Brian Jonestown Massacre Show Was Unvarnished, and That's What Made It Interesting

Brian Jonestown Massacre played to a wall-to-wall crowd at Trees that spanned every demographic.EXPAND
Brian Jonestown Massacre played to a wall-to-wall crowd at Trees that spanned every demographic.
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Brian Jonestown Massacre
With Monoculture
Trees, Dallas
Thursday, March 9, 2017

Anton Newcombe doesn’t care what you think about him. The Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman just wants to play music.

Before the Brian Jonestown Massacre took the stage Thursday night at Trees in Deep Ellum, Olan Mijana, the lead singer and lead guitar of Monoculture, asked Newcombe how he felt about his band’s next show this weekend in Mexico City for Festival Nrmal 2017.

Newcombe told Mijana, “Well, how the fuck am I supposed to know?”

That’s the kind of attitude you need to play psych rock. Newcombe and the Brian Jonestown Massacre have played together since 1990. They’ve produced 17 albums and yet they’re not a household name. They don’t care. They know psych rock only appeals to a certain and specific niche, and that’s fine.

If you don’t know what psych rock is, it’s short for psychedelic rock. It’s basically rock on drugs. Psych rock bands use electronic sound effects, long solos, surreal lyrics, non-traditional instruments and other effects to recreate the effects of hallucinogenic drugs.

Monoculture warmed up the crowd for the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The Dallas psych rock band played a 30-minute set that paired perfectly with the sounds of the night’s headliner and set the mood for the evening.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre took the stage at Trees around 9:30 p.m. to a wall-to-wall crowd. Concertgoers covered every demographic from preppy teenagers with X’s on their hands to women in fishnet stockings to older men with gray beards.

Whereas many bands and musicians like to address their fans throughout the night — talking about the meaning or inspiration behind certain songs — the Brian Jonestown Massacre didn’t care for that. They only addressed the crowd a few times and when they did, they kept it brief.

They didn’t care for smooth transitions either. Some of the transitions between songs were either harsh or even nonexistent. A couple of times, the band ended a song and talked to each other about which song they were going to play next, taking their time getting everything sorted out.

Although some would find this unprofessional, it was actually kind of refreshing. These moments created a sense of authenticity and intimacy. Brian Jonestown Massacre want to get it right.

Trees is already an intimate setting, but these unvarnished interactions made the venue feel even smaller. At times, it felt as if you weren’t watching them perform live, but as if you were watching a behind the scenes video of a studio recording where the band stops and starts to make sure they’re all on the same page.

When they were, the band sounded smooth, and they had heads bobbing and feet tapping slowly.

“When you’re listening to them, it’s almost like you’re in a trance,” concertgoer Dillion Dickson said. “You get lost in the extended solos. It’s like for a moment you almost forget where you are because you get lost in the sound.”

At times these trances would be cut off abruptly. At little more than halfway through the show, Newcombe stopped playing and stepped outside for a quick smoke. His bandmates were left on stage strumming  a few chords together while Newcombe took “just one drag.”

The evening concluded around 11:30, after roughly a two-hour medley of their songs from albums new and old.

Concertgoers seemed pleased with the band’s performance. Another member of the audience, who asked to be identified only as Jeff, was especially satisfied. Jeff had also seen the Brian Jonestown Massacre play at the Granada Theater a couple of years ago. “I think they’re the best band in the last 20 years,” he said. “[Psych rock] is an opportunity to just do whatever you want to do. It’s just great music.”

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