Real Live Action

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

w/ --

Commodore Ballroom; May 23, 2016

Lili Watson
Photo Courtesy Of
Timbre Concerts

The coolest girl I knew in high school had a Brian Jonestown Massacre logo sewn onto the back of her denim jacket. Walking into the Commodore Ballroom on Monday night, I was once again surrounded by flashes of that iconic cool black and white shag haircut peeking through leather jackets or hot pressed onto canvas bags.

The venue was particularly humid and as I maneuvered my way towards the stage with a beer in hand, I acknowledged the nervous pit of excitement in my stomach that comes from being in attendance of a sold out show. There was a certain anticipation in the air that is reserved for the kinds of people that are getting to see a band they’ve been following for most of their lives.

Nestling between two twenty-something’s fresh from Big Sur and one couple in their late thirties, I settled in for the wait only to find that the band was surprisingly punctual. Walking onto the stage at 9:30 sharp, frontman and known stage scrapper Anton Newcombe led the seven-piece band looking a bit like a cult leader himself, wearing a linen suit with multiple beaded necklaces draping his chest. Not leaving too much space for conversation or an opening act, The Brian Jonestown Massacre slipped right into their set, with the classic bluesy Gretsch riffs that cast Newcombe in somewhat of a Neil Young, messiah-like light.

The crowd was chatty as I anticipated and I feared the set would devolve into a reunion with a soundtrack but just as the thought struck my brain, the bass began to fill the room from the ground up, sucking out the oxygen and creating a wall of fuzz that drowned out any of my previous concerns. Brian Jonestown Massacre was well and alive and ready to play.

Ripping through a marathon set of almost three and a half hours, the band shelled out crowd favourite’s like “Who,” with high energy and managed to keep it up for the universally successful “Anemone,” though I’m sure they’ve played it too many times to count. Despite many shouts from the crowd to play this or that, Newcombe maintained his cool, casually stating, “I don’t take requests, Spotify takes requests.” No one was let down on the request-front with a set of that length, which included the psychedelic-forward number “Pish,” with Newcombe’s wife and master documenter of the band, Katy Lane stepping up on vocals.

It was clear nobody wanted the evening to end but they closed the show with the same finesse as all their tunes: one by one the band members left the stage, saying their thanks and just as slow as the burn started, it went out all at once, leaving a satisfied room of cool kids.