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THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE @ Metropolis Fremantle gets 8/10

The Brian Jonestown Massacre @ Metropolis Fremantle
Saturday, June 2, 2018


Having never seen The Brian Jonestown Massacre perform live before, but being acutely aware of the eccentricity and notoriety which has that has followed this band throughout the years (almost all of which can be directed towards the free wheelin’ tortured genius persona of founder and frontman Anton Newcombe) it’s hard to know what to expect, or if I should expect anything.

Forever principled and honest in his music, and tirelessly working for just shy of three decades, this is a band that has such a vast back catalogue that trying to emulate a full retrospective of their work in one live show would be bordering on the impossible. The BJM has hitherto released a gigantic 18 studio albums, a handful of compilations along with a whole swag of EPs and singles, with their most recent record Something Else literally having been released the day before.

Michael Savage

Critically acclaimed Fremantle muso Michael Savage was the perfect choice to warm up the crowd as the support for the evening. His mix of mod psych-pop sounds seem to epitomise the Freo spirit, and was a natural interlude into the evening’s headliner. His band featured local hired guns Russell Loasby and Aidan Gordon, who are always a treat to watch.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Playing their first in a string of shows for their current Australian tour, The Brian Jonestown Massacre lumbered onto the dimly lit stage, casually tuning up whilst Anton almost immediately began riffing an internal monologue. He professed his love and admiration for The Triffids and Tame Impala, then lectured the audience with his own state-of-the-union address about bands versus DJs, which left me thinking if he knew the kind of club this place turns into when he is to come off stage.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Beginning their set with the slowly pulsating tones of We Never Had a Chance and Whatever Happened to Them, it seemed to take time for the momentum and energy to build. However, the next two hours were tightly filled with tracks old and new, as classics such as When Jokers Attack, Pish, Who?, Servo and Anenome garnered mass praise from the crowd.

For some folk it was an excuse to get drunk or high, and for others it seemed like a public showcase of their own mediation. Hit with a harmonic seven-piece wall of rhythm and sound, it could make you either want to move like a convulsing monkey loose at a go-go dancing bar or stand mesmerisingly entranced, eyes in forward gaze with shoulders in a hypnotic sway.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Anton continually peppered the set with feverish banter, incoherent ramblings, musings of the mind, and replies to heckling from a drunken audience, calmly advising that he “doesn’t speak frontier hill-billy jibberish”.  He even confessed to the audience, genuinely apologising after his noticeably off-key vocal performance of Sailor. Apparently he had lost his voice completely after a performance in Los Angeles recently and had been unable to speak at all until he got the help of some friendly doctors and some wonderful pills that morning. That really is a testament to the grind of the BJM’s relentless touring schedule.

Anton is forever the conductor, showing no hesitation to stop the rest of the band mid-song, or to keep the rest of the ensemble in line by directing someone to “slow down!” Despite this, the BJM certainly project as one tightly regimented unit, with a constantly building barrage of pulse, infiltrated by wailing guitars and percussive flow being helmed from the centre of stage by one of the BJM’s other mainstays, Joel Gion, who spent the set alternating between a variety of tambourines and maracas.

Finishing a two hour set with a super extended live-cut, jam session of Yeah-Yeah from 2008’s My Bloody Underground, the no encore, no bullshit, ‘let’s just play’ attitude really encompassed the show as a whole.

Call it neo-psychedelia, shoe-gazing, garage-folk; the truth is, it is none of those things, but it’s also all of those things. Whilst I got the feeling that some folk wanted to go see the BJM for that possible and unexpected rockstar moment they may have seen in the documentary DIG!, it is not the ’90s anymore and Anton has certainly mellowed in his onstage demeanour. He now appears as more as a meme of himself, with an “old man yells at cloud mentality” rather than the tortured indie-guru symbol of the middle finger to the mainstream recording establishment that he relished in so much.

At the end of the day, as with all musicians, it should be all about the music and how that translates to a live performance and there is no denying that after nearly three decades the BJM’s music is still great and their live performance is totally on point.


Photos by Karen Lowe

The Brian Jonestown Massacre
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