The Brian Jonestown Massacre

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As I close in on the year anniversary of my declaration that I was going to see 50 shows during my 51st year on this planet, I really need to keep the pace up of one show a week.   Unfortunately, Susan and I did not have a chance to see any music while in Puerto Rico. Fortunately, my friend Michael had an extra ticket to The Brian Jonestown Massacre on Friday night at Union Transfer, which kept me on track.

We got to Union Transfer around 9:15 and missed the opener. One of the things I love about Union Transfer is that they start, and end, their shows on time. I was a little sad that our late arrival meant that we would only get to enjoy 1 ½ hours of music. That was a wrong assumption; since they ended up playing for almost three hours from the time we got there.

It was a packed house and we started upstairs but could not catch a sight line, so we headed to our usual spot. I cannot divulge where it is, because they everyone will know where to stand during a sold out Union Transfer show, but, once again, there was plenty of room really close to the stage.

Full disclosure, I had never heard any songs by these guys. In fact, I thought it was Brian Jones’ band and a bunch of other guys. There is no one named Brian Jones. So I went in not quite knowing what to expect. It turns out they were another shoegaze group (see Ride, 9/19/2016 post) from the 90s and then morphed into a psychedelic rock band incorporating both folk rock and electronica. The band is composed of seven older white guys, fronted by Anton Newcombe, who is a younger Neil Young complete with mutton chops. In fact, there were a couple of guys with mutton chops in the band (but no man buns), which describes the demographic of the crowd as well. And though Anton was the lead of the group, he was off to the left side of the stage and front and center was the tambourine player. Yup, seven guys in a band and the one front and center played the tambourine the whole time. Wait, not true, he also played the maracas at one point, but mainly tambourine. And he never said a word. I started referring to him as Marcel Marceau. Though, as I reflected on the concert, I realized only Anton spoke, so, in retrospect, that was not weird. Though I will stand by having the tambourine player stationed front and center is weird.

I liked the few songs I heard. It was psychedelic but never morphed into long jam sessions, which I have less patience for now than I did when younger. It was not angst ridden, but I would describe it as mellow angry music, or as Michael described it, controlled psychedelic music. I would have liked to hear more of it, which is an odd thing to say for a 3½ hour show. And here is the real takeaway from the show- rants. And, lots of them.

Anton is an angry man, a very, very angry man. He did not hesitate throughout the evening to tell us what was pissing him off. What were some things you may ask? Well, in no particular order of importance, “the man,” Spotify, Hilary Clinton stealing America’s bees and cornering the honey market, Dandy Warhols, vinyl is not real music only live concerts, employing unemployed musicians in Berlin, Radiohead was done after their first album and should just stop playing music, etc. I am not even sure if these were things that had long pissed him off or stuff that just occurred to him during the show. It was those sporadic, ridiculous and, at times, totally pretentious rants that dominated the show. When they actually played, they were great. They had a bright good vibe and I had not trouble finding my music center when listening to them. Sadly, they only played about 60 % of the time (though Michael thought I was being generous with my 40% rant/ 60% music ratio description and they probably played less). It took about 2 ½ hours when Philly became Philly and there was a lot of crowd interaction with the band, mainly through calls of “just play music.” Here’s the thing, though, you can’t play an angry show and not expect the crowd to get angry.   We feed off of the band, so we were just following Anton’s lead. And I say Anton, because he was the only ranting and when he got started, his band members would either just sit down or head off stage.

Michael said this concert was very typical and he has seen them four times, but the ranting part is rarely mentioned in the music review. He also suggested I watch Dig, a documentary about them and their rivalry with the Dandy Warhols. The next day, Michael came over and played me one of their albums. I think my show experience would have been really different if I had listened to their music beforehand, because it is totally in my music wheelhouse. Ironically, after one album side, Michael noted “Wow, they sure put a lot of songs on one album side.” I replied, “Actually, they put more songs on an album side than they play during a 3½ hour show.”

6 shows to go, 31 days left…

The Brian Jonestown Massacre setlist from May 6, 2016.






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