Brian Jonestown Massacre at Crescent Ballroom, 5/1/12

Brian Jonestown Massacre
Brian Jonestown Massacre
Photos by Melissa Fossum

Brian Jonestown Massacre Crescent Ballroom Tuesday, May 1, 2012

See also: Tripping with the Brian Jonestown Massacre

I have a serious question for diehard Brian Jonestown Massacre fans: Is frontman Anton Newcombe a perfectionist or just an asshole? I'm no BJM scholar -- I haven't seen DIG!, the documentary that chronicles the bands feud with the Dandy Warhols and Newcombe's rock 'n' roll instability, but over the course of the band's two-hour set last night, I found myself wondering exactly what the guy's deal is.

I'm going to assume Newcombe is a little bit of both. And, fortunately, like most testy musicians who have been in the game for a couple of decades, he has the talent to back up the drama.

Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre)
Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre)

Most of Newcombe's remarks weren't too hostile. For the most part, it seemed like he was trying to get the best possible performance out of his band, though there seemed to be all sorts of guitar troubles. He complained about the reverb a bit, showing the audience his brand-new custom distortion pedal, admitting that he didn't know how to use it quite yet.

He restarted a couple of songs because he felt the other guitarists weren't up to par. ("There's five people playing guitar, will somebody please play the intro with me? It's seriously sucky . . . don't throw shit at me. I'm not looking forward to playing 47 shows of half-assedness, so try harder, please.") Newcombe also pointed out that it shouldn't be this hard due to the fact that one of the guitars was "better than Keith Richards' guitar" because it has two pickups, so "it's good enough."

And he wasn't happy with someone tossing something at him. I personally didn't see anyone throwing anything at Newcombe, but I also in the midst of scribbling Anton quotes, so I could have very well missed it. At the end of the show, the floor was a sticky mess covered with drink cups, so the audience would have had plenty of fodder.

In spite of the alleged projectile, the crowd seemed to love Brian Jonestown Massacre. Fans sang along and did awesome tripped-out dances to favorites like "Anemone," "Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth," "Open Heart Surgery," "Oh Lord," and so on. It seemed like every person I stood next to was a super-fan, so it's safe to say that BJM's two-hour-plus set was great. If you have any doubts, just ask the guy that kept worshiping Newcombe like Wayne and Garth standing before Alice Cooper.


The band didn't play an encore, but it really wasn't necessary. They finished strong with a lengthy version of "Straight Up and Down," combining the "na na na naaa" from The Beatles' "Hey Jude" and the "woo woo" from The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man." How do you follow that up?

I was still quite impressed with BJM's musicianship. It's easy to pique my interest when you've got four guitarists on stage, not to mention the kind of percussion that's easy to dig into. The obvious example was hype man Joel Gion, who stood front and center with a tambourine and maracas and an air of indifference while cloaked in sunglasses and a beanie.

Brian Jonestown Massacre Setlist (based on physical list and personal observations, order is up for debate): Stairway to the Best Party Vacuum Boots I Wanna Hold Your Other Hand Got My Eye on You Anemone This is Why You Love Me Wisdom Viholliseni Maalla Super-Sonic Jennifer FU 4 Fing Me You've Been Disconnected There's a War Going on Not if you Were the Last Dandy on Earth Telegram Clouds are Lies Waking up to Hand Grenades B.S.A. Open Heart Surgery Prozac Vs Heroin That Girl Suicide Servo Oh Lord Straight Up and Down

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Brian Jonestown Massacre at Crescent Ballroom.

Personal Bias: I know about the band thanks to Broken Flowers and kept getting them mixed up with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Yeah . . . they weren't gonna play "Spread Your Love."

The Crowd: Ran the gamut from 20-somethings with lambchops to old hippies.

Overheard in the Crowd: "I wish I was stoned right now."

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Crescent Ballroom

308 N. 2nd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003


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