Saturday, April 4, 2009
Brian Jonestown Massacre
Not at a PTA meeting, but there's the shirt.
I went to see the Brian Jonestown Massacre last night. I couldn't figure out how to ask for press credentials, so I just went to enjoy it...no photos, no notes. But here are a couple of observations:
First, the opening band, Asteroid #4 was way better than I remember them on their last record, much louder and trippier and the music still really pretty, even as it pressed down on your eardrums. Either I slept on the record (which I can't find) or they've gotten better or they've always been better live, but they were super fun. Special props for the girl tambourine player, taking big slugs from a communal bottle of Jack Daniels and chasing them with beer. Enough of these "I'll just have a mineral water" bands.
Second, I was ambivalent, as I suppose most people are, about whether I wanted to just see a solid BJTM show, or whether I wanted Anton to freak-out somehow. I really like the music, you know, but there's something appealing about a meltdown, too, especially if it doesn't happen really early in the show.
We sort of got both.
The sound took some work to get right. For the first couple of songs you couldn't hear either Anton's vocals or those wonderful looping lead guitar lines, two of the main elements of their sound, I think. (By the way, this is an unbelievably guitar-dense band -- at times, they have five guitars going at the same time, often a couple of them 12-strings...some very beautiful guitars in play, too, it must have been a terrible loss when their equipment got stolen a copule of years ago.) But anyway, they got that right eventually, which not every band does at Pearl Street, and we all settled in for the ride, which was pretty nice.
As people got comfortable, people started yelling out requests. (One guy near us must have asked for "Feel So Good" at least a dozen times.) And Anton apparently doesn't like being told what to do. "That's not it," he said, at one point, to a song title, and then, with breathtaking speed, he arranges something with his sound guy, drops the guitar, three of four other guitarists (plus the tamborine guy) walk off stage, and he begins to do a very kraut-ish, just-a-little-too-white-and-psychedelic-for-hip-hop rant to a bare-bones, thumping beat, bass, one guitar and drums. It seems like kind of a fuck you gesture, and yet, up to this point, the show has been a little dull, a little too by-the-numbers "here are our freaky 1960s jams" greatest hits oriented. It also feels a bit like Primal Scream, BJTM's tour partner for most of these dates, and once you get used to it, very, very cool. People clap at the end, and Anton seems to forgive us. "Thanks for coming out," he says in one of his rare, no-eye-contact acknowledgements that there's an audience at all. And then the guitarists come out again and they play a bunch of my favorite songs. "Who" and "Servo" stand out, but as I say, I wasn't taking notes.
So the show almost went off the rails, but it swerved at the last minute, and from that instant on, got better and better. We left about four songs after someone announced that "We've got anywhere between one and 21 more songs. We're just not sure" because we left Sean at home by himself for really the first time ever, and we were both getting a little nervous, but it was a wonderful show, especially towards the end. The almost-meltdown even felt like part of it...that brief veering into unpredictable that was as much part of the attraction as the main show.
Oh, I bought a tee-shirt. I'm going to wear it to PTA meetings.