We arrive at the Leadmill at 7.20, the doors open in 10 minutes time and a few of the hardcore fans are already outside, lining up for the drug-fuelled rock ‘n’ rollers, Brian Jonestown Massacre to wow them from their very crowded stage. Last time I saw them (which was also the first time I’d witnessed one of their famous live shows), they played for 3 hours, had a heated argument between most songs, Anton Newcombe the troubled creative genius of the band argued with the crowd, and each song with the slightest error was repeated to strive for live perfection. We expect the very same entertainment tonight in Sheffield. “We’ve heard people in Leeds say you guys can’t do rock n roll … I know differently… you are rock n roll Sheffield!” Joel Gion steps off the tour bus followed shortly after by Anton, their swagger into the Leadmill tells the early arrivals in the queue that they’re up for this one! Time for a quick drink up the road before URF, who are supporting BJM, take to the stage.
URF are well suited to supporting Brian Jonestown Massacre, lots of big hair, psych rock and a synth player that has centre stage with some mega dark looks, and wet slicked hair. They play through their 30 minute slot excited to be in town, “This is our first time playing Sheffield… we’re nervous as fuck!” The nerves didn’t show and the band sound great. Similar characteristics to BJM with pounding bass, jangle guitar and the addition of an amazing vocal! That woman can command a stage and rock the guitar at the same time. I saw them in the crowd during BJM later and they probably cant believe their luck playing along side one of the biggest drug rock psych experts in the world, BJM. ‘For the Ride’, Their Debut EP is out now, there’s a few hundred people from Sheffield looking out for that one!
They’re referred to as the biggest 60’s revival band since the 60’s and are fully authentic. BJM fronted by, Anton Newcombe have been knocking out album after album since the late 90’s, if you want an insight into where they’re from check out ‘DIG!’ on youtube. It’s 1hr 46mins of pure BJM along side their sponsors in the music industry, A&R and their long time recording buddies The Dandy Warhols, well worth watching.
Anton swaggers to the stage, wearing a deerstalker, parka (underneath he has a white TSHirt that says ‘Eat Shit.’ in huge red letters), filming the band and then the crowd to a rapture of cheers and applause. Joel has his trademark grin on his face and his eyes ready for the performance are nearly bigger than his sideburns. Anton stands off to the side and Joel centre stage ready for percussion duties. There’s a tension to the band, those new to the BJM stand almost look nervous due to Anton’s pursuit of perfection and that shows half way through the set, “I’m driving this car and you’re in the baby seat! You dig?!” Just one of the instructions Anton comfortably dishes out to uncomfortable receivers. He doesn’t care, it’s his world, those along for the ride know what he’s like if they don’t like it (and many have had enough in the past) they can move along.
Joel has a presence on the stage as Anton’s pacifier, friend, psuedo arch enemy and beat master. He’s glued to the spot with his rhythm and occasional vocal being a clear backbone to the band as a founding member and the rest of the band are surrounding them with 9 members on there at one point. It’s a massive sound!
The songs come from PISH, Anemone, Forgotten Dreams and each of the tracks has at least a 30 second – 2 minute setup time before the song starts, this setup is all part of Anton’s zero-tolerance of mistakes, and imperfections. “I need to make sure the reverb is right on this before we begin. I was high for the entirety of this album and I want this guitar to sound like drugs.” Anton oozes pride with his music and they’ve never held back in the amount of mind expansion over the years, “Oh yeah a bit of advice, if you’re high when recording make sure you’re sound engineer understands drugs, my sound engineer on this album was straight and trying to explain the sound to him was impossible. Someone who has never done drugs should not try and mix an album that has been recorded when high. It’s like asking a square to contemplate the shape of a pineapple” The crowd laugh with admiration for his honesty, wit and amazement for the music, Anton strums his guitar and checks in with those on stage who all clearly understand drugs, “Does that sound like drugs to you?”
Anemone receives a huge cheer right from the first note and tambourine, and it’s favourite of mine and most of the crowd, with a few crowd surfing as a way of showing appreciation and it seems like each guitar hook is held slight as if to draw the crowd in even more. BJM are amazing performers, naturally delivering on their terms, there’s no perceived fakeness and they are stronger together, although Anton’s volatility has nearly left him going it alone a few times I’m sure. The band wait for Anton, are lead by Anton and also lead Anton “it’s 23 past… what do you want me to do?!” – this is marking the end of the night and the band curfew was 23 minutes ago, the rest of the band are looking at him and probably wanting to suggest what happens next, they hold back and let him do what he wants. A way into ’23 past’ the feedback continues and Anton jumps onto the drums continuing the feedback into an improvised extension to the set with drums and synths, more reverb and further entertaining the remaining crowd.
This is the second time I’ve seen them and it was twice as good as the first, I’m still playing catch up on lots of their music and I’m looking forward to the next live BJM experience.