Oh, Father John Misty. Your assholery is becoming as routine as Kanye’s. Which is to say, it’s almost comforting. We like your absurdly philosophical Instagram captions with stock photos of beautiful people. We sigh, content, and say “oh, Father John,” when you steal (or “possess by random phenomena”) things. We expect this from you. We even expect you to heckle us, the audience, at your shows. But apparently, some people don’t expect your assholery to transcend into the territory of not actually playing.
Here’s what initially happened: Father John Misty, a.k.a. Josh Tillman, was scheduled to play a solo set at the WXPN XPoNential Festival in Camden, N.J., on Friday. According to a post from WXPN, Tillman ascended the stage, refusing a guitar from his manager, and proceeded to spend “a good chunk of his moment preaching instead of singing.” It ultimately seemed that he was angry with the Republican Convention’s choice of nominee, or “entertaining tyrant,” and the general mix of politics and entertainment in America. To be exact, he said, “ ... stupidity just runs the world because entertainment is stupid.” He referenced that a battleship stood in the very background of the stage which he stood on. He picked up a guitar then and launched into a seemingly improvised 10-minute song on current events, with an entire verse about the battleship. After that, he covered “Bird on a Wire” by Leonard Cohen, then told the crowd he loved them, but that was all he had, and left the stage, 30 minutes earlier than he was slated to end.
Here’s a video of the first minute of Tillman’s ranting. Disclaimer: it’s extremely uncomfortable.
Some choice Twitter reactions from witnesses, post-”set”:
Whether this is a classic FJM troll stunt, or a sincere gesture from an artist so truly perturbed by the state of the world, we'll never know. Crowd members reported seeing him getting into a van after the incident “laughing hysterically as if he were incredibly proud of his performance.” Tillman also tweeted these suspicious musings right afterward:
The folks at WXPN were apparently not too amused with the stunt, publishing a blog post in which they’ve gathered all the angry FJM fan tweets, wholeheartedly agreeing with all of them. They even threw in a string of tweets from Timothy Showalter, a mildly famous local musician who condemned Tillman, adding, “God, we love you, Tim. <3" Tillman later posted a two-part message to Instagram (find that here and here), further blaming his anger on politics, all the while engaging in a heated Twitter war with Showalter, WXPN and fans … or maybe a more appropriate term at this point would simply be “Twitter followers.” One question remains after all this bickering and self-righteousness that seems to vie for media attention as much as the Kanye/Taylor trainwreck: is that what it’s supposed to be? Is this all just one big comment from Tillman on the airing of grievances via the internet? One thing’s for sure, you can never underestimate the amount of irony Father John Misty is releasing into the world. So. Who knows?