The Brian Jonestown Massacre at Turner Hall
The psych-rock band played on (and on and on) Friday night
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Could somebody stop by Turner Hall and see if The Brian Jonestown Massacre has stopped playing yet? The hard-livin’ ’60s revivalists played a marathon three-hour set on Friday night that tested the audience’s endurance for mid-tempo three-chord rockers and Velvet Underground-inspired drone. Some fans left feeling like they just saw one of the best concerts of their lives; others were probably just wishing for a warm bed.
Sadly, I have to cop to being in the latter camp. I know, I know—I’m totally lame, man. But I’ve never subscribed to the theory that quantity equals quality when it comes to a rock show. I saw Minneapolis post-punk band The Blind Shake play an earth-shattering 20-minute set at Sugar Maple last month, and there’s no way that show would have been better if it were longer. Think of it this way: Even if you really love cheeseburgers, would you want to eat 10 of them in one meal?
If BJM had played for 90 minutes, I’d probably be calling the band’s leader and only regular member Anton Newcombe the reincarnation of Jesus Christ right about now. Coming out with an eight-person lineup—including four (!) guitarists—the band was shockingly tight, delivering powerfully concise performances of many of Newcombe’s greatest songs: “When Jokers Attack,” “Anemone,” “Servo,” “Nevertheless,” and “That Girl Suicide,” among others. Any fears that the band would lean too heavily on last year’s mediocre My Bloody Underground were quickly put to rest as Newcombe led the band through the BJM setlist of many fans’ dreams.
Even better was seeing prodigal members Matt Hollywood and Joel Gion back in the fold, which made this version of BJM seem more legitimate than the hired guns Newcombe has toured with in recent years. Amid the sea of dour-looking dudes who have come in and out of BJM, Hollywood and Gion are the only members to challenge Newcombe for the spotlight.
Hearing Hollywood tear through signature songs like “Oh Lord” and “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth” was an unexpected treat. Although, “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth” would have been a perfect set closer. But the band played on, and on, and on, and the energy eventually started to dwindle. If Newcombe was trying to prove something by playing for so long, he proved it earlier in the set, and he undermined himself by stretching his one-dimensional formula to the breaking point. But on a night when this notoriously ill-behaved band kept its most self-destructive impulses in check—sorry, no onstage brawls—perhaps an overdose of music should be considered a necessary evil.