Familiar yet compellingly innovative assaults of 60s rock ’n’ roll and a revolutionary frontman have given The Brian Jonestown Massacre a reputation as one of the most iconic anti conventional bands of the past 30 years. Across 20 plus albums, Anton Newcombe and the band have produced mesmerising, fuzzed up soundscapes which seep into your psyche and I can’t think of another band who can do as much with one or two chords.
Notorious live shows and having next to no idea what to expect means tonight is slightly more exciting than a usual sell-out gig. After a “Welcome to Manchester” and quick chat with Anton I enter Manchester’s Ritz and it’s one of those nights where everyone who has a ticket to a sell-out gig has turned up. It’s heaving. Sadly, I miss magician, The Magic Mod before second support, The Soundcarriers take to the stage.
I’ve wanted to see The Soundcarriers for a while now and I know Jack from Deja Vega is gutted he can’t see them tonight. The Nottingham quartets set is eclectically drenched in 60s-influenced psychedelic pop, folk and lounge music. It’s an amazing set reminiscent of the same influences as Kit Sebastian or Vanishing Twin. I’m told the band have returned from a break and from tonight’s performance it’s a great decision that they are back. Songs such as ‘Lowlight’, ‘Let it ride’ and ‘So beguiled’ are just stunning and The Soundcarriers are a band I just must see again.
There’s no ceremony as the Bay Area headliners arrive on the stage where there are many more guitars than there are band members. Considering there’s a lot in the band that’s a lot of guitars. As always Anton, wearing denim, beads and a wide-brimmed fedora, takes his usual place at the side of stage leaving mutton-chopped tambourine player Joel Gion centre stage. Bassist Collin Hegna, guitarists Ricky Maymi and Hákon Aðalsteinsson and keyboardist/guitarist Ryan Van Kriedt make up the rest of the band.
It’s a wide-ranging compact crowd in the Ritz and as the band launch into first track ‘#1 Lucky Kitty‘ from 2022’s Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees they surge forward to the barrier behind me during the repeating, rotating, 12 string chord sequences and Anton’s balladeer vocals. Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees lead single ‘The Real‘ follows. Its otherworldly guitars and drums perfect before the smoky, gentle introduction to ‘Fudge’ slow the pace, the three blissful 12 string guitars build before Anton’s warm fuzz Vox 12 string solo appears to free the crowd’s mind. The mass of instruments buried deep in ‘Wait A Minute (2.30 To Be Exact)‘ all finding space, is just exquisite and as the floating guitar riff and ethereal Madchester loop of fan favourite ‘Pish’ resonates around the heaving crowd they cheer and raise their hands in their air
Stage banter is minimal between songs and the band’s multitude of musicians vary their instruments throughout. There are gaps between songs whilst Anton tunes guitars, a song was restarted and Anton wasn’t happy with feedback at one point, but there’s no onstage arguments tonight, just a breath-taking level of quality. Joel is a captivating presence onstage and Anton’s on-stage demeanour is, as always interesting and engaging to witness.
The surging march of ‘Your Mind is my Café’, the Velvet Undergroundesque, ‘The Mother of All Fuckers‘ and the menacing snarling ‘60s psychedelia on ‘You Think I’m Joking?‘ balance the set astonishingly, which for such a prolific writer is no easy task. The exquisite flapping of electric and acoustic guitars on ‘Nightbird‘ slows the pace, before the crowd erupts in cheers as the first droning note of ‘Anemone’ chimes out. The melody of the song at its swirling and drenched best tonight, adrift, lonely and peaceful, yet sounding like an impending thunderstorm. The chorus inducing the audience to stab the air and sing. It’s the best received song of the night so far and deservedly so. It doesn’t get better than this.
As the show ends, I think how compelling tonight has been and how many in the crowd are completely transfixed by the mesmerising, swirling guitars, rolling rhythms and swirls of distorting rhythms Anton wants them to listen to. Anton and The Brian Jones Town Massacre are genuinely one of the most intensely, interesting bands you’re likely to see or hear and remain a radical force within today’s music. Just don’t tell everyone as it’s our secret.
Anton Newcombe – Vocals, Guitars
Ricky Maymi – Guitar (formerly drums & bass).
Hákon Aðalsteinsson – Guitars
Collin Hegna – Bass
Ryan Van Kriedt – Keyboards/Guitars
Uri Rennert – Drums
Joel Gion – Tambourine
1/ #1 Lucky Kitty
2/ The Real
4/ Do Rainbows Have Ends
5/ Wait A Minute (2.30 To Be Exact)
7/ Your Mind Is My Café
8/ Don’t Let Me Get in Your Way
9/ You Think I’m Joking?
10/ Forgotten Graves
11/ The Mother of All Fuckers
14/ The Future Is Your Past
18/ A Word
19/ Abandon Ship
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I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)