Friday 26 October 2018

Brian Jonestown Massacre at The Leadmill

Brian Jonestown Massacre | The Leadmill, Sheffield | 22.10.18

Earlier this week I took a trip to Sheffield to see a band who I truly love: Brian Jonestown Massacre, fronted by Anton Newcombe who is outspoken and hardworking and really, sums up what music is supposed to be about. The gig was at The Leadmill, which is a venue I've not been to before but I really liked - it's not too big but not too small, and it's laid out pretty well. The toilets are grim but that's fairly standard and it's okay if you just try not to breathe too much.

brian jonestown massacre sheffield

So, the gig. The support act were a five-piece band called URF who describe themselves as 'a technicolour of female-fronted neo-psychedelic shoegaze' which I'd say just about sums it up. It was theatrical without being too showy, and genuinely really enjoyable to watch. For a band so young they've got such an interesting sound, and you can check them out here if you're interested!

BJM came on stage after a brief interlude of set-up and extra last minute sound checking, Anton filming their entrance in his usual fashion, Joel with that soft smile on his face. They kicked off with We Never Had a Chance which was a brilliant choice of opener, I think, stretching out in that rolling way that good music often does - the crowds' collective eyes were shut, swaying and tapping to the music. We were offered more hits throughout the night and with such a catalogue to choose from, there was a genuine fizz of excitement in the air as the first chords of each song were played - Who Dreams of Cats, Anemone (a highlight for me and, I think, for a lot of people), Sailor... they also played a newer track, Forgotten Graves, which is being released next month to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW1. Playing a new track in a live setting can often sound a bit out of place, but stylistically this fit with the rest of the set list really well - not easy, I don't think, to make your set so musically consistent when you've got that many tracks but they did it, and they did it well.

anton newcombe brian jonestown massacre sheffield

Anton in his now-iconic deerstalker hat and recently released 'Eat Shit' t-shirt was, of course, most people's main focus - but this band as a whole were a talented bunch. Joel Gion has been with Anton and BJM since the start, with his chops and his huge collection of tambourines; his timing on Monday night was completely spot on and he was in a great mood, even leaning into Anton for a sort-of hug at one point. The guitars and bass sounded tight, and the smooth drum beat kept everything together nicely. The sound, I thought, was great throughout the night (of course there was the odd tweak needed here and there but when isn't there, at a live gig?) and BJM's crew worked tirelessly throughout the set without ever looking like they were sick of it - in fact, they joined in the music at one point, smiling and laughing with the band and the crowd.

Brian Jonestown Massacre have this way of just playing and playing without much audience interaction, only you never get bored or wish they'd have a chat because, it seems, a BJM gig is a bit like being in a trance. Anton did do a bit of talking in between songs, though, with my personal highlight being his monologue about never getting someone who's never done drugs to mix an album you made whilst on drugs, because it's "like getting a square to contemplate the shape of a pineapple". This, alongside a bit of banter about the Leeds V Sheffield divide - and his faux English accent - earned Anton a lot of love from an already-adoring crowd.

brian jonestown massacre sheffield 2018

The set went on: Who, Drained, Devil May Care, Yeah Yeah. It ended with A Word, which rolled along, the sound falling over the crowd like waves crashing on the shore - and then without a word, the band put down their instruments and headed off stage, leaving Anton to potter about the stage fiddling with amps and letting the feedback carry on and on while he clambered over the drum kit to thump out some beats for a few minutes followed by a quick shake of one of Joel's many tambourines. Then just like that, it was over.

As a gig, it was dazzling. Someone told me beforehand that seeing BJM changes your life and not to sound like a cheesy dickhead, but it does. Seeing people who play music not just with their hands but with their entire bodies and souls is incredible, and I definitely had goosebumps at more than one point. So thank you, to Anton and the band and hard-working crew, for such an experience - one that nobody in that crowd will forget in a hurry.

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