Photos (c) Stephanie Third
Among the crowd filing into the Anson Rooms to watch the The Brian Jonestown Massacre on a humid July night, we overhear a voice reminiscing about a 2010 gig in Birmingham. “They played for five hours,” it insists. “It was mental.” So we’re not sure what we’re in for as we head towards the stage, where Vermont two-piece The Vacant Lots are warming up with a little psych-rock.
As Anton Newcombe and his pool of BJM musicians take to the stage in front of the hot, sweaty, sell-out crowd, I’m surprised to see they have a total of five guitarists – and as they thrum into ‘Whoever You Are’, I begin to wonder why all bands don’t.
Anton is eyes left rather than centre stage – I guess that would be too obvious? Instead, the focus is more on Joel Gion’s tambourine playing, and fair enough – it’s a constant cornerstone of the BJM sound, anchoring the songs as much as Dan Allaire’s drumming.
The neo-psych ‘Who?’ follows – its distinctive whooping intro sung by all, mic sharing at the front of the stage – and a pretty 90’s-based set including ‘Not If You Were The Last Dandy on Earth’, ‘Servo’ and ‘Devil May Care’ (Mum and Dad Won’t). It’s nice to see Matt and Anton on stage together again and appearing to get along – although a bit of banter wouldn’t go amiss.
To quote Girls Aloud, it’s the sound of the underground – still standing the test of time and travelling well in the Anson Rooms. Perhaps better than it would have at original venue The Fleece. With plaintive San Franciscan vocals chiming over flawless sound, two hours (five would probably be suicide in this heat) of quality material fly by.
There’s no blatant peak (or trough, happily) during the set – it’s kind of just consistently excellent. If anything, it’s the trippy, fey ‘Anemone’ – apparently everybody else’s favourite track too, by the reaction. Yet the BJM are really a band to listen to rather than watch – and not because of any dishevelled mugs, which aren’t without their charms – but because you almost need to close your eyes to appreciate the layers.
And there’s no sign of any huge hubris either – Anton’s a teetotal stay-at-home dad these days y’know – so in case you were wondering, the only thing that hits the audience is the rich wall of sound emanating from the stage.
It’s cool, calm, accomplished and cohesive – a show you shouldn’t have missed.
Check out ‘Servo’ right here: