Of course the only reason I and many were there was because of the success of Dig! In this film on the tribulations of the Dandy Warhols and the Brain Jonestown Massacre. In the film Anton, the leader of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, is portrayed as some kind of modern Brian Jones, a mad musician prone to mood swings and hopelessly addicted to drugs.
And of course that view is a load of old tosh, but it did give the movie an edge and a reluctant protagonist. However, the film did open my ears to their music which I had previously ignored and it made me realise how electric their shows could be. Many people in the crowd had taken this view of Dig! and seemed to be newcomers to the music. While some tried to start one of the band’s famous fights another guy shrieked at every opportunity, “take some smack” which quickly became tiresome. Those who tried to goad the man were unsuccessful in producing a response from Anton tonight. Others were content to stay at the bar and chat, safe in the knowledge that they were tucked away at the back of the venue. I bet they were disappointed that no fights broke out.
The band come onto the stage, Anton standing to the stage right. In many ways he’s paying the band and the music the ultimate respect. Standing at the side focuses the public’s attention’s on the music and not the ‘celebrity’ status of Dig‘s protagonist. It is a very wise move. I remember contemplating this exact thought until I realised that the band hadn’t started playing. The band were there motionless, the crowd were getting angst and a few were voicing their feelings, some weirdo behind me was shouting, “take some smack” over and over, and then, suddenly, the music started and it was, quite simply, beautiful.
The songs were predominately layered 60’s band jams. Some were longer than others, but all possessed a musical quality which is almost unrivalled by other modern day artists. One can easily hear the influences from bands such as the Rolling Stones, Byrds, Cream, and Pink Floyd but unlike other bands who taker “influence” to mean “imitation”, Brain Jonestown Massacre take these different elements, bind them together and build on them to create a almost completely new sound. The unpredictable element to the performance also added further to the music. One quite simply didn’t know what was round the corner and this edginess pushed the musical boundaries further.
The band were tight when they were playing but in between were sufficiently inebriated to seem to stumble around like cheap drunks. The only occasion where the booze/narcotic cocktail affected the performance was when Anton took to the centre of the stage with the tambourine playing band member to play ‘Stars’. The duo failed not once but three times before they moved onto another song, ‘God is my Girlfriend’. The final song was ‘Swallowtail’ an amazing 10 minutes plus song that simply could have gone on for ever and still have been entertaining. It was a brilliant way to end the night.
The band left myself, and many others I suspect, wanting more. In a more cosy setting this show would have been perfect. Unfortunately, due to the unexpected success of Dig!, they will continue to be followed by people content to chat at the bar and claim that they’ve seen one of the most infamous and unpredictable acts out there but who left disappointed that there was no verbal or physical violence. Unfortunately this will spoil it for the rest of the crowd who’ve come to see some of the most electric, passionate, artistic, drug inspired rock music there is. This seems to be a problem that only time will heal.
Thanks to the people at the Brian Jonestown Massacre internet forum for the setlist:
Whoever you are
Nailing honey to the bee
Here it comes
Hide & Seek
Stars (incomplete & attempted three times)
God is my Girlfriend
When jokers attack
That girl suicide