Contemporary note : These days the BJM are better known as the band who provide the opening music to the ever improving BOARDWALK EMPIRE. If you want a great tip on how to make Boardwalk even more watchable, and Downton Abbey actually quite bearable go here
7 out of 10 (music)
8 out of ten (vaudeville)
Very much in the shadow of Ondi Timoner's classic music film DIG!, the Brain
Jonestown Massacre set on Sunday afternoon on the Pyramid stage did not
disappoint on any level. In the film the BJM and its main artistic
centerpoint Anton Newcombe are the crazy, tragic and amazingly prolific
counterparts to their early friends and rivals The Dandy Warhols. Newcombe,
a living self destruct mechanism, blows every chance at the big time by
rowing and sacking band mates (often on stage) while producing a hypnotic
1990s Indie drone that ultimately stands up next to the far more successful
and settled Dandies.
The band sidled onto the stage below a languid sunny afternoon amid cheers
with a minimum of fuss in from of the smallest crowd I have ever been part
of on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury – something I'm sure the definitely
Indie BJMs will appreciate. When the instantly recognisable Newcombe
appeared he already seemed to be in some problem with a photographer
off-stage, snatching her camera to 'take a picture of the BBC' When he
slouched backstage to return it three very large Somerset policemen appeared
from nowhere to joke with him.. Throughout the set Anton played with his
back to the nearest BBC camera and responded to one taunt by suggesting that
the BBC was only covering the band to catch 'rock star shit' to be shown
presumably at some future date on BBC4 after Timoners's documentary
What band line up was this? It included Joel Gion (perhaps also the long
missing Matt Hollywood, difficult to see through all the hair) and was
presumably the one which has been recently touring the UK but such is the
fluid nature of the bands personnel and influence it is the work of a
cultist to keep track. Despite beginning with typically arcane new material,
the set did not include anything from the recent new album and relied on old
favourites from their prolific year of 1996. They knocked the tunes out with
unexpected care and professionalism, as if knowing this would be a career
highlight captured on for posterity by the BBC media of which Anton seemed
Mostly, they would not listen to hecklers, except to provoke occasional
ranting from Mr Newcombe very much in the mode of the film. One rant
beginning with an attack on Jay-Z AND Noel Gallagher ('Noel can kiss my
crumpet") was particularly poignant, going from the old arrogance of the
band that would antagonise and revolutionise the old order in the early
1990s to the modern band which Anton admitted quietly 'probably does not
deserve' to be here and who considered the Glastonbury slot 'a real honour'
A genuine speech about Glastonbury's hippie ideals provoked real cheers
from the crowd and his tactic of attacking both Jay-Z and the Gallagher's
certainly disorientated the hecklers for a while giving us a chance to study
the hecklers instead. This is the first time such a massive fan of the DIG!
Film such as myself has seen the BJM and it came as a shock to realise that
the hecklers seeking to provoke Anton into one of his band splitting rages
actually seemed to be the biggest fans in the crowd, otherwise singing along
and dancing to all of the tunes.
Does Anton realise this? Is this how the fans are supposed to behave? Is that
perhaps the secret to enjoying them?
The chaos, the creativity.. is the Brian Jonestown Massacre less a rock back
and just a crazy mixed up cult that feeds on itself?
Whatever reservations you may have about the music (it at the very least
added a touch of genuine Indie to Glasto 2008) they are a uniquely scary and
amusing experience as a live music act. I cannot say I want to meet them,
but as they say across the pond, I will drink the cool-aid.