Review: Brian Jonestown Massacre at Astor Theatre
Brian Jonestown Massacre at Astor Theatre
w/ Humble Armada
Monday, November 13, 2023
Returning down under for the first time since 2019, The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Monday night gig at the Astor Theatre was an absolute shemozzle as Captain Anton Newcombe and his fellow buccaneers steered the good ship BJM right into the rocks. While the BJM has weathered a multitude of storms over nearly three decades at sea, this in no respect means they have become more adept at avoiding choppy waters, and Monday night’s gig showed just how close they are to sinking at any given moment.
Support on the night came from upcoming locals Humble Armada. The group’s mix of poppy rock seasoned with shoegaze and psychedelic tones fitted perfectly with the mood of the crowd. Lead vocalist and guitarist Matt Simich, resplendent in an 'Eat Shit' t-shirt, led the group through a tight set that included the dreamy September 24 and the rockier Tend To from the group’s sophomore album Tomorrow’s Today.
After a sizeable wait, The Brian Jonestown Massacre made their way on to the stage, only to commence with a false start, with band leader Anton Newcombe stopping the band less than thirty seconds into opener #1 Lucky Kitty, for reasons known only to himself.
The band relaunched into the song, and were able to move onto a few more choice cuts from their two most recent LPs, 2022’s Fire Doesn’t Grow On Trees and 2023’s Your Future Is Your Past, but the tension on stage between Newcombe and the band was palpable.
After Do Rainbows Have Ends? Newcombe sat to the side of stage, requiring a hug from guitarist Ryan Van Kriedt before continuing on. However things soon again came to a grinding halt after feedback had Van Kriedt bring Wait a Minute (2:30 to Be Exact) to a stop and Newcombe angrily berated the sound desk.
By this point, the BJM ship had really started to take water. Mainstays Joel Gion and Ricky Maymi stayed calm by keeping their distance from Newcombe and played their parts, but Anton continued to berate the other band members before he then turned on the audience. After You Think I’m Joking, Newcombe started on a long-winded rant that was high in word count but low in logic. As the rant slowed, there were some cheers from fans in the front row, which Newcombe took as an interruption and an insult. He demanded that two fans be removed from the show before a roadie/minder came to his aid and calmed the situation.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
That Girl Suicide got off the ground to the pleasure of the audience, but a long pause and more passive-aggressive debate and posturing between the band and the audience followed, taking all the wind out of the sails. Van Kriedt advised the audience that the group’s ire was at their band manager for “booking us all on too long of a tour” as bottles of Grey Goose vodka appeared and were handed around by the band members.
A few more tunes followed, Forgotten Graves being a standout, but it was not long before band members began to disappear off stage. This did not stop Anton, however, from playing on. A guitar tech took the bass while the bassist took up drums, which signalled the start of an improvised jam that bobbed along nicely in the now choppy waters.
Ultimately, the performance once again proved that The Brian Jonestown Massacre are for real. While the tension within the group must be exhausting, as well as the chaos that it brings, no one could ever say that the band is fake. Unfortunately, this does mean that the group’s one true consistency is their inconsistency. But perhaps this is what makes the BJM the BJM?
Photos by Adrian Thomson