"Alone, even doing nothing, you do not waste your time. You do, almost always, in company. No encounter with yourself can be altogether sterile: Something necessarily emerges, even if only the hope of some day meeting yourself again." (E.M. Cioran)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Keeping Music Evil - The Brian Jonestown Massacre at The Factory (Thurs 28th Aug)

Anything could’ve happened at this gig - or not happened. Newcomers to the band may be forgiven for focusing on front man/songwriter Anton Newcombe’s reputation as a kind of unhinged, drug-addled genius - especially those who arrived at the music via Ondi Timoner’s (albeit fascinating) 2004 documentary DIG - or dismiss him as a mimic. Whatever way you figure it, one thing's for sure. This is sublimely cool music.
In a career spanning back to around 1990, the band has accrued an impressively large catalogue of releases, featuring a sound that suggests '60s and '70s psychedelia. Think early Stones, The Who, The Byrds and, at times, even The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. But the sound is their own and, despite any points of reference, sounds fresh and relevant now as I'm sure it will be in many years to come.

This was the first of two Sydney gigs and an all-ages one. It was Anton's birthday. The 7 band members played for over two hours, with Anton talking and free-associating between songs to the audience and introducing band members. At times, Anton even heckled. We sung 'Happy Birthday' and band members (though not all of them) became progressively wasted, as they passed a bottle of something hard-looking between each other during these breaks. In a recent interview, Anton said that they just like to get drunk and see what happens. I really appreciate that from a music group - the creative, in-the-now approach to playing live (however achieved) - rather than just delivering a perfect set every time - introducing that level of chaos and uncertainty. They seemed to focus on playing their all-out epic, killer songs, including personal favourites from the several BJM cds I own. Somehow, I was transported. It was almost like an out-of-body experience, which lasted for over two blissful hours. I felt like I was being cradled in the arms of long-lost soulmates - in heaven. As if I'd been reunited with my true family, after a lifetime of being alone. Apparently, I was dancing, but I was only aware of the music and of my friend standing close behind me as I kind of floated through the hours. And no, I wasn't intoxicated!

Wonderful playing, but it never lost its rawness and became slick. At times, it actually felt like it could just fall apart, like all the best rock 'n' roll music does. Tambourine man, Joel Gion, serves as a sort of anchor to the music - always beating perfect time and stoically cool in expression, but about midway through songs, I noticed his mouth would have worked its way to being slightly open, with a euphoric smile plastered over it.

A transcendent experience.

Photo credits: Lori Baily

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