FATHER JOHN MISTY
EL REY THEATER, LA
29 DECEMBER, 2012my favorite record this past year. After introducing Europe to his particular brand of fun, Josh Tillman brings it all back home for a sold-out victory lap at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles. For his largest headlining gig to date, Tillman/Misty dialed back the aggressive thrust of the band seen at festival dates, (FYF Fest and Outsidelands, among them). He's added strings, (including Miguel Atwood-Ferguson), and tuned the band to a swaggering menace that suited the venue's swanky chandeliers.
Tillman/Misty has found his comfort zone, his between-song banter usually worth the price of admission alone. Where it really shows is his absolute fearlessness at pauses within songs, or before finishes. He's not afraid to leave space, and use it to toy with the audience and exert control, leaving everyone to wonder just what's coming next.
They covered all but one song from Fear Fun, (yet to hear the haunting "O I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me" performed live), playing around with the order within, but maintaining "Fun Times In Babylon" at the top, and preserving the closing one-two punch of "Everyman Needs A Companion" and "Hollywood Forever Sings". The hometown crowd, of course, absolutely ate it up, and the near-apocalyptic guitar meltdown at the end of "Hollywood Forever" was perfect after a night of alternating tension and laughs.
The deft hand with encore covers didn't fail, starting with Misty accompanied only by a single guitarist on the Bert Kalmer/Harry Ruby chestnut "Never The Less", then joined by the full band for a celebratory stomp through Canned Heat's "On The Road Again", augmented by touches of Booker T and the MG's "Green Onions".
Aside from the sterling addition of strings, some other differences in the set include, (for those obsessed with Misty Minutiae), the bass player did not repeat the hilarious shovel action with his bass during the "Someone's gotta help me dig" line of "Hollywood Forever Sings", and the amazing extra verse on "Everyman Needs A Companion" that showed up at his solo gig at the Bootleg Theater was absent from the full band version.
In the new year, he'll be opening dates for The Walkmen, as well as sprinkling in some headlining dates, and then heading to Australia in February.
Icy Demons, having started as an experimental project in Chicago, seem to be evolving towards regular band-dom, as their cohesive set proved. They were still capable of jagged edges, and deployed them without mercy. With hints of a new LP this year, this will be a band to keep your eye on.
Final note: Binding the evening together, with above average between set song contributions, was Origami Vinyl's Neil Schield.