An outward introspective nomad whose head swells the size of Jim Morrison's, with the body of Andy Dick. Josh Tillman. Aka Father John Misty. One might say he's been mistifying millennials' cold hearts the past three years. I will say the man is smart. Spawning from the world of the dreamy Pacific Northwest, Tillman is not new to the singer-songwriter world. Going solo always seemed to be in his blood anyway, consistently churning out sappy café dweller tunes under his full name Joshua Tillman before singing and drumming for the Fleet Foxes (which seems to be the bane of his existence).
Tillman seems to have let the Fleet Foxes canoe drift away into some tangled bushes, never comfortably indulging on the subject. With young indie pop lovers these days touching the surface of disposable music, it is part of the new evolution of the common melody, and he hits it from below. Tillman's lyrical pattern comes from a sassy sarcastic underbelly of his love/ hate relationship with the world. When I ask most people if they have heard of him, I get an aggressive "That guy's a dick!" or "I don't know, I really like him." He's the sort of artist you love to hate/ hate to love.
Father John's debut album Fear Fun was created after a drug-induced, soul-searching drive down the coast of California, bringing an oddly psychedelic edge to a presumed indie folk Sub Pop release. Tour after tour, more people were finding out who the hell this Mr. Misty was and more and more people fell in love. The much anticipated sophomore album, I Love You, Honeybear, was a slight letdown. I might get shit for saying this, but Honeybear is downright confusing. Every song seems to be overflowing with so many shrewd observant descriptions of life that it's hard to keep up. When you get to the center of the album you realize it's just a love letter to his new bride, ooing and ahhing over her existence. It feels like you're watching them have make-up sex through a peep hole. Which doesn't mean it's not enjoyable, just a little trite.
Alright, I'll say it. I like Father John Misty. Reasons why are the very reasons I dislike Misty: His play on words flows in and out of consciousness, which can frustrate the common listener, but for those curious to indulge, you may enjoy the warped picture he's trying to create for you. Once you dive deep, it's hard to decide if he loathes you as a consumer or if he's trying to connect to you like an old pal staying up late smoking cigarettes and getting real deep.
I saw FJM at the Magic Stick (R.I.P) in 2012. I remember being just as agitated as Father John Misty, watching the crowd talk over him, crowding the glowing televisions because of something sports-related. While Tillman fought for the uninterested room's attention, his level of tolerance broke, and he danced off stage and grabbed a shitty beer. The crowd didn't respond well, fighting back with just as much fire. It didn't make for a very comfortable energy. But with that whole experience, I liked him more — for being relatable, for setting his alias aside and telling people how he really felt. Not many new bands can do that, with technology dulling our brains now to where we only know how to argue through Facebook comments. He had no qualms saying it in a backhanded, face-smacking way. I can't imagine that being the only time he has had to endure the college crowd, probably drunkenly requesting Fleet Foxes songs and only showing up because Pitchfork said they should. It all sounds nauseating.
But that's where the man is smart, wiggling around onstage like a used car lot noodle man doing his best croon while subconsciously reminding his fans that life is obsolete and we are all going to die one day. It's all pretty freaking brilliant. While this seems like a see-saw opinion, I feel like that's what he's going for. He wants to make you mad, maybe cry a little, laugh at yourself, and also enjoy a tune or two. Before you pre-judge the guy, I recommend seeing him perform live. Avoid paying attention to the crowd and watch Misty have an ardent moment with you. Or don't. Because he doesn't really care anyway. Starts at 7:30 p.m.; 318 W 4th St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980 ext. 3; royaloakmusictheatre.com; tickets are $27 in advance and $30 day of; all ages.