Brian Jonestown Massacre At the 9:30 Club Was The Eye, Not The Hurricane

Lord knows The Brian Jonestown Massacre have had their share of tumultuous shows, but last night at Washington’s 9:30 Club, they were an island of calm amidst a sea of chaos.

Consider: coming home from a dinner out before heading to the show, a deranged driver of a pickup truck shot across four lanes of avenue traffic and headed directly for our car proceeding up one of Upper Northwest D.C.’s narrowest streets.  We pulled over as the truck shot by going upwards of 50, and it just barely missed us moments before it drove over a curb and through a hedge, its brake lights never glimpsed.  Or this: an hour before we arrived at 9:30, three young men were shot right in front of the club, which was then surrounded by police and crime-scene tape.  Think of it: the Brian Jonestown Massacre played a locale surrounded by police and crime-scene tape, and it had absolutely nothing to do with them.

They played a calm, ultimately moving, pretty glorious set, turning the set lists from the 2008 and 2009 tours inside out.  Instead of opening with “Whoever You Are,” the band followed Anton into “Super-Sonic.”  “Wasted” was the third song of the night, and with its chugging refrain of “I want to know,” the band kicked hard, but were as impassive as jurors settling in for a long trial.  Sure, Joel Gion got worked up when Matt Hollywood sang “Got My Eye On You,” and the drumming, as always, was an artful pneumatic drill, but when you think about the way the BJM live meld three and four strumming guitars against Anton’s methodical leads, it’s a speedball combo of the constant and the virtuoso.  Thick layers of six- and twelve-string guitars, powerhouse drumming, an emollient organ, and Anton plinking his notes, one at a time, putting in Sterling Morrison fills, and singing, shyly.

Calm as they were, as professional as they are, the impression should not be conveyed that they failed to produce a big ruckus. “Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth” had the whole, nearly sold out crowd singing, and it was just a practice run for a raucous “Who?”  I’d never heard them play “Going To Hell,” and it was an up-tempo delight.  Something was slightly off in the mix, or the tuning, for “That Girl Suicide,” but this is a mild kvetch.  With the exception of “Hide and Seek, ” “Straight Up And Down,” and “Nailing Honey To The Bee,” they played all the songs you’d want them to (and they may even have played those, but after almost a two-hour set, we braved the D.C. streets.) “Servo,” and  “Vacuum Boots” and “Anemone” were all quite fine.

Anton seemed stronger than he has the last few tours: still hidden behind a burka of forelocks, saying virtually nothing, standing as he always does playing to the stage, not to the crowd.  But his voice was strong, and he’s still with us.  As are those three guys shot out on the street just before the show, and since we haven’t heard otherwise, the driver of that pickup truck terrorizing the leafy interior suburbs of the Nation’s Capital.  Whowouldathunk that The Brian Jonestown Massacre would be the steady counterpoint to the chaos of the streets, or even that in 2010, they’d still be around and kicking hard against beautiful songwriting strummed in perfect unison.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: