19 Feb 2010

Brian Jonestown Massacre @ The Zoo, Brisbane [18 February 2010]

I've heard SO much about Brian Jonestown Massacre's live performances. In the minds of some, the most earth shattering live band on the planet. So of course, in one sense, I was going to be slightly disappointed the first time I saw them.

A little late arriving onstage, I was initially blown away by the sheer quantity of people in the band: eight in total, with four guitarists, one bass player, one keyboard player, a drummer, and the ever so boheme looking Joel Gion out front with the tambo. The current tour line-up for BJM is:

Anton Newcombe - Guitar/Vocals
Matt Hollywood - Guitar/Vocals
Frankie Teardrop - Guitar
Ricky Rene Maymi - Guitar/Feedback
Collin Hegna - Bass
Daniel Allaire - Drums
Rob Campanella - Organ/Guitar/Percussion
Joel Gion - Tamborine/Maraca

Of course, with a set-up like that, the night was inevitably going to be filled with the jingle-jangle of guitars in that beautiful psychedelic style BJM has mastered, so reminiscent of the '60s. Many fans were there to ogle Anton Newcombe, who I admit to having a fondness for due to his experimental nature, the way he lives his life without limits. I know it's probably not the healthiest lifestyle, but he's interesting. And really, in a lot of ways, that's all I ask for in musicians and artists these days.

(He also uploads wild and crazy videos on YouTube, which I really enjoy watching. Okay, so that's not linked directly to the music, but it's rather fun all the same!)

While I don't really know that much about the band -- for some odd reason, unless bands really have a message to hard-sell, I prefer it that way, because it allows the music to be the star instead of the musicians -- I did see DiG! so I knew what to expect in a sense. I have some of the albums, so knew what the music would sound like. But it was the carpet ride I wasn't expecting.

I suffer from gig ADHD. I find it difficult to focus on what's going on with the music if there are annoying punters around me; people who shove, talk loudly etc. But last night, I was intently focused on what was happening on the stage. Well, almost. This focus wasn't, I might add, helped by the extremely poor mixing effort, as my ears were constantly assaulted by ridiculously loud bass levels. Or the annoying girl in front of me who kept shoving her digital SLR in the air and taking random photos with a flash of the band -- few of which turned out (yeah, it helps to actually look at what you're taking a photo of, you twit) -- throughout most of the gig. (Whatever happened to The Zoo having 'flash for first two songs only' rules for gigs?? If they apply to professional photographers, they should apply to punters also. Really. Fucking. Annoying.) Also, note to male punters: it's time for the gentlemen to return to the fold. No more tall guys pushing in front of 5'4" women at gigs, okay? It's really rude.

Vent complete.

The music was this rolling ocean of sound. I was transported back to the '60s, a time when you get the gist that musicians were quite mystical and into otherworldly pursuits. While there weren't many surprises, the songs played were crowdpleasers and provided a very groovy, continous snake-train vibe. I particularly enjoyed the rhythms created by the percussionists; BJM's music is the kind of music I can imagine lots of stoners having sex to. I felt a bit of that vibe among the audience.

At one point, a punter offered a gift to Anton of -- and I think this is what it was, as I couldn't see it properly -- a My Little Pony necklace. His reaction showed he has a healthy sense of humour and isn't the psychotic that many members of the music media make him out to be. The band members, generally, gave out a very positive feeling overall. I think they'd be really enjoyable people to hang out with. They seemed...dare I say...nice? THAT was one preconception -- created by my exposure to mass media -- that was smashed last night.

What I was disappointed with was the lack of newer, more experimental music being performed. I would've liked to see more of this, less pandering to the crowd. I wanted to experience the full expanse of what I believe BJM is capable of and I didn't get that. I would've enjoyed 20 minute explorations versus catchy pop. I felt as though the actual stage performance was a little disorganised; there appeared to be only a sketchy set-list. The crowd seemed to be dictating what got played, which meant more well-known songs won out.

But overall, wow. I really enjoyed myself last night and would definitely see BJM again. The mindset of the band, the seemingly lackadaisical yet effective way they win new fans while maintaining old ones; the entire concept of BJM is joyful in comparison to other overhyped/overmarketed bands who play the industry in a more overt way. I was sad when my carpet ride came to its conclusion, but so happy I'd experienced it.

Visit BJM's MySpace for more info on their music and tour dates.

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