Father John Misty (Avalon)
Being the drummer in Fleet Foxes might mean many things, but fun isn’t one that springs to mind. Yet Josh Tillman, performing as Father John Misty, is exactly that: fun. His last album, I Love You, Honeybear, a tongue-in-cheek folk melodrama of heartbreak and vacuity, has cemented his reputation as everyone’s favourite hipster troubadour. He is in fine form at Avalon, despite describing himself as looking like he’s “just crawled out of a coffin”: from bar-room ballads to hillbilly hip-shakers, he moves like a Confederate officer imitating Jarvis Cocker [the sun is frying my brain — ed]. The title track has the whole crowd raucously joining in, but it is on the slow, acerbic numbers like “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” that Father John really shines. Turning air-quotes into a dance move might just be the most annoyingly hipster thing one could do, but there is always an undercurrent of genuine anger or joy that elevates it from ironic posturing. — CC
St Vincent (Arena)
When you can play guitar like Annie Clark and sing like Annie Clark, and have songs with the weird energy St. Vincent has, there aren’t too many more demands to make. So when she does a little shuffle around the stage that makes her look like she’s on a treadmill, or does choreographed dances with her keyboardist/guitarist, or comes out on stage on a stretcher, it’s like extra credit. Clark is a compelling performer and manages to attract attention to herself without a flashy stage show. The crowd moves in a blend of dancing and thrashing.
While projecting stories of the audience’s childhood about starting fires with magnifying glasses and making cardboard wings and jumping off houses in an attempt to fly, she holds her fist over her head like a revolutionary. In what is probably the most inspiring sight of the day, teenage girls emulate her — offsetting her other projection that everyone in the crowd was born before the 21-century. Sorry Annie, I’m pretty sure that’s the one thing you got wrong. — AF
Perfume Genius (Pavilion)
Mike Hadreas wants to be a pop star. Sometimes. He’s in an in between phase of singer-songwriter at his piano and fuzzy synth-pop savant, which explains why his performance occupied an equally gray area. Listening to him play his quiet songs, they don’t lose any intimacy, which is a feat in itself. But you do wonder how he ended up playing a festival of this nature. Part of it is a failure of setting — he really would have benefited from an enclosed space like Gloria. But part of it is also not really knowing how to play to a festival crowd. “Queen,” his biggest single to date, is a brightly colored burst of energy that pulls an elated reaction from the crowd. Coming in at the hour mark of his set, it would have been a perfect way to end things. But he returns to the stage to round things out with more quiet, intimate songs. It’s lovely, but it belongs in a theatre. — AF
Dark, doom-leaden industrial artists make music with scary undertones, but it takes a special effort for them to match that feeling of ill will live. Pharmakon, however, is terrifying. She opens her set at Gloria by smashing what appears to be a rock against what appears to be a cookie tray with a mic taped to it. Visually, it’s a bit confusing, but it’s also loud as shit.
Unlike many electronic artists, Pharmakon doesn’t confine herself to the table behind her gear. She sets loops rolling and then stalks about with a mic in hand. There’s an agitation bordering on rage similar to a cage lion projecting from her, and when she jumps into the crowd, in the darkened space, there is a real feeling of being hunted. It is uneasy, and the noise is sometimes violent, but the only disappointment was that her set was so short. I’ll be eagerly awaiting her return to Denmark, but I also wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley. — AF
On paper, Ought do not appear to be any different from most post-punk inspired indie bands. But on their debut LP, More Than Any Other Day, the band captured a freshness and energy that returns much needed vitality to the genre. In a live setting Ought is even better than on record, reveling in repetition and rhythmical nuance, buoyed along by frontman Tim Darcy’s Mark E. Smith-esque barks [I still say he sounds more like the Violent Femmes’ Gordon Gano — A]. “Pleasant Heart” jolts in and out of an erratic riff reminiscent of certain Tom Waits records, an instant classic of jerky dance song genre, and “Clarity!” lives up to the enthusiastic exclamation mark in its title. In a genre that often revels in confusing, it is exactly the quality of clarity that separates Ought from their peers. Matt May’s effected keyboards, plugged into a guitar amp, are responsible for this shiny, effortless tone that permeates the record, matched perfectly by a simple-but-spot-on rhythm section. — CC
Fat White Family (Pavilion)
Since the release of Champagne Holocaust in 2013 there has been no band on earth I have wanted to see live more than the Family. Their performances are already semi-legendary in their confrontational excess, earning them the reputation as not the best, but the only rock band left on Earth [Muse’s last-bastion of arena rock performance earlier in the evening suggests that there are, in fact, other rock bands left on earth. — A] Emerging out of a self-confessedly awful country band in South London, Fat White Family are a noxious cauldron of primitive garage rock, psychedelia and good ol’ weirdness. They scuttle onto the stage at Pavilion like characters out of an Alex Cox movie, part cowboy junkies, part homicidal hippies. Guitarist Saul Adamczewski seems to be missing even more of his front teeth, which of course only makes him grin and gurn with more enthusiasm, eagerly picking up half-smoked cigarettes thrown onto the stage. Frontman Lias Saoudi finally saunters in with a face like a restraining order, confirming that this evening the band are going to live up to expectations. As the band tear through “Autoneutron”, “Touch the Leather”, “I am Mark E. Smith”, both Lias and the crowd get more riled up, culminating in a series of stage dives and some minor genital manipulation. — CC