The palatial Capitol Theater felt like a fitting venue to catch Father John Misty, who if not the monarch of indie music, is at least the venerable jester. Josh Tillman, who performs as Father John Misty, is currently on tour supporting his latest, Chloë and the Next 20th Century, an album that he joked from the stage was a jazz album that he wrote without him knowing how to write jazz songs. It is in fact indebted to big band and jazz standards and invokes the golden age of Hollywood, and a return to a more personal, reflective sound.
The show featured several songs from the new album, which fit seamlessly with his entire catalog. Opening with “The Next 20th Century,” the set featured a well-balanced mix from across Misty’s discography, highlights including “Strange Encounter,” “Nancy From Now On,” “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” and “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow.” Tillman even debuted a new song on stage, “Josh Tillman and the Accidental Dose.”
Tillman is the master of the musical character study, in-depth, deeply funny, and often cutting assessments of people and the human condition. This is maybe most true when he turns the camera on himself. This has been true since the release of his debut, the debaucherous and country-tinged Fear Fun, and his breakout, his sophomore album, I Love You, Honeybear, which while still bacchanalian in parts, is a meditation on monogamous love (shout out to the woman the show googling “Father John Misty spouse.”) For his third and fourth albums, Tillman took a wider view, compiling and examining the ills of society and sparing no one.
Father John Misty at The Capitol Theater
With Chloë and the Next 20th Century, there is both the return to a closer aperture, songs about interpersonal strife and loss (of a pet in “Goodbye Mr. Blue”), and showcases a clear maturity, both in subject matter (on stage Tillman made sure to distance himself slightly from the more debauched songs he wrote earlier in his career), but also in form. He seems unafraid to pursue both new musical directions, and write deeply personal songs, making it a very exciting time to be a fan of Father John Misty.
Scroll down for setlist, pics of the show (photos by Emilio Herce)
Setlist: The Next 20th Century, Strange Encounter, Total Entertainment Forever, The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt, Goodbye Mr. Blue, Funny Girl, Nancy From Now On, Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution, Mr. Tillman, When You’re Smiling and Astride Me, Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), Chloë, Q4, Please Don’t Die, Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Cow, We Could Be Strangers, Josh Tillman and the Accidental Dose, Hangout at the Gallows, Pure Comedy, I Love You Honeybear Encore: Funtimes in Babylon, Buddy’s Rendezvous, I’m Writing a Novel, The Ideal Husband, Real Love Baby, Holy Shit
On Thursday, March 30th, Wilco played the first of three sold-out shows at Port Chester’s Capitol Theatre. The residency was billed as a no-song-repeated three-night stand and shared similar trio runs in their native Chicago, as well as an upcoming series in Reykjavík, Iceland. The band is ostensibly supporting their 2022 album Cruel Country, though it’s unclear why they chose Port Chester, a small hamlet outside of NYC, when they have not performed in the city proper since their Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 20th Anniversary Tour (when they played four nights at Kings Theatre).
Not that I’m complaining. The Capitol is the hidden gem of NY music venues, a stunning 1800-cap cathedral of a room an hour from Grand Central by Metro-North. If an artist is performing in both the city and in Port Chester, I always pick the latter as it has always proven to be the superior concert experience (and you can also pre-game, responsibly, on the way up). It could be the palatial beauty of the room, or the venue and owner Peter Shapiro’s famous hospitality which drew the band to the Capitol, but I expect that it’s because Wlco, who will celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band next year, is at the stage of their career where they can do whatever the fuck they want.
Wilco has been described as the American Radiohead, maybe not so much in sound (theirs leans Americana and rangy folk rock to Radiohead’s dour post-apocalyptic pop), but certainly in terms of the sort of devotion they inspire, as well as the influence they’ve had on artists of younger generations. Their first night at Capitol was evidence of this. The crowd was admittedly older, but incredibly enthusiastic (I’ve never seen so many middle-aged white men absolutely lose their shit), and the energy was infectious.
