WORDS: Mikey Carr
PICTURES: Kurt Davies
Upon entering The Factory Theatre it was evident that The Brian Jonestown Massacre weren’t exactly having the best time on stage. They sounded great, don’t get me wrong, but they were just very listless on stage (except Ricky Maymi who looked like he might have been tripping judging from his Jim Morrison-esque snake dancing). It looked like they were just going through the motions, a criticism that has come back to me about a lot of their shows on this tour and which to me seem justified by this first impression. Oh sweet Jesus how very wrong I was.
The first half an hour of the show went on as described before, not much energy on stage, a few standout songs such as ‘Vacuum Boots’ got the crowd dancing, but then there were songs like ‘Anemone’ where the band, joined by a very drunk Aimee Nash from The Black Ryder, fell pretty flat on their ass, due in part to technical difficulties with mic levels and guitar effects. I had heard that Aimee was amazing at the Sunday show at The Metro (some people even said she was the highlight) but on this night I’m afraid she might have been a bit too drunk to sing. Thank god for the sound guy being quick on the reverb though.
About halfway through was when the show really picked up. Someone in the crowd yelled out ‘talk to us Anton?’ Anton, being Anton of course replied in calm tones that ‘I just don’t have that much to say.’ I love you was the response to the crowd to which Anton replied ‘I love you too,’ in the resigned tone of a father accepting an apology from his son for using his golf clubs to stage sword fights.
From that point onwards the music just got better and the band got more and more into it. It seems that Anton has got off the drink as the bottles of Stoli he had on the last tour were nowhere to be seen, and this means that we get more music from them, and a more fan friendly set list, but at the same time there is less fun. The last time they played The Factory Anton was yelling at people in the crowd, drinking vodka straight from the bottle, and at the end played an epic encore ending with Joel Gion refusing to leave the stage, having to be carried off after standing at the mic playing tambourine and saying things like ‘c’mon guy let’s start the revolution, we’re going keep playing till they cut the power off.’
There was none of that this time round, although Anton did have on moment of ranting:
Crowd: You need more guitarists…
Anton: Yeah really, I agree. I think we need about four more, got anyone in mind?
Crowd: Angus Young?
Anton: That’d be great, although talking about AC/DC, I heard that they played in Adelaide the other night to like 80,000 people or something and that they had ninety vans of gear. Ninety vans? I mean they’re a pub band right? They’re like the quintessential throw it in the back of the car and play type guys and now they have ninety vans? It’s fucking ridiculous.
The band then launched into a bollock jostling rendition of ‘Hide & Seek’ (at least I think that’s what it was) but either way it rocked, and Anton was only getting more in the mood as he jokingly talked off the mic with people in the front row.
Before I go on about the show I do want to mention The Factory Theatre and how awesome it is. What other venue in Sydney can you go to see a band like The Brian Jonestown Massacre and be right there at the stage with no barriers, and close enough to touch the musicians on stage? That plus the idea of a raised bar at the back so you can still see the band play while you get a drink, I mean genius, we need more of that. Mind you the prices are highway robbery and my Coopers Pale tasted like it had been strained through the urinary tract of a veteran street walker, but what the fuck, smuggle in a hippy, it still violently kicks the pants and ass off The Metro.
Anyway back to the matter at hand. By the last third of the show the band were hitting their stride like the battle scarred pros they are, and the crowd were loving it. Well, to be honest they had been loving it the whole time and were it not for the frequent calls of support and love I doubt the band would’ve got into as much as they did. I mean talking about a great crowd there was someone toward the front throwing flowers on stage for the band, so many in fact that by the end they had a vase full. That’s love.
Anton had to take a break to take a piss toward the end, leaving Matt Hollywood on stage to deal with the crowd begging for a song. ‘I don’t have any songs that are that short’ he replied, but Anton was soon back and launched into the music again, only to be held up by feed-backing mics. This had been happening all night but it was at the point that Anton just stopped the show that the problem got solved and the band were really able to flex their sonic muscles.
The last few songs were just amazing, and by this point I was too drunk and sweaty to remember the names, or even bother writing any more notes. They walked off stage and returned for an encore, which by popular crowd demand turned out to be ‘Swallowtail’, even though Anton professed to not really know how to play it anymore. Know how to play it he did, and throw down like an oiled up pro wrestler he did. He then grabbed the mic and starting have a real fucking sing, like he did in the footage from DiG! It was amazing. For the band to have gone from where they were at the start to spewing forth such beautiful wavering columns of melodious guitar noodling and wall of sound fuzz with such ease and poise was astonishing because, to be honest, I wasn’t sure they still had it in them. I thought they were just doing it for the money, treating it like a job, and while that very well maybe true about the greater part of the tour, for this show you could only say they played on the edge, dancing like crazy pedal wielding mystics on the brink between mediocrity and genius.
This show was amazing. When at their best, The Brian Jonestown Massacre are in the same league as the legendary bands which so influence them. Their music to me sounds like a delay riddled and joyous fog, through which you can see the suggestion of so much timeless and classic music yet which still alters the image enough for it to be new and different. They’re not reinventing the wheel, but they’re using it to tread the boundaries of where music has gone before, bringing back a few glittering nuggets of new found wisdom.