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Father John Misty Takes Surly Brewing In Minneapolis

Photo by Wes Muilenburg
Cynical bearded folk man Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty, played a sold-out show at Surly Brewing in Minneapolis Saturday night (August 19th). Ear Coffee sent their two best (and only) people to the show to experience America’s favorite narcissist.

Surly Brewing pulled out all the stops for this event. You couldn’t go more than ten feet without running to a food truck, beer tent, or merch table. The food trucks offered patrons a wide variety of food from barbecue to cookies (I had a veggie dog that was pretty dope). For those early to the event, you had plenty to do to kill the time between the doors opening and the first set of the night.

The stage itself was set up like a typical festival. Concert goers stood in field with hundreds of their closest friends. If you wanted a good view of the stage, you had to take your place right away. The grounds filled up with people almost instantly. It went from a ghost town with a few people wandering around to a sea of people; the space in front of the stage was quickly filled as people took their places.

The opening act of the night was the Colorado based indie pop band Tennis. If this was the show that introduced you to the band, you probably left a little disappointed (I sure did). This was probably not the best venue for the band, and the sound guy for their set really needs his ears checked. Front woman, Alaina Moore’s vocals were buried in the mix. You could hear that she was singing, but you couldn’t tell what she was saying unless you watched her mouth the words. What the mix lacked in vocals, it made up in bass. Those standing in front of the stage were treated to being punched in the chest by the subwoofers for a solid 45 minutes.

One thing that struck me with Tennis’ set was the lack of banter. There maybe was one time in the set where a band member spoke to the crowd. Otherwise, it was Moore talking while the intro to a song played (which you couldn’t hear her anyway). There is always a delicate balance between talking to the audience and playing music; however, Tennis never fully stopped playing music. All their songs blended into one long song. If you want a better representation of Tennis, listen to their records. You’ll be happily surprised. Hopefully, it was just a bad night for their sound man because he didn’t do them justice.

The change-over between Tennis and Father John Misty took forever. To be fair, FJM had a string section, horns, and four to five plus instrumentalists. So, there was a bit of equipment to set up.

Father John Misty (FJM) took the stage in a fashion that you’d expect from the bearded folk man. An audio-visual presentation full of the art work from Pure Comedy (FJM’s recent release) set the mood for the evening. The first three songs of the set were the first three songs from Pure Comedy. These songs were sync’d up to the video that played on the screen behind the band.

The difference between the two bands were almost night and day. FJM controlled the stage with his whole body. Whether he was dancing, using his mic stand as a prop, or writhing around the stage, FJM had the attention of his fellow musicians and the crowd that gathered.

Once he flew through the opening songs, Father John Misty took time to play hits from his last record, I Love You, Honey Bear, as well as songs from his first album as FJM, Fear Fun. It was about thirty minutes into his set before he stopped to talk to the crowd. The back and forth that proceeded was all that you could hope from FJM. He established a rapport with the crowd almost instantly. This included him riffing about sex faces for what seemed like an awkward amount of time.

During one of his songs early in the set, Father John Misty took a moment to remember his idol, Chuck E. Cheese (read our coverage of FJM’s eulogy here). This was one of the many moments during the show where FJM’s sense of humor shown through.

For fans of FJM, you already know to expect a certain kind of aesthetic in his shows. The band (minus the strings) all wore suits; beards also seemed to be a requirement to be on stage with him. However, FJM channeled his inner crooner. Usually, when you look at a stage, you can see a line of water bottles for artists lining their amplifiers. For Father John Misty, he had a single bottle (which he didn’t touch) and a crystal glass full of alcohol. He had a Dean Martin look as he wandered the stage sipping from his glass (which he had a crew member fill up whenever empty).

For the show’s encore, Father John Misty decided to play the thirteen-minute ballad from Pure Comedy, “Leaving LA.” FJM doesn’t usually play that song live so he had the lyrics taped to the stage and spent most of the song staring at his feet. These handicaps didn’t detract from the performance at all. It almost added another level of authenticity.

To close out the night Father John Misty decided to play the most rock and roll version of “The Ideal Husband,” which brought the evening to a perfect climax (I know I sure did).

For those of you interested in seeing a good show, Ear Coffee cannot recommend Father John Misty more. His mix of humor, showmanship, and lyricism comes together in a perfect storm of wonderful. You won’t leave the show unhappy, or at the very least you’ll think, “huh, that was interesting.”


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