played perfectly off of the crowd, his stage banter opening the door for adoring shouts from the audience. An obligatory “I love you” was shouted before the band even began and Tillman responded quickly, “Let me prove my worth first!”, setting the tone with his quick wit and obvious excitement. Tracks like “Only Son of the Ladiesman” and “Nancy From Now On” were songs that took a brand new form on stage, Tillman opens up his soul as he glides across the stage often taking the mic stand with him wherever he pleased. Through his smooth vocals and commanding stage presence, Tillman had the crowd in the palm of his hands. Blasting through staples of the album, the show felt like it was over before it started simply because of how fun it is to watch this band perform. As Tillman sang, “Look out Hollywood here I come” the crowd shouted with joy, and this line can perfectly sum up the new vibe of Tillman’s music. Gone are the days of the sad, sappy songwriter and here’s a new headstrong, vivacious young man that is ready to take on the world in its fucked up glory. As the show was coming to a close with the powerhouse “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, my ears rang loudly and my soar throat was begging me to stop shouting along. The crowd sang along proudly to the helpless reprise, “Someone’s gotta help me dig!” and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at how perfect the show was.
I weaved in and out of the crowd as the song was ending, evidently missing the tail end of the show and a bottle being thrown on stage. Tillman apparently shrugged it off as excitement, an endearing snapshot of the character displayed by this act. My old mannish tendencies were rearing their heads on the ride home, the yawns set in, my ears were ringing, and my back was aching…but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t worth it. I know I for one will be making a point of seeing Father John Misty whenever they stop through the area, mostly because it would have been hard to walk away from that show without a smile on. Another night at the Cradle filled with incredible tunes!