J. Tillman is perhaps best known as being the drummer of Seattle based folk-rock group Fleet Foxes. A fact that regional concert promoter Stateside Presents was probably banking on to bring in an audience to Modified Arts on Monday night. But to identify J. Tillman only as the drummer from Fleet Foxes would be a huge mistake. Before joining the Fleet Foxes in 2008, J. Tillman or Josh Tillman was an extremely talented singer-songwriter in his own right and has been releasing solo albums since 2004. He's even managed to release two LP's this year with Vacilando Territory Blues in January and Year In The Kingdom in late September.
Monday night's show at Modified Arts kicked off with an accoustic set from local favorites What Laura Says. The group put on an amazing set, as they usually do, and felt like the perfect opener for J. Tillman. Coincidentally, this was to be What Laura Says last performance at Modified Arts, a fact the group acknowledged and managed say a few nice words about the soon to be gone music venue. Next up was Pearly Gates Music, which is one man act from Zach Tillman (J. Tillman's brother). Pearly Gates Music is very similar in musical style to his brother Josh, but I felt that most of his songs tended to wane on a bit too long and were too repetitive. I do have to admit though that he is one of the most interesting lyricists I've heard in a while.
After what felt like a break that went on longer than it should have J. Tillman took the stage with his touring band and greeted the audience. Tillman launched into his first song and brought the audience to their feet, literally. The decent size audience at Modified had mostly sat crossed-legged on the floor for Pearly Gates Music's set, but once J. Tillman started most people were up on their feet. The set started off promising enough but quickly it began to feel that the songs began to meander and go on forever. In fact, for the first three quarters of Tillman's set it was difficult to tell where one song ended and the next began.
I have to admit that I was worried that this performance was going to be a disappointment in my book, but then something wonderful and unexpected happened. J. Tillman's backing band left the stage and Tillman was left alone on stage and for the first time in almost forty-five minutes Tillman began to interact with the audience. Tillman came across as extremely funny and charming and even managed to pull off one awesome impression of James Taylor. The rest of the set was all acoustic and sounded amazing. This without a doubt managed to save the show for me and if anything made me a bigger fan of J. Tillman's than I already was.
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Last Night: What Laura Says, Pearly Gates Music, J. Tillman
Better Than: Folk music night at your local coffee shop
Personal Bias: I'm a huge J. Tillman fan and love his latest album Year In The Kingdom