Wilco at The Capitol Theater
Wilco opened with “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” as if to signal that they were not fucking around, which was followed by the equally powerful “Hints” and “One Wing.” The band seemed incredibly comfortable on stage, but in no way were they resting on their laurels. Instead, they played like a well-oiled machine, each member performing as if part of an orchestra, though with the wily looseness and playfulness intrinsic to Wilco’s music. I’ve always admired Jeff Tweedy for his deft songwriting, but this was the first time I’ve seen his band live, and I left impressed by the clarity and emotion of his vocals as well as the easy camaraderie he seemed to share with his band, which translated to a stellar performance. The band, a supergroup in their own right, elevated Tweedy’s songwriting, at times letting his lyrics breathe and knock you over, but also able to knock you over themselves with their controlled cacophony. Seeing Nels Cline rip a solo is not something you walk away from unscathed.
I’m thankful that Wilco’s setlist on Thursday was overrepresented by their albums Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A.M., and Wilco (The Album), the albums which I’m most familiar with. I am admittedly (feel free to shame me) more of a fairweather Wilco fan, and even though I’ve been listening to the band for over a decade, and many of Tweedy’s songs are formative to my musical development, Thursday’s shows proved that I have so much left to explore in the Wilco extended universe. I cannot wait to dig in and evolve from a casual Wilco fan to a wholly insufferable one.
Scroll down for setlist, picts of the show (photos by Emilio Herce)
Setlist: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Hints, One Wing, Misunderstood, Far Far Away, War on War, If I Ever Was a Child, Hearts Hard to Find, Poor Places, Bull Black Nova, Country Disappeared, What Light, Shouldn’t Be Ashamed, I’m the Man Who Loves You, Random Name Generator, Passenger Side, Box Full of Letters, Falling Apart (Right Now) Encore: Via Chicago, Can’t Stand It, You Never Know, Outtasite (Outta Mind), I’m a Wheel
About halfway through the first of her two sold-out dates at Brooklyn Steel on March 3rd, Natalie Laura Mering, known professionally as Weyes Blood, asked the crowd to guess the astrological makeup of her band. I guessed correctly that she, and most of her touring party, was made up of Geminis. I’m possibly biased as I am one myself (sorry!), but perhaps sharing the spatial twins is what drew me so deeply to Mering’s music in the first place. She added “I’m a Gemini, but I self-identify as a Scorpio, I just want to be more fucked up,” which, fair.
There is a deep vein of wry humor that runs through Weyes Blood’s musical catalog, which is lush and technicolor, often orchestral in delivery, but can also be plain-spoken and heartbreaking (the lyric “true love is making a comeback. For only half of us, the rest just feel bad” comes to mind). Throughout her career, but especially on her two most recent albums, 2019’s Titanic Rising (one of my favorite albums of all time) and 2022’s And In The Darkness, Hearts Algow, Mering has perfected this sound, making masterful songs and albums that are instantly recognizable as her own, but which also feel like they could have been unearthed, untouched since the late 60s, on reels in a Laurel Canyon attic.
Weyes Blood at Brooklyn Steel
Weyes Blood’s set consisted almost entirely of songs from these two albums, opening with “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” and “Children of the Empire” the first two tracks from And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow. Favorites from Titanic Rising which made thesetincluded “Andromeda,” “Movies,” and “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” and I must say, as someone who listens to that album compulsively (I will need to replace my vinyl copy soon), these cuts sounded fantastic live, as good or better than their recorded versions, credit to her incredible band and impeccable vocals.
We were allowed to shoot songs 8-10 of the set, a nice change of pace from the usual first three from pit, and especially special given my love of the songs “Everyday” and “Wild Time.” It admittedly made taking photos more difficult though as I could not help but sing along during these, and applaud at the end of each one (I have no chill) instead of switching lenses.
Weyes Blood closed the performance with Something to Believe and Bad Magic, the latter being the sole song not from her latest albums and one dedicated to Brooklyn, as she wrote it while completely miserable and living on Montrose Ave. I do hope Mering had a nicer time this visit, she sure deserves it considering how great of a performance this weekend’s show was.
Whistler Molly Lewis opened the show with a unique and interesting performance.
