Brian Jonestown Massacre

with Black Cab

Those who entered the Hi-Fi bar on a balmy Melbourne night to see the Brian Jonestown Massacre were privy to everything that is enthralling and ultimately frustrating about this band.


With a reputation for on stage volatility, almost always initiated by megalomaniacal front man Anton Newcombe, the room was filled with a sense of nervous anticipation that few other bands elicit.


Before taking the stage, however, the night was opened by Melbourne locals Black Cab. Still riding on the high of their critically praised third album, Call Signs the band played to a dense early crowd.


A personal fan of their records I was looking forward to the set and have to say I was slightly disappointed. Moments that felt poignant and arresting on the latest album translated as a little repetitive on-stage.


The members were intense and subdued during the set, offering the crowd only fleeting moments of interaction. That said there were still instances to be enjoyed, such as an excellent rendition of ‘Hearts on Fire'.


After a long (I mean long) break the BJM took the stage to one of the most rousing cheers I've heard at this venue. Few bands can rival them in terms of sheer cult status.


They started in reasonably conventional manner, playing some favorites from earlier albums. Apart from a brief welcome from percussionist Joel Gion, they appeared scarcely aware there was even an audience in the room.


Then the wheels came off.


Whether purely for show, or to live up to their documentary inspired cliché, small arguments began on-stage.


After each song, Newcombe was sure to highlight any mistakes other members had made. A small committee meeting was held after each track to discuss what would be played next and at times the members were left awkwardly stranded by the lead singer's intermittent backstage disappearances.


While not unexpected, the fragmented set was disappointing as when the band managed to shut up and play they sounded fucking great.


Favourites such as ‘When Jokers Attack', ‘Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth' and ‘Going to Hell' were met with unbridled enthusiasm from an energetic crowd.


During one of the frequent disagreements guitarist Matt Hollywood questioned his fellow band mates, "How can you guys do this shit when there are so many people here having fun?"


This came as response to Newcombe belittling a band member who, "Parks cars for a living" to which the guitarist responded, "It's because I don't make enough money in this shitty band."


While they were on-stage for over an hour and forty-five minutes and played a good number of excellent tunes from their extensive back catalogue, I think many people left the Hi-Fi with a bitter taste in their mouths.


It is the story of the Brian Jonestown Massacre to see glimpses of absolute brilliance hidden within large bouts of disorder and tonight was certainly no different.

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