Live Review, 5/11/12: Brian Jonestown Massacre Returns to the Fillmore, Attitude and All

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Brian Jonestown Massacre
The Blue Angel Lounge
Friday, May 11, 2012
The Fillmore

Better than: An MTV reality show reunion special.

It's been eight years since documentary Dig! became our generation's Gimme Shelter. A violent ride about the rise of bands the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, Dig! is a shadow both groups have been crawling out from under ever since.

The bands' respective frontmen, Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor-Taylor, have both renounced the film, in which they fight like spoiled children over artistic achievements, fame, and piles of cocaine. It's a low-budget reality show with an R rating, and Newcombe suffers the worst of it, ending up depicted as a drug-fueled madman and deadbeat musician. At Friday's sold-out show at the Fillmore, Newcombe continued to suffer, but gratefully, the music hasn't.

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Since we're unlikely to see a post-Dig! "where are they now" reunion special, complete with chair throwing and fist fights, I'll return to the Fillmore on Wednesday for the Dandy Warhols' performance and tell you how they sound now.

By the end of Dig!, it feels like Newcombe and the Brian Jonestown Massacre are over. Four albums and three EPs later, with most core members back in the band including Matt Hollywood, the buzz of the Fillmore show was Newcombe's sobriety.

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The set began with a sedate Newcombe sitting and playing guitar in the darkness of stage left, making light and friendly banter between songs -- so light and so friendly that a longtime fan standing next to me exclaimed: "Oh god, he is sober." That tone didn't last long. By the middle of the set, with the band jamming loud and loose, Newcombe rose from his chair and grabbed the mic, drunk off his own music and ready to rant.

"I remember being in this very room talking about Third Eye Blind. Yeah, I loved their 15th album. At least the Dandys are still making records. All these new bands say yeah, put me on Saturday Night Live. I don't want to see some dumb bitch singing about video games. She might as well write a song about doing laundry. At least I can relate to that."

He then moved from his distaste for Lana Del Rey to America itself, which he left for Berlin in 2007.

"I don't even live in your fucking country anymore. It's a fucking police state."

Still, the band that revived the city's psychedelic sound when it formed in 1990 seemed happy to be home -- at least until Newcombe began yelling at the sound engineer, the mixer, and the Fillmore itself. 

"You want to be a dick tonight? We're supposed to be at a world class, professional venue... fuck you."

The crowd cheered, like this was what they came to see, and the other band members ignored Newcombe, wiping the sweat from their foreheads and looking bored with this final and most contrived-seeming outburst. After another few frenetic rock songs, Newcombe settled down, as did the two-hour set, and the band went back into the cerebral instrumental songs found on its latest album, Aufheben.

Newcombe could have delivered an equally rousing set, if not better, had he remained in the shadows of the stage, his mouth coupled up to a harmonica. The sorrow and anger that made him an addict clearly still haunt him, and so too does the persona we saw in Dig!.

Critic's Notebook

Overheard: "I hear Anton's been sober for the longest ever."

Random detail: Kudos to the woman who managed to jump on stage in the middle of the set. I don't know how she had the energy or arm strength to do it.

New term: I'm told "aging hipster" isn't nice and we need another term. Middle aged hipster = Midster?

See also: * The Dandy Warhols Shut Up and Play the Hits at the Fillmore
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Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Whitney Phaneuf @Whitney_writer, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.

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The Fillmore

1805 Geary, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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2 comments
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Savage
Savage

The article's author obviously doesn't know what she is talking about. As stated below, it was Matt Hollywood, not Anton Newcombe. I hate writers who pretend to know about the bands. Phaneuf's transparency is evident here (as well as all her articles).

Srahmer
Srahmer

Matt Hollywood was the one who was ranting....Anton was pretty quiet.

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