Scroll down for setlist, fan shot videos, pics of the show (photos by Emilio Herce)
Setlist: It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody, Children of the Empire, A Lot’s Gonna Change, God Turn Me Into a Flower, Andromeda, Grapevine, A Given Thing, Everyday, Wild Time, Twin Flame, Movies, Hearts Aglow Encore:
Something to Believe, Bad Magic
Big Thief performed a sold-out hometown show on March 1st at Brooklyn Steel, the penultimate show on their current tour. It’s always nice to roll up to Steel and not see a massive tour bus parked by the stage door, usually evidence of locals who’s done well for themselves. Even though members of Big Thief hail from all over the US (bassist Max Oleartchik is from Israel) the band is ostensibly a Brooklyn one, having formed and being currently based here. Their music has also had an indelible effect on the sound and songwriters that call the borough home. The pre-show energy was electric, like a city awaiting the return of its conquering heroes.
Big Thief, consisting of Adrianne Lenker, Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik, and James Krivchenia, has always been forward-thinking and willing to challenge themselves musically. They write songs that could be identified as an electrified indie-folk to the uninitiated, but the band is more than willing to play with form, and their idiosyncratic phrasings and melodies make their music instantly recognizable as their own. The opened with one such number, “Ruined,” an unreleased song and sweet meditation of a love song that featured Lenker’s breathy vocals and Meek’s masterful guitar swirls. It’s telling that they opened with this, one of four unreleased songs they performed that night, as they are clearly in a very productive phase. The band usually averages an album every two years, though they released two in 2019, the acclaimed U.F.O.F and Two Hands, and their latest, the wonderful Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You is adouble album they released in 2022.
After “Ruined” the first half of the band’s set focused on this latest release, including the songs “Flower of Blood,” “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You,” “Blurred View,” and “Simulation Swarm.” These renditions breathed electricity into the live-in, sun-bleached album versions, giving me a new appreciation for them. This energy carried on into earlier album cuts. Older songs, “Masterpiece” for example, have become sharper, both tighter and more jagged, careening before regaining composure and falling back on four wheels, like a stunt driver making a well-worn corner. “Cattails” bounced along merrily before also speeding up in the second half, not quite taking off, but elevated and with added flourishes by Meek.
Big Thief at Brooklyn Steel
Matt Davidson, who performed pedal steel in Buck Meek’s opening set, also joined for a number of songs on the violin and flute, adding a new dimension to these tracks. He brought something else to the band as well: the rule that if you wrote a song on the road you had to play it live, cause for their performance of “Born For Loving You,” a song Lenker said was written in Florida, inspired by the pop-country songs blasting from out of beach parked pick-up truck (another rule that Davidson brought to the band was that anyone is allowed to flip a table at some point in their life, no questions asked. Lenker quickly assured the crowd that no one in the band had taken their free pass yet). Other highlights in the set were my (and Obama’s) favorite song “Not,” the new “Vampire Empire,” which Big Thief debuted on Colbert, and “Spud Infinity” (“that’s my Grandma!”) which featured a guest appearance by Adrienne’s brother Noah who joined the band on jaw harp (an instrument I’d never heard of before which makes a boing song and is “very country” according to my friend).
Overall, the band fulfilled their well-warranted excitement and no one went home disappointed (well, maybe the guy who kept shouting that the band play “Shark Smile.” Lenker politely told him they would not be, and he was also shouted down by someone who yelled, to applause, “play whatever you want!”). Based on the band’s continued creative output it remains a very exciting time to be a Big Thief fan.
Buck Meek of the band performed an electrifying, full band set to open the night.
Scroll down for setlist, fan shot videos, pics of the show (photos by Emilio Herce)
Setlist: Ruined, Flower for Blood, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, Blurred View, Simulation Swarm, Masterpiece, Cattails, Certainty, Happiness, Dried Roses, Vampire Empire, Not, Born For Loving You, Spud Infinity Encore: Change
On Wednesday, February 8th, Angel Olsen performed at Woodstock’s Bearsville Theatre, and you should not expect this to be an unbiased review. First of all, The Bearsville Theatre is a beautiful room, replete with chandeliers and a cathedral arched ceiling which makes it feel a lot larger than its 400-person capacity. It’s probably the smallest room she’ll play on her current tour, in support of her 2022 album Big Time, the excellent, country-tinged, cowboy’s lament on too much time wasted on the wrong person. It’s an album I’d fallen deeply in love with last summer when I spent a lot of time listening to it for reasons. Olsen is also one of my favorite artists, but I think it fair to say that last week’s show was objectively incredible, and the best I have ever seen her and her band perform.
