Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor
Just went and saw my favorite band play, guys. Who are they? The Brian Jonestown Massacre is who they be. I’d heard that Anton Newcombe, the band’s main songwriter, singer, etc., would never play the States again. I’d gotten into these fellas years ago via the super documentary Dig!, and am now a complete, utter fan, but wasn’t sure I’d ever get to see ‘em live. Last I’d heard, Anton and Co. were in Iceland, and I wasn’t getting there any time soon.
So then a U.S. tour is announced. Holy crap, I exclaim. Tremendous! Got my tickets the second they went on sale, I wasn’t missing this. And boy, they sure didn’t disappoint.
Didn’t catch the opening band, The Flavor Crystals, I was waiting out front for my pal Bill to show up. From what I heard through the front door, they sounded ok, similar to the BJM. Full judgment will have to be deferred. Finally got inside and drank a screwdriver waiting for the main attraction, and sure enough, there they were. The 9:30 stage isn’t exactly huge, so the eight musicians had to pack tightly together. Strange to see a rock band with so many guys, but it allows Anton to get the full, rich sound the band is known for. Nothing is superfluous.
They opened with “Whoever You Are,” a great song from their “Give It Back” album. Having been around for a few decades now Anton has plenty of back material to choose from, plenty of dynamite tunes. Not many songwriters on the planet have the skill he does, and the show was basically a collection of their best singles with some current stuff, the perfect mix of old and new. You look on stage and see Joel Gion front and center, puffing cigs, playing the tambourine, Anton off to the side, singing, the others doing their respective things, it’s powerful, rockin’ stuff. My friend Jim who went and had never heard of them thought they sounded a bit like Echo and the Bunnymen, and there was some of that in there, along with that 60’s vibe Anton so obviously cherishes. It’s this connection and melding of different sounds and genres that the BJM does so well. This is truly great music.
And how many guys would have five, count ‘em, five guitarists playing at once? That takes nerve, and skill. The BJM are real pros at this point, they’ve been around the block. ‘Course, what makes it all work, what keeps it all together, is that quality of the music. I got a chill when they kicked into “Servo.” I jumped around when they played “Not If You Were The Last Dandy on Earth.” I wanted to hug Anton when they played “Anenome.” I flipped when they played “Hide and Seek.” I nearly fainted when they kicked into “That Girl Suicide.” It was all I could do not to scream “Anton, We Love You!”
I got real sympathy for the guy. His life hasn’t exactly been coated in rose-petals. He’s never made the big bucks of some of his lesser contemporaries. He’s sacrificed a lot for his music. What say we give him his due now, you know? The guy is a goddamn national treasure, for %$#@’% sake. He deserves so much more than he’s gotten, he just gives and gives and gives, the true measure of an artist, I guess.
So yeah, I loved the show. The songs were brilliant and the band was tight and over two hours later a fun time was had by all. They left the stage to a drone/feedback kinda thing, not what you’d call your traditional exit. And no encores. Once again, Anton did it his own way. That, you just gotta admire.