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The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Queen Elizabeth Hall, 11th June 2005

Blimey! This is a turn up. Patti Smith in her infinite all-seeing woman of ye olde punk bohemian wisdom has selected beatific spaced out psyche pirates The Brian Jonestown Massacre to play at her immaculately put together Meltdown festival. Has she been