Father John Misty and King Tuff at the Granada
I’ll admit that I originally bought the ticket for this show strictly for King Tuff—yeah, I knew of Father John Misty, and heard his newest album was expected to be one of the best of the year, but I’d never really given him a full listen. King Tuff, on the other hand, put out one of my favorite albums of 2014, Black Moon Spell, and I was curious to see how well his ghoul-garage rock translated into a live show. Needless to say, it was a night of expectation shattering by both King Tuff and Father John Misty.
King Tuff shares a label, Sub Pop, with Father John Misty, but that does not mean they share a similar sound. Once the three piece, comprised of guitarist/leader/King Tuff himself Kyle, drummer Gary, and bassist Magic Jake, got on stage and blasted a giant cloud of fog into the crowd, it was pretty easy to tell that it was going to be drastically different than Father John Misty’s set. For only three hairy guys with a small setup, their ability to sound just as full and gnarly as they did on their albums was great, and kudos to the Granada for getting their sound just right because mastering the sound of “turned up to 11” without the feedback is a difficult task.
The most charming aspect of King Tuff was their stage presence. Kyle and Magic Jake interacted with the crowd between almost every song, and Kyle’s ‘class clown turned cemetery grounds-keeper’ persona gave the band a strange sense of cohesion. They raved about their love for Lawrence, and how their last time in town ended in a mysteriously vague house-party game of spin the bottle—not a person in the venue wasn’t wishing they had been at that party. They only played for roughly half an hour, but their whole set was like being transported back to 1975; they could have easily opened for T. Rex back in the day, with their love for over-the-top theatrics and strategically timed fog machine releases. I could have left happy after seeing just King Tuff, but I’m glad I stayed.
Like I said before, I had essentially no expectations for Father John Misty. Before he even started, I’d seen the giant heart-shaped neon sign behind the drums that read in off-puttingly adorable cursive “No Photography”, and made the assumption that he took himself too seriously. Thankfully, this was not the case. He entered to deafening applause and multiple cat-calls, which is understandable since he looks like a mountain-man dressed in an impeccably tailored suit, a mascot for all hipsters/music festivals/coffee shops alike.
It’s hard to tell how much of his show people understand is simply FJM poking fun at the music industry and the idea of a “hipster.” He meshes the mountain-man beard with the suit; the subtle “No Photography” demand; the egocentric dancing; etc. He precariously stands right over the line of believability and pushes to see how much he can get away with before people notice he’s messing with them. He knows that people are infatuated with the esthetic of an ethereal, unattainable and intimidating musician, and he takes that to the farthest level he can. It’s mesmerizing to watch, and it shows that he’s obviously an incredibly intuitive and intelligent man. To appeal to people’s inherent need to prove they witnessed something with such a tempting “No Photography” sign is a genius move on FJM’s part. Will people respect what the artist wants or will they give in to the omnipresent force that is social media’s gratifying virtues? You can just imagine all the Instagram posts the following morning with “#sorrynotsorry” as the caption. At one point, FJM snagged a girl’s phone, taking a video in the middle of a song, and thanked her for being part of the show when he returned it. Who knows how many people thought he was serious.
Again, as a FJM virgin, I had little to expect music-wise. After seeing the show, I can say I much preferred his disco, upbeat songs to his folksy ones. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed his entire set, and it’s respectable that he shifted between dance-y and folksy without losing the crowd’s attention. I was also surprised at how fantastic his voice sounded for being a touring musician; he gave every song his best effort and it showed. His music is very lyrics-oriented, so again, props to the Granada for being able to balance his voice against the band. Speaking of the band, while they were obviously talented and could hold their own against FJM’s eccentric showmanship, they merely were just the backing band. Not that that’s a bad thing; FJM is supposed to be the focus, and a highly choreographed/stylized show like his can be just as entertaining as a band built around chemistry, like King Tuff.
Although I was expecting to see just one great band, I ended up seeing two and left knowing that I had seen a show people would be talking about for a while. I also discovered that I’d been missing out on a lot of great music by not listening to Father John Misty, and now I’m kicking myself for it. Regardless of who comes to town next, King Tuff or Father John Misty, make sure to grab a ticket or else you, too, will be missing out on an incredible experience.