“How old am I?”, Anton Newcombe screamed. “What are you writing a fucking book? Fuck you! Go check Google Earth or something!”
Three generations of curious onlookers had squeezed into a sold out Factory to take a gamble on the Brian Jonestown Massacre and celebrate Anton’s 41st birthday. Knowing the erratic history of the band there were chances the performance could be abusive, pathetic, hilarious or brilliant. I thought it a bet worth taking and I was glad to be there.
A supergroup of Sydney’s psychedelic scene, The Black Ryder, started the night off. They mesmerized while sounding superb and easily could’ve been extras in the DiG! documentary. Nothing new, but if their job was to get us prepped for the ring leader of the international psychedelic scene, it was a job well done.
Anton and his six piece band hit the stage like they’d just walked into their own living rooms. Out they came, one by one, with bottles of whiskey and vodka, chatting casually with each other before settling in. It was a nice surprise to see Joel Gion, the infamous tambourine player back in the band taking centre stage decked out in denim and sunglasses. They took their sweet time but when the music kicked in it was the lazy sonic whipping I’d hoped Anton could resurrect. Textured, droning, profound, beautiful and mysteriously glued together by a tambourine.
When each song ended, a test of patience would begin. Anton ranted, interviewed bandmates, told epic stories about Icelandic pee in pants, requested jokes about dead wives, mixed triple quadruple vodka tonics and went from comedian to arrogant asshole in the same sentence. The music made up for (most of) this with BJM focusing on older material. Personal highlights were a joyous Who? and a sultry version of Anenome sung by an Aimeé Nash of The Black Ryder, who excitedly kissed most of the band before exiting. Once I figured out that BJM don’t give a fuck if they’re jamming at home or in front of 500 people I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the banter, especially Anton’s idea for a TV show called ‘Dude, Pimp My Guitar Tech’
In two hours Anton had carried on as much as the band had played and it felt like they were just gaining momentum when The Factory staff told them to wrap it up. One more song and they were gone…except Joel. He remained centre stage banging his tambourine, refusing to leave. “I’m not going anywhere!” he screamed as we clapped and laughed along. “Riot in the streets!” he sputtered as his mic got cut off. He kept on and on yelping “All night long!” until his missing bandmates snuck up behind him and carried him off still grinning and banging away.
Those of us who stuck it out just smiled at each other. It may not have been pretty but we had survived a night with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and our bets had.