The best way to consume psilocybin mushrooms is to break them up into chunks and drop them on a slice of cheap frozen pizza, already cooked. It’s good to have a record going and a large tumbler of cold water in front of you. My friend, Mahle and I lack the record player today – my speakers died – but we throw some R&B on my Bluetooth capable speaker (we’ve both agreed that listening to Father John Misty directly before we watch him perform is in poor taste, somehow) and prepare the pizza to our liking. It’s a few minutes to four PM. She’s nervous. We eat.
Our Lyft driver, Gregory, saw The Replacements and Husker Du play a house show in the ‘80s, – he’s been monologuing about the good ‘ol days for about ten minutes now, raising his voice a bit over the dull roar of highway traffic coming through our opened windows in the backseat of his impossibly small sedan. He says he was “trippin’ big on acid” on this particular night trying to tap the keg as The Replacements started their set. Mahle and I share a crazed look and a giggle. Her hair is blowing chaotically around the cramped cabin of the car. My teeth feel dry. Gregory says he doesn’t do that anymore. Now he just takes naps and stuff. We tell him we love him, he let’s us out of the car.
Surly Brewing Co’s outdoor concert space is sizable. It’s been a year since we’ve been here and we’ve forgotten just how many people can comfortably fit in this space. We are sandwiched between a group of aging hippies in front and bearded hipsters behind, slowly slithering our way through the gated queue to the ticket takers, and I’m musing benignly that I’ve never felt more like a cow amongst cattle, my freedom taken from me and only one kinetic direction available – towards the SLAUGHTER – when I realize it’s our turn.
The tickets live within my cell phone – this loathsome window in my pocket – and the 19 or 20-year-old with the cool shades who looks vaguely familiar to me is saying TICKETS? and I fumble and swipe and tap for what everyone around us seems to simultaneously agree is far too long until our respective devices finally have a meaningful interaction and I hear the handheld barcode reader make a pleasing and agreeable blip and the young ticket taker with the vintage sunglasses says GOTCHA and we are in. Let’s get a beer.
Furious for me, a Gose sour beer for Mahle, and we’ve found a spot in the grass. We’ve missed most of the opener, Tennis, a Denver-based husband-and-wife duo, but we catch the lead singer tell the crowd she’s glad a bee never landed on her because “I really would have ended the show, I’m not kidding.” Mahle blows a raspberry at her. They play two more songs, which meander through the air with no discernible purpose, but the base tone is heavy and within us and I tell Mahle I’ve decided I like this bee-phobic woman and her band of skinny weirdos. Mahle says “The organ is cool.”
We don’t care, we’re here for the new age pretension of Father John Misty. I say he isn’t pretentious, he’s ironic. Mahle says what’s the difference. We sit in the grass, our butts getting damp, we blink, and he’s onstage, right there, and he approaches the microphone.
He begins with “Pure Comedy“, from the new album, the title track. There are about 100 people onstage, it seems like, the rhythm section plus a horn section and a string section. It is orchestral in content and presentation. Father John is a dulcet crooner, we know this from his records, but tonight he GROWLS – he breathes all of us in and spits us back out onto the grass. We all have muddy shoes and the ground just keeps getting soggier with spilled beer and sweat and liquefied emotional content like tears on the ground but no one is crying, everyone is smiling and saying things like “Holy shit look at those lights!” and “Do you think he’ll play “Hollywood Cemetery“? I kinda hope he doesn’t.” We move a little closer.
I’ve had my eyes closed for several minutes now, my arm around Mahle, feeling her dance and moving with her, watching the lights bounce off my lids and reading the subdermal motion trails they leave with great interest, like a Sunday morning paper at the table and the smell of shitty coffee but the news is not of unending American hate and confusion, instead the music spells a serendipitous collusion of disparate synapses in which the whole crowd and the whole band can agree that, despite the anger of the world, there is an all-reaching drumbeat of comedy beneath it all and that if we all just laugh, a little, everything might end up just fine and then I open my eyes and I’m hit with it – my favorite line:
“We are the Earth’s most soulful predator.”
Father John and the band are playing “When The God of Love Returns There’ll be Hell to Pay”. There is smoke in the air and Father John is silhouetted in Prince-esque purple ambiance. He’s holding the microphone stand far above his head and then SMACK, it comes hammering down, back home on the stage just as the band hits the final chord. Father screams a wicked scream and my whole body shivers. I look at Mahle, we are smiling hysterical smiles, all teeth, and gum.
It’s time for another beer now, we’ve decided, and “Real Love Baby” starts just as we are leaving the crowd. It’s too perfect, too on the nose, and I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry. I tell Mahle that. “Do both” she says. I try.
The psilocybin is leaving our bodies now, and we’re just drunk – on the beer but mostly the people and space and the sounds. Father John has played “Hollywood Cemetery Forever” (because of course, he did) and has left the stage, for a moment, to elicit chants of “one more song,” which don’t end up emerging but lo, he returns anyway, unphased.
Har Mar Superstar is on stage suddenly (because of course, he is) and he’s grabbed the mic before Father John can. He’s drunk, we love him, we scream, he mumbles something about community and enwraps Father John is a big clumsy hug and kisses him square on the mouth. We can hear the sloppy sound of saliva and lips through the mic. We shout – we love him. He slinks off to side stage. We wait.
“I usually don’t play this song, but here we go.”
And it’s “Leaving LA“, the thirteen-minute masterpiece of introspection and heartbreak and frustration and love and childhood and adulthood and fear. My favorite song from the new album. And I close my eyes. It’s beautiful and messy and perfect. There’s that toothy smile again.
The best way to consume psilocybin mushrooms is to do so immediately before watching a new-age weirdo sing his guts out.
Father John Misty Set List:
Total Entertainment Forever
Things That Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution
Ballad of a Dying Man
When You’re Smiling and Astride Me
Nancy From Now On
Chateau Lobby #4
Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddam Thirsty Crow
When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay
A Bigger Paper Bag
Bored in the USA
Hollywood Cemetery Forever
Real Love Baby
I Love You Honey Bear
The Ideal Husband