So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain

Kudos to Father John Misty for turning a ten-minute dirge into a seven-and-a-half minute dirge for the benefit of his PBS audience. Not everyone subscribes to the idea that you should be able to say whatever you have to say in under three minutes, and that’s okay, but boy… Misty really backloaded his ACL Live performance with his dirgiest and most downtempo selections. One idea he does subscribe to is that he doesn’t owe it to his audience to give them what they want, and if he wants to only play his most sad and boring songs, or if he just wants to spend most of his set mocking the venue and the audience, he’s going to go ahead and do those things. Bad reviews be damned. That being said, he is a mesmerizing live performer, and his grumpy and unpredictable behavior is part of the act. It’s a rather old-fashioned notion that the artist should – nay, he must! – follow his impulses rather than allowing his performances to be dictated by any calculated attempt to appeal to people. The artist should not stoop to groveling for popular approval or debase himself trying to be more appealing. Which of course, are great career moves for someone who already happens to appeal to people. FJM, for his part, dutifully spent many years trying to appeal to people as a singer-songwriter of great earnesty, before realizing that playing intellectually hard to get is the real way to become appealing to audiences burned out on too many earnest campfire love songs. And it’s his nature as a neurotic compulsive overthinker that he’s been grappling with questions of what people want from him, and why, and just what he’s expected to and able to deliver.