Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”
On this date in history, 4/6/2022, my wife and I attended a highly entertaining show at The Vogue featuring The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Led by the wildly prolific and consistently unpredictable Anton Newcombe, The Brian Jonestown Massacre has produced a truly impressive amount of music since its inception in San Francisco in 1990.
The band has sustained a staggering fluctuation of members with many leaving and returning seemingly at will and all revolving around the only constant member, Newcombe. An award-winning documentary entitled Dig! provides a lot of insight into why there are so many lineup changes. Definitely check it out if you can. Apparently, Anton Newcombe is kind of difficult to work with, but he is certainly a man who knows what he wants and refuses to compromise his art. Knowing all of this, we went to the concert with an understanding that we would either see a visionary performance or possibly a massive trainwreck. Thankfully, I feel we saw hints of the visionary and a small bump in the road where Anton stopped a song not once, but twice, because he didn’t like the tempo. He seemed on the edge of an outburst as he admonished his bandmates and told them he didn’t have time to be their babysitter. After they locked into the tempo he was looking for, everything went smoothly from then to the end of the show.
Being unfamiliar with the genre of the band’s music (kind of misguidedly thinking it would be grunge due to their birth in the ’90’s) I was pleasantly surprised that they touched on psychedelia, country, blues, garage rock, folk, and a heaping amount of shoegaze. The band (or the touring version circa 2022) were laid back but reactive to each other, with no-one really standing out, including Anton, who stood at the far end of stage left. The songs performed at our show were all excellent, but the one that really stood out for me personally was the finale. It was just over twenty minutes long, but the actual song ended around eleven minutes when the guitar players set up some warm feedback on their respective instruments and left the stage, followed by the bass player and drummer. As the guitars continued to feedback most gloriously, Anton got behind the drumkit and started playing a simple but hypnotic drum pattern, accompanied by some random sound manipulations from the keyboard player. During the next nine or so minutes, these elements all just grew to an enormous wall of sound that was further enhanced by some cosmic rear screen projections of deep space and subliminal faces that perfectly complimented the psychedelic shoegaze symphony that this band effortlessly set in motion.
That twenty-minute demonstration of the genius of The Brian Jonestown Massacre guaranteed that I will at the very least always be a fan of this quirky and magical band that has survived against some pretty crazy odds. Hopefully we will see them again sometime, but this show will live on in my memory for that monumental final song at the very least.