Josh Tillman, who today was acting as Father John Misty, walked onto the River Stage for a solo set. His manager joined him to pass along a guitar. Tillman rejected the instrument, and what ensued was baffling to say the least. He stood in front of the audience for about half of the time he was slated to, and spent a good chunk of his moment preaching instead of singing.
The F-bomb-flooded speech that followed brought a slew of controversy to the forefront of festival that surely to many is the perfect summer getaway from the stress of the workweek — and that seemed to be Tillman’s goal. In a world that endures a “less cliche evil” than Tillman expected, he found it hard to provide entertainment. And entertainment itself, he said, is stupid at the core.
Tillman had plenty of commentary to fill his roughly six-minute speech which preceded any sort of music. He mentioned a certain “entertaining tyrant” who is dominating the political landscape. He stated that “evolution makes us half-formed when we come out, and culture fills the gap.” He found insanity in the fact that the very stage he stood on rested in the shadows of an actual battleship.
What followed was some sort of unreleased, 10-minute ballad of verses that addressed current events and, as time went on, addressed the song’s longevity. One of those verses was dedicated to that same battleship, as Tillman said that he prefers drones since he doesn’t have to see or think about them. At one point during the song, Tillman admitted that he can’t sing about love right now, and he was met with a booming ferry horn. In a set that contained only the unexpected, it was the one moment that felt like it was right on schedule.
Next came the one and only song that anyone would have recognized, and of course it wasn’t a Father John Misty original. “Bird on a Wire,” a Leonard Cohen cover from his Songs from a Room, was the last song of the abrupt appearance. Tillman then told the crowd that he loved them very much, but that was all he had. He walked off the stage and people looked around to see if everyone else was just as confused as they were. There was still a half hour until the next act was scheduled to go on, but Father John Misty was on his own schedule. He was done, and he didn’t seem to give a you-know-what.
Father John Misty, xpnfest-river, xponential music festival 2016