Saturday night was my first time having the distinct pleasure of seeing the Brian Jonestown Massacre live and the wait was more than worth it. Everyone familiar with the Anton Newcombe-led group knows the stories. We’ve all ended more than a few drunken nights by popping DiG! into the DVD player to watch Anton duke it out with fans and band members alike. Despite all of these things, all that matters to most of us is the music. Anton’s music is undeniably excellent.
So finally, when the announcement was made that they were coming to Chicago, I bought my ticket immediately. It was a typical spring night in my hometown; that is to say it was about 35 degrees and raining. I arrived in time to see the opening band, Flavor Crystals, leave the stage. As the intermission carried on we heard typical in-between-set music until blaring from the speakers came Human League’s Keep Feeling (Fascination). We all started moving (the drinks had been flowing, loosening our inhibitions) because it came out of nowhere. I certainly did not expect to hear loud 80′s synth pop to come on at a BJM show, but it was a great start to the night.
Finally, the band came out and I simply could not get over the fact that I was in the same general area as Anton Newcombe, Matt Hollywood and the untouchable Joel Gion. They were all together on stage at the same time. Before I knew it they had launched into Whoever You Are, which starts off with one of the grooviest bass lines you’ll ever hear. I have an extra amount of love for this song (along with Servo) because I can actually play them on my guitar. Not much of a feat but I’m pretty proud of myself.
One of the big negatives was the venue itself, and here’s why: the spot that we were standing smelled awful. I could have sworn that an invisible person was alternating between vomiting on themselves and shitting their pants for a good 40 minutes. At one point I turned around to see a Metro employee standing behind me. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Hey man, do you fucking smell that?
Guy With Arms Folded: Yep.
Me: Is this normal?
With that mystery out of the way, we tried our best to enjoy the show and ignore the rancid stench that could have come from any number of places. My guess is that the Metro is built on top of some kind of nuclear vomit bomb that happened to get a little fussy that night. Maybe it was the rain, I don’t know.
Regardless of the extra-curricular stank, the Brian Jonestown Massacre was nothing short of what I could have hoped for. They played for right around 3 hours – and usually when a band plays that long, my legs get tired and my feet hurt. Soon all I can think about is lower body pain. Not on this night. We were dancing like idiots as song after song was played. It was two hours before someone in front of me pulled out their cell phone and I happened to catch the time.
Amongst the classic songs they played for us (Who?, Anemone, That Girl Suicide) was a song that Anton announced as Icelandic. Then a loud, driving drum beat came out of nowhere as five musicians left the stage. The drummer came in top of the beat and pounded the crash with a maraca of all things as Anton started howling obscenities over the music. On a night where all of the songs were guitar based rock, this song didn’t seem to make sense at all – and yet it fit in perfectly. It was one of the highlights of my night.
The show ended with an epic version of Swallowtail, which is one of my all-time personal favorites. The band left the stage to the loud feedback from Anton’s guitar. We all stayed until the lights came on. After three hours we still wanted more. Instead, we had to settle for filing out of the Metro drunk and happy into the cold spring rain.