Brian Jonestown Massacre : London : July 2014: live review
July 1st 2014
From its humble beginnings as a railway repair shed in 1847 to its majestic cavernous intrigue, the Roundhouse has seen many changes over the years. From the 60’s onwards, this London venue has hosted some of music’s finest. The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Patti Smith, The Clash, Motorhead, Primal Scream.. to name but a few..
For the years leading up to 2000, its derelict appearance forced onlookers to wonder about its future, slowly becoming part of the forgotten history of London, and acting as merely a pin board for half torn fly posters.
But tonight, the Roundhouse stands in all its rejuvenated glory. There has been a buzz in the air for days, it’s sold out, and the touts are working double hard tonight as ticket holders drift past and shake their head knowingly in ‘no thanks..’
Tonight the music lovers have sprawled all across chalk farm road and into near by pubs on this beautiful summer’s evening waiting in anticipation…The band on everyone’s lips?? Brian Jonestown Massacre.
There is pre gig buzz, which is echoing all around this building tonight. In the past, this kind of anticipation has been born out of wanting to see what dramas /fights /outbursts happen onstage, but not tonight, Anton Newcombe is leading BJM into a new dawn and has been doing so for a long time now and he means business. Anton is possibly one of the hardest working, passionate, realest, take-no-shit people out there in music, and tonight he gets to know how just loved that work is. He and the band have earned every bit of the sold out space tonight.
In the main hall, people are gathering as the underground edgy space psych duo Vacant Lots are threatening to take the stage. I’m excited to see this band live, seeing as I’ve loved everything I’ve heard from them so far. Having already worked with the likes of Sonic Boom, (he has mixed the new album) and Alan Vega from the legendary Suicide, I’m finding it very intriguing.
The crowd, which is often a little sparse for support bands has filled out a lot already. Somehow the intense energy in the air seems to provide the perfect backdrop to VL’s electronic dreamscape, and it’s dragging people in. In my opinion The Roundhouse sounds totally amazing with its ungodly reverb when it is half empty.. I’m kind of glad that not everyone has arrived yet.
The VL have a short but sweet half an hour in which they have to dazzle us with. Quite a daunting task, considering the size of the place. This is the band’s first London gig, and they are supporting BJM for a weeks worth of UK gigs.
They arrive onstage amidst the distant drones of reverb and a dimly lit stage with flashes of electric blue. Its impressive yet understated. No words, just music.
They launch into ‘Never satisfied’ from their new album ‘Departure’. It’s a ferocious sound which has the audience streaming into the auditorium. They step up the energy with ‘Mad Mary Jones’ and any nerves they may be feeling have dissipated into the music. There are only two of them up there, but their sound fills the venue with lush prospect. Their artistic eye stretches to providing their own visuals to the shows, but I can’t help feeling that it would work so much better if they had the entire backdrop behind them as a canvas for projection instead of the small screen they have, but there is plenty of time for that I suspect.
Even though they are in the early strides of their career, the Roundhouse is almost the perfect venue for them because their sound is so vast and layered, and this kind of music needs just that amount of space.
Three tracks in and the crowd are sonically held hostage by ‘Paint this city’ a tormented lullaby of otherworldly nature. This is when the goose bumps creep over my skin. (Maybe it’s the insane amount of reverb, maybe it’s the history of the venue, maybe the sound man is having a particularly great night. Maybe they are just that good.) Its falls somewhere between early JAMC, Suicide and Velvet Underground.. especially with the track ‘make the connection’. There is absolutely an influence of spacemen 3 and spectrum and it’s there in lush abundance. That to me, is something to be celebrated indeed.
By this time, the crowd has increased 7 times over and they have captivated everyone with their unearthly bass which sounds like a distant cannon being shot somewhere. Jared’s vengeful vocal is coming on strong and ‘6am’ is total sonic annihilation. The fuzz pedal which kicks in (designed by Jared’s partner in crime Brian MacFayden) actually makes me go dizzy for a few seconds. It’s so good, Anton also uses it in his set up.
The two are stationary like Kraftwerk cut in half. They are cool and unassuming. They let the music do the talking. They appear and disappear like sonic ghosts in a midst of dissonant feedback, which seems to go on forever after they have left the stage. They are gone without a trace and I feel like I may have just imagined the whole thing. This was their first London show, man, what a way to start.
The crowd are more than ready for the onslaught of BJM, and so am I. I’m biased perhaps, I mean, I love this band, and I challenge anyone who is passionate about music not to like them. Anton has survived the industry and re-written the rules in a way that not many others have done. He chooses the right musicians and works fucking hard, and it shows.
They are coming towards then end of a 50 date back to back tour. A gig every single night. Now, for anyone in a band who have toured you know what that’s going to be like. Unless you are the Rolling Stones and you can afford the absolute best of everything, but its still hard graft. Most bands can lose the plot in the space of a week on the road. But BJM are taking no prisoners tonight. They have been smashing it at gigs on this run.
They started back in May where they headlined Austin Psych fest. Coming together again after not having played for about two years or so since the release of Aufheben. Another superb album by the way. This time they are back with ‘Revelation’ . If anyone reading this doesn’t own a copy, I suggest you address that. Incidentally, I went back to buy a vinyl copy of the album at the merch stall after the gig and they had all sold out. That’s one for vinyl and one for BJM. Double score.
As the lights go down on a packed out Roundhouse, the crowd’s roar seems to come from beneath the belly of the building itself. In darkness, the band approach the stage and the roars become screams and cheers, as the audience are drenched in blood red light.
A cool calm Anton greats the crowd and they hit us between the eyes with the glorious ‘Whoever you are’ from the 1997 album Give it back!. He’s won us over already.
I’m blown away by how great this band are sounding. Make no mistakes, BJM are possibly the best they have ever been. Ask anyone who has seen them live recently. Two songs in and people are being dragged out of the crowd already. For a band who were known in the past for their unpredictable stage antics, now its more the audience who are gong the be the volatile ones. But really, It’s all out of love. Everybody is here tonight because the LOVE this band. Seeing the bodies rise and drop over strangers heads, feet in faces, and people reaching for water from the vacuum packed crowd at the front ,to the soundtrack of ‘Who?’ is what you want from a gig. Well, its what I want.
The tracks from the new album ‘Revelation’ are sprinkled all throughout the set, and they sound utterly gorgeous live. They head straight into ‘What you Isn’t’. A beautiful and triumphant piece of BJM magic. Anton has that rare ability to take a melody and keep it simple but make it sound like there are a million other different things goin on. Layers on top of layers. He knows how to be the architect of his own musical landscape.
As the new songs merge with the more tried and tested material, there is a seamless energy onstage which is growing. I’m starting to hope there will be a live version of this album.
Despite being on such a relentless tour, including TV and radio promotion, and djing after gigs, Anton and the band sound immense. There’s no sign of stress or tiredness in anyone’s playing or voice.
It’s hard to find a band who melt all their influences in to one unit quite like BJM. Last year saw a whole load of newbies flying the ‘psych’ flag, but it feels like the pros are back in town once again.
They steam on into ‘Got my eye on you’, and what hits me is the bass drum of Dan Allaire. He is a real powerhouse of a drummer. His tribal energy is bouncing off of every flat surface in the building. Just the suggestion of Joel approaching the mic sends the crowd loopy, like an old friend had come back from being away for years. Joel is one of the sweetest guys you could meet and his presence on stage adds something that other bands don’t have.
Anton approaches the front monitor causing more hysteria in the front rows, asking the crowd if they like his boots.. (a fine pair of David Preston designed Regents)
They launch into ‘There’s a war goin on’ and the huge human domino effect in the crowd is hard not to watch from where I’m standing. It sounds epic. Soaring guitar and dreamy synth coat this anger drenched track which fills every corner of the auditorium.
The set is the perfect mix of old and new , strong and soft, rage and delicacy. ‘Goodbye (butterfly)’ has that timeless beautiful feel to it, always travelling, with a hypnotic krautrock tinge which builds and builds. Then comes the blissful anthem ‘Anenome’. Within one bar of the song, the audience have let rip a rapturous cry as the band continue. This song has seen many guest vocals in live performances, one of my favorites being Aimee Nash of Black Ryder, but this time Anton is taking charge, and it sounds perfect. That blissful transcendent sound is continued with ‘Days ,Weeks, Months’ from the new album.
Every member of the band is on form. Admittedly, Anton wasn’t too overwhelmed with the early gigs, which kicked off the tour, but all bands find their stride when it comes to gigging this intensely. Seems to me they found it pretty damn early into the shows. I saw them in LA a few weeks ago, and they were superb then too.
The band break out the classic ‘Not if you were the last dandy on earth’ as bodies surge against the poor bastards in the very front row. Maybe this change of pace could explain why a whole bunch of knickers and bras have been thrown on stage, albeit with a few other items. But all hell is breaking loose in the mosh pit, at which point Anton takes a moment to tell people to “stop fucking throwing stuff… it’s fucking stupid…’ …’If you see anyone about to throw shit on stage just punch them in the fucking head’ . I breathe out a sigh of relief that the killer instinct is still there in abundance in Anton. He’s had enough shit thrown onstage at gigs and a whole load more over the years that he can say, ….‘you know what?, fuck you if you didn’t come here to see the gig. Fuck you if you wanna throw your shit, go do it somewhere else’.. my words not his. I have total respect for the man.
After a few more songs, the guys leave the stage against a wall of out of control screams and yelps… they are done, but not quite yet. Everybody knows that they are going to honor us with an encore, and man, do they do that.
The band have brought on the Swedish musician Joachim Alhund who sings a fierce and soaring vocal on the opening track of ‘Revelation’ . ‘Vad Hande Med Dem?’ has the crowd going nuts.. and what’s more, the band seem to be having just as much of a great time as the people watching. They close with the track ‘Jennifer’ and the echoes of clapping and cheering go on for what seems like ages after the band are long gone. It’s not even over for Anton, as he grabs his stash of vinyl and heads down to another Camden venue to DJ with musical comrades Little Barrie. His tireless energy is contagious, and you just can’t help but love this band.
BJM right now, really are a Revelation.
BJM set list:
Whoever you are
What you isn’t
Food for clouds
Got my eye on you
Prozac vs heroin
theres a war goin on
devil may care
no come down
never the less
not if u were the last dandy on earth
days weeks months
this is why you love me
that girl suicide
Stairway to the best party in the universe
Whatever happened to them/ vad hande med dem?
David Bowie I love you
You have been Disconnected
BJM are: Anton Newcombe, Collin Hegna, Dan Allaire, Matt Hollywood, Frankie Emerson, Joel Gion and Ricky Mayami.
Vacant Lots set list:
Mad mary jones
Paint this city
Make the connection
Vacant Lots are: Jared Artaud / Brian MacFayden