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Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset
Father John Misty’s show-stealing stagecraft crowned a brilliantly curated weekend of rock-adjacent acts – from Parquet Courts’ prickly postpunk to Slowdive’s shoegaze – under Dorset’s starry skies
‘So how many of you have visited the existential cafe?” Father John Misty, fountain of surrealist stage banter, is working his charms on the End of the Road crowd. “We’ll be there later,” he adds. “I’m doing a seminar on alpaca shaving.” In his previous incarnation as an emotionally fragile singer-songwriter, Josh Tillman would have made a solid afternoon fixture on a woodland stage at this beloved Wiltshire festival. Reborn as Father John Misty, he’s a show-stealer: a theatrical cynic and apocalyptic oracle of indeterminate sincerity. He’s also incorrigibly irreverent, and likely the festival season’s only headliner to introduce a rousing folk-rock anthem with a rambling ode to Gore-Tex boots.
The anthem in question, While You’re Smiling and Astride Me, spotlights Tillman’s penchant for melodramatic self-satire (“You see me as I am, it’s true / Aimless fake drifter and the horny manchild momma’s boy to boot”), though not all his lines land. One effect of his impassioned irony is that, when he really goes for it, all beseeching arms and grandiose postures, you don’t always go with him.