Woodstock, a historically famous music town, has become something of a mecca for both working singer-songwriters and well-to-do creative professionals who want the amenities of the city without the associated smells and sounds. It’s close enough to Brooklyn that you can get there in a relatively short amount of time (I’m a real New Yorker, so I do not have a car and took the train), and while I would have traveled a lot further to see this tour (it was lacking a NYC/Brooklyn proper date, the closest play being Jersey City) my friends had thankfully moved close to the area.
I’d see Olsen on the last night of the Wild Hearts tour where she shared equal billing with Julien Baker and Sharon Van Etten (see FTA’s coverage). Her set that night was fantastic but seemed, perhaps, like it lost some of its saturation, sandwiched between two other great performances, and it felt akin to a long festival set. It felt different being surrounded by 400 (though I suspect more as the Bearsville Theatre gives a seated event vibe and this was standing room) of her fans last week, seeing her performing songs, now perfected by a year of touring them, on what felt like a victory lap. We also had the magic of an underplay working for us, where artists that are used to playing venues one or two tiers larger, return to a club or small theater and play a perfect show.
Angel Olsen at Bearsville Theater
Olsen’s set on Wednesday was Big Time heavy, opening with “Dream Thing,” “Big Time,” “Ghost On,” and ” Right Now” before a brief mid-set detour of older favorites, “Shut Up Kiss Me,” “Give It Up” and “All Mirrors,” before returning to the newer “This Is How It Works,” “Go Home,” and “All the Good Times.” Her songs take their time, settling in before turning on in the second half, revealing the song’s real motifs, which are visible neither in the first nor second halves alone, but the conversation and interaction between the two. These are usually my favorite parts of her songs, the subtle shift which you wait for on every listen and which kills you every time. In live settings, Olsen’s band stretches out for these, coming back under her control when she returns to a verse, before repeating the loud quiet dynamic again for greater effect.
Olsen placed the three songs that are prime examples of this dynamic (and are maybe my favorites on their respective records), “Lark” from 2019’s All Mirrors, “Sister” from 2016’s My Woman, and the current “Go Home” back-to-back at the tail end of her set. These are mostly longer songs, made even longer by her band who seemed to relish playing these songs, and devastating us in the audience with them. The room was quiet throughout the show, but especially during these moments, maybe most notably because of the rapturous applause that proceeded these songs.
After the show, my friend reminded me that I’d told her, the last time we’d seen each other, that Big Time was helping me through the final gasps of a breakup. I had totally forgotten this, and I don’t associate Big Time with heartbreak as I do other sadder, more dour records which I’ve had to set aside because of their now sorrowful associations. I think it’s because Olsen’s latest is not really a “break-up” record, it’s more a “getting over someone” record, reflective of feeling returning after the numbness of a bruise, and maybe even confidence after the skittishness of disappointment. Coming back stronger, but more careful, or maybe not careful, but intentional. Both the record and the Woodstock concert felt this way, deeply intentional performances, cathartic, but also strong-willed and resolute, knowing exactly what needs to be said, and maybe what I needed to hear.
Angel Olsen at Bearsville Theater
Olsen made a joke during her set about maybe doing a residency in Woodstock next time. I sincerely hope this wasn’t a joke and have already informed my friends that I’d be moving in if this were to be the case.
Singer-songwriter, Erin Rae, has been on the road with Olsen and opened the evening.
Scroll down for setlist, pics of the show (photos by Emilio Herce)
Setlist: Dream Thing, Big Time, Ghost On, Right Now, Shut Up Kiss Me, Give It Up, All Mirrors, This Is How It Works, Lark, Go Home, Sister, All the Good Times, Chance, Slowin’ Down Love (solo) (Tucker Zimmerman cover) Encore: Without You (Harry Nilsson cover)