I first heard about The Brian Jonestown Massacre via all the dust that was kicked up in the wake of _Dig!_, the infamous documentary which chronicled a snapshot of the lives and times of BJM and their friends-turned-bitter rivals The Dandy Warhols. Of particular note was the mercurial leanings of Anton Newcombe, where physical violence was just one possible outcome of a performance; the person on the receiving end could either be an audience member or a fellow band member. With a volatile member at the helm of the ship, it's not totally clear to me what sort of percentage breakdown of tonight's sold-out venue was there as rubberneckers for potential wreckage, or as hardcore fans of the haze-laden 60's psych music that Anton writes and performs so well.
This was my second chance to see the band play, the first having been a very enjoyable but somewhat brief (for me, since I was splitting time at either stage) appearance at last year's All Tomorrow's Parties in New York. Tonight's show had eight members rather than last year's five, the most notable inclusions being the return of tambourine-banger/sideburn specialist Joel Gion and original member Matt Hollywood. There was no shortage of guitars for tonight (usually four, though sometimes keyboardist Rob Campanella picked one up as well), and the mix sometimes got a bit thin and trebly, though most of the time it was pretty good. The plethora of hollow-bodied guitars and vintage amps are a key part of their sound. The jangle factor was high with Ricky Maymi's 12 string a main component. Anton's vintage Vox took most of the leads, though certainly Matt and Frankie 'Teardrop" Emerson weren't just standing idly by.
Though BJM tend to be one of those bands who are a direct reflection of their record collection, they've got excellent taste and are well steeped in the best of the '60s psychedelia, touching upon the Zombies, Love, the Velvets, Kinks and others. The main riff from "When Jokers Attack" could be fingerprinted and its ancestry traced directly to "Heartful of Soul." "Nevertheless" has that sort of minor chord progression that is simple yet deceptively brilliant, and you wonder why Anton was the first one to uncover that particular gem. Matt took the mic for a few turns, including "Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth," a song often misconstrued as a pisstake/putdown of the Dandy Warhols.
Ostensibly touring on their 2008 record 'My Bloody Underground', it was roundly ignored save for 'Yeah Yeah', and a new song 'Someplace Else I Know' which featured a guitar-less Anton speak/singing against a spare backdrop (I hesitate to call it 'rap') was the source for the only minor dustup of the evening, as Anton made some snarky comment to the band members who were slow in getting off the stage as they weren't needed for that song. If a band is going to play for two-plus hours, they'd best go out on a high point, and when a song like "Swallowtail" is your arsenal, it renders time meaningless when it's playing...what a beautiful song, the gliding, chiming guitars sounding like the best thing never recorded on the Flying Nun label.
Openers The Asteroid #4 also played the retro card, and struck a nice balance of pop and psych; early Creation records (especially Ride) are a prominent feature of their sound, which can never be held against anyone. Their love of vintage gear was also evident, as a rare 12 string Vox Phantom was employed by Ryan Van Kriedt; his wife Aislinn seemed to be filling the Joel role of the band, occasionally banging on a tambourine or floor tom, or lending background vocals. A cover of Catherine Wheel's 'I Want To Touch You' sounded great, and 'My Love' from their new record was another high point. Recommended for fans of modern pop/psych.
The show in photos: