At Richard's on Richards on Saturday, September 10
Considering the paltry turnout for the Brian Jonestown Massacre's May 2003 gig at Pat's Pub, it's safe to say that singer-songwriter Anton Newcombe's newfound popularity can be attributed to the much- ballyhooed 2004 documentary DiG! The cult hit-which contrasts BJM with the considerably more successful Dandy Warhols-is definitely bringing out the curiosity seekers these days, most of them attracted by the frontman's notoriously erratic behaviour. Saturday's show was sold out for weeks, which didn't stop a long line of ticketless hopefuls from queuing up in front of Richard's on Richards. Inside, it felt like a majority of the hyped-up crowd was there strictly for the freak-show factor.
Unfortunately, they ended up having to wait for what had been promised as a two-plus-hours "evening with the Brian Jonestown Massacre". The group, apparently, had been delayed, thanks to an overturned fish truck on the highway. Did this foreshadow the train wreck to come?
BJM finally arrived through the club's back door, set up quickly, and then got right to it with no soundcheck. Living up to expectations, Newcombe looked shit-faced. As the collegiate audience lit up, the five-piece kicked into one of its trademark, mid-tempo, '60s-inspired dirges. There's no denying that Newcombe can walk the rock 'n' roll walk. Even though he's been a drug-and-alcohol-addled mess for years, he's still got the look and attitude of a street-fighting man.
The show didn't take long to go weird. One bespectacled audience member walked on stage with a couple of drinks and proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes dancing like a sloppy Austin Powers. But the real madness was just ahead. As guitarist Ricky Rene Maymi tuned up his 12-string, a quick verbal altercation between Newcombe and a moronic audience member quickly escalated into a 10-minute booze-fuelled slurfest.
The trouble started when someone in the crowd yelled "Cocksucker!" This caused Newcombe to go on a rant that started with: "Aw, you call me a cocksucker, but I'll be fucking your girlfriend tonight. I'm a guest in your country. Fuck you! Is that how you treat your fucking guests? Come on up here and call me fucking cocksucker. I'll take you across the border and fucking wring your neck! I'm not joking. Come on up."
The offer was not accepted.
Just when it looked like the night was headed south, something magical happened. Drummer Daniel Allaire and bassist Colin Hegna started kicking out a funky groove. Turning back to the business of making music, Newcombe dropped to his knees and began chanting in tongues. Over the next half-hour, the Brian Jonestown Massacre would create a beautiful, continuous wall of sound, one which saw band members switch up instruments mid-song and the audience gradually become transfixed. It was a perfect rock 'n' roll moment.
Let's just hope that the next time the BJM come to town, it's on the merits of the magical holy racket that concluded this night, rather than freak-show hype.