The first of three nights on the south coast
Five guitarists, a bassist, a keyboardist, a drummer, a sound guy and a guitar tech walk into a packed bar. If you think the punchline to that joke is likely to be humourless, misogynistic and self centred, you’d be completely right. Despite selling out three consecutive nights, this early in the new year, it appears the members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre just don’t care much about trying to please their audiences. They didn’t seem to have done any kind of soundchecking beforehand, instead giving the stage over to a tedious magician stuck in the ’90s. What started badly rapidly descended into near disaster.
Frontman Anton Newcombe’s reputation for eccentricity and perfectionism both precedes and defeats him. And so when he starts things off with an excessively long dry story about finding a stetson hat in Berlin, we indulge him. Because expectation is naturally high that we are in for someone wonderful. As the sleep inducing tale continues, he sneeringly mocks the crowd’s apathy, saying “tough room”. It’s the first of many occasions when he will angrily lambast us for ‘giving him shit’ or scream “No requests” in a petulant child’s voice, all while he spends what appears to be half the show trying to tune up.
Quite why every single song had to be played on a slightly different teardrop shaped guitar in a barely noticeable new colourway is frankly quizzical. Why could he not just find the one model that works and build up a vibe and sustain it? It’s charming and cute when someone like Chan Marshall shyly trips up through nervous anxiety about honouring a song, but it’s less endearing when we have to witness a band member berated because their playing is pitchy and trebly, or stay standing through anecdotes about the struggle you face maintaining long hair when you’ve reached middle age. We just wanted some rock ‘n’ roll music.
If only you could say that when they finally did manage to get a song going it sounded as psychedelic and drugged out as you’d hoped for. At best, they evoked Kula Shaker going through a messy divorce. At least that band could write a decent melody or pull off a cover version if the situation called for it. Let’s just say if anyone decided to record the soundboard for tonight’s mess, it’s not gonna go down in history as the next Live at Leeds or Concert For Bangladesh any time soon.
At one point, one of the guitar players closest to Newcombe does the ‘raised eyebrows, bulging eyes, hand cutting across his throat‘ signal behind his boss’s back, indicating that the pissed off masses shouldn’t bait their glorious leader as he’s already teetering close to the edge of insanity. That musician probably just wanted to keep his job, so he wilfully guzzled down the Kool-aid, but a large swathe of the rest of us lost our thirst and walked away disappointed.