Featured photo by Ben Kaye
The ballad of Father John Misty took some interesting turns over the weekend. At Philadelphia’s XPoNential Music Festival on Friday, he went off on the failures of entertainment and the rise of Donald “Idiot King” Trump instead of performing much of anything. The following day he appeared at Newport Folk Festival, and though his set was far more reserved, he did lob one verbal grenade.
Before going into “Bored in the USA”, J. Tillman revealed that he was offered a quarter of a million dollars to cover Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” for Chipotle. “Yep, that’s my life,” he joked. “I was like, ‘Cool, so then I can just buy like two Cadillacs and just crash them together. I don’t want your fucking burrito money.”
Perhaps incidentally — perhaps with Misty’s full awareness — Alabama Shakes were the following day’s headliner, and their frontwoman, Brittany Howard, teamed with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James to do that very same cover for the Mexican fast food chain.
It didn’t come off as if Tillman was directly calling out Howard or James (who’s a member of the festival’s Board of Advisors) as much as the current state of folk music. He segued the remark into his theory that sometime in the next few years, “… the underclass in this country is going to produce a real folk hero that’s going to inspire a real revolution. And all of us are gonna have to die.”
Update: Father John Misty has since commented on the story, tweeting that he was starting “a discussion on whether folk music is good for anything anymore other than just the selling of things.”
Portishead’s Geoff Barrow also reacted, suggesting Tillman should’ve taken the cash. Tillman stood his ground, saying the final commercial felt “like if Orwell got hired by an ad agency.”
Take a look at video of the speech (shot by my dear friend Cassie, no less), above. Then see where Father John Misty’s Newport set ranked in our review of this year’s festival.