Review by John Stephens
It’s the beginning of a work day, a drastically boring one, yet mentally I am still stuck in the dimly lit enclosure of One Eyed Jacks, closing my eyes now to see and hear Josh Tillman and the apostles of Father John Misty as they continue to make a home of my brain. When I tell you this was a show to cradle your heart and all of your senses, I tell you yellingly, with all the conviction I can muster.
The soothing confines of One Eyed Jacks – now beginning to feel like a home-away-from-home – invited us right in comfy as Moon Hooch began their tantalizing set. Right out of the gate, the trio put on a striking display of dual brass-blowing wonder-mongers, including Wenzyl McGowen on sax, tubes, the whomp-ish contrabass and clarinet, and Mike Wilbur on sax, accompanied by drumming maniac, James Muschler, whose percussive equations would make your head spin. From experimental adventure jazz to moments of wubbery that mimicked modern U.S. dubstep to four-on-the-floor raveups, this quick-and-dirty 30-minute set piqued our interest and captivated those who got down to Toulouse early enough to see it. From the first song to the last, this psychedelic Brooklyn bunch had everyone’s attention rightly pinned.
And then came one of the most memorable experiences of my life, in the form of a cheerful yet amusingly unkempt bassist (who may or may not have just moved out of his parents’ basement), a lead singing bundle of erotic energy, who, despite his shining, spotty baldness and short, thick stature, didn’t fail to moisten most (if not all) of the panties in the house, a Mac computer, a quick picking Quinn Catfish on the six-stringer, and headliner front man Joshua Tillman manning the drums to boot. This mesmerizing morsel of commotion was none other than Har Mar Superstar, an alter-ego performance piece envisioned by the explosively sensual Sean Matthew Tillman (aforementioned chubby guy), whose tongue-in-cheek raunchiness and fiery handle on glam-pop mania is guaranteed to hurdle you into a dimension of dance and dropped pants. Lead man Tillmann laid it all out, explaining, “It’s about me going out and getting as sweaty as possible, moving around as much as I can, and in a sense glamour-ing everybody for the night and making them feel better about themselves.” Well, consider all of that accomplished, as Har Mar’s fortune of fleshy love was so continuously drenched in sweat that he’d strip off one garment at a time, resulting in the last couple of songs performed in nothing but grippie-undies and socks. The bat-shit bizarre nature of this dance-pop extravaganza was hugely entertaining, and to emphasize the endeavored accomplishment of Har Mar Superstar, we did all feel better about ourselves, we really felt fucking great.
At this point, the ticket for the show had already paid for itself, as the two opening acts already had us hooked deep in the cheeks of our senses, but blessed be the sultry seduction of New Orleans, for the graces of beignets and blue liquor lured the stunning likes of Father John Misty to our doorstep. Lead by the whimsical neurosis of Josh Tillman, who recently left his place as drummer and harmonizing vocalist for Fleet Foxes, this brand spanking new six-piece of folk rock deliciousness seized the crowd from the onset, as it started with ‘I’m Writing a Novel’ and continued from there to burrow deep into the marrow of our bones with a wide, strident spectrum of emotion.
Tillman wasn’t the least hesitant to get in touch with the crowd, evidenced by his ease of conversation with the patrons between songs, including anything from some strange divulgence of introverted existentialism to quick-witted humor, to his sincere invitation of questions from the audience, after which he confidently stated that “questions are drugs for the brain,” qualifying himself moments later by assuring us, through a grin, that there are other drugs for the brain, too. And don’t think he didn’t bring the charm, as he was sure to tell the ladies in the audience how much prettier they were than the girls at any of his other shows (although, unlike Har Mar, he didn’t make out with any of them on stage).
FJM’s set swept us through the greater mind and ideas of human nature, propelled by Tillman’s coarsely poetic investigation of himself and the immediate world around him. Riddled with desire, humor, mischief, sex and drugs, Tillman’s lyrics, surrounded by a euphoric array of instrumental cohesion, spilled simple truths about the lives of our species, such as when he crooned to the audience the guilty lyrics of ‘Now I’m Learning to Love the War,’ – “Let’s just call this what it is/ the jealous side of mankind’s death wish/ when it’s my time to go/ gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose.”
Together with the band, the audience swayed and swung to the rhythm of the sound, from the deep, chilling tone of ‘Only Son of the Ladies’ Man’ to the hot-blooded detonation of ‘This is Sally Hatchet,’ and everywhere else in between. It was a wide, righteous swing hung by a righteous night, the kind of night that affirms one’s belief in music and in the artists that dedicate their lives to it. And in a touch of brilliant mystery, as it was the last local show for our beloved, God-fearing editor of LMB NOLA and member of experimental creole sauerkraut duo Mountain Lion, Wesley Hodges, who is days away from his departure for Los Angeles, Tillman left us with the words of the long and winding road ahead on “Funtimes In Babylon”, repeating the lyric “Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”