The Gig: Father John Misty with Har Mar Superstar opening
Where: The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, Canada
When: 14 May 2012
In One Word: Destruction
On Monday night in Toronto, the Fantastic Musical Troupe of Jack Black, Ron Jeremy and John Belushi, arriving as one in one of those zany wee Mercedes clown cars, power-slided onto the stage of The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Mmm, fiction. Truly, words can only begin to describe how bizarre and fantastic Har Mar Superstar is.
This fantastic musical Transformer called Har Mar Superstar, a.k.a. Sean Matthew Tillmann, is a veritable Yeti of the music world. The best parts of Black, Jeremy and Belushi fuse together to create Har Mar Superstar: he of the one thousand layers of stage attire, the mega white belly and the saliva-gelled eyebrows. But, ye gods, for all his sweaty girth, pound-for-pound Har Mar Superstar more than delivers his own weight in R&B and bluesy-electro dance tunes. For one hour of power the capacity crowd inside the Horseshoe became voyeurs to the chin-sweat croons and pant-splitting boogies, shuffles and gropes of this fantastic fat bastard. HMS Awesome. Seriously, so entertaining. (I’m slicking my eyebrows as I speak.) It’s like Andrew W.K., only way more fun and perverted, and with headstands!… and minus the falling-on-his-arse burn outs. Ridiculous. Party lardy!
Ding-ding. And so to the main event, Father John Misty. The name alone made me want to check this show out in the first place. (Who? Wha? Before you Wiki, Father John Misty was the drummer of Fleet Foxes.) Joshua Tillman, a.k.a. Father John Misty had already been on stage tonight drumming for Har Mar Superstar as part of his band, and while Father John Misty is every bit as bizarre as Har Mar Superstar, he is also a lot more unpredictable. With HMS, you know what you’re getting, but with Father John Misty, apparently the show varies depending on what particularly intoxicants he has taken that night before the show. “The other night I did mushrooms before the show… that was an interesting one.” Tonight though, Father John Misty’s narcotic of choice was marijuana, so rather than completely tripping out and entering a portal to another dimension, he arrived on stage at the Horseshoe Tavern completely stoned.
The ensuing on stage banter was something that was lampooned from the off, with a curt: “So yeah, there will be some banter between songs then another song and some more banter and some merch, then some banter, and then a cigarette, ‘cos some of you will think a few songs in is too long to wait. I was that guy too… That exact description is going to happen to someone tonight in the crowd.” But as the set went on the cutting, slack and wholly dismissive banter seemed to become more a parody of a parody because between each snippet of chin-wagging the actual songs got more and more intense and more real: his talking got less comprehensible but Tillman’s actual performance only got more intense and revealing. Joshua Tillman, stoned and being a total smart cunt in between songs, performed his songs with such intensity and languid theatrics that he was somehow more attention-soaking than that loon Har Mar Superstar.
Josh Tillman has a sharp tongue and is a blunt and witty performer, but when he and his band are not lacing the music with honky riffs and cool swirling delay FX pedal endings, it’s basically just country music; albeit not CMT-approved (thank God.) Or label it Folk if you cant handle the C word.
I found myself bored with some aspects of Josh Tillman’s set and yet still unable to walkaway from it. It wasn’t that it was bad, but there was a tragic element to it all. And it’s human nature to stop and gaze at the car crash – it’s rare when the car crash arrives on stage. Josh Tillman’s appearance as an affected musician seemed false at first – hammed up by the pardon of being stoned and obviously pissed off at some bad review on Pitchfork – but the longer things dragged on, the more honest and sad it all seemed.
It is Josh Tillman’s honesty that makes him endearing as a performer and this is the reason why he held an attentive and giddy crowd in Toronto: Toronto audiences are not used to this much open, bare-all self-destructive emotion on stage. A broken artist wrestling with a bust mic stand is more the reality and truth of rock and roll destruction than some punkster putting his Strat through an amplifier. The key moment came with “Now I’m Learning To Love The War”, a song in which Father John Misty frankly sings: “I’ll just call this what it is, My vanity gone wild with the crisis”. If you can get on stage stoned to your eyeballs and still hold the audience’s attention as much as a chubby dude singing songs about sex and plugs, and rock ‘n roll while stripping down to his underwear, then you must be doing something right. A tale of two car crashes.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Photos of Har Mar Superstar and Father John Misty at the Horseshoe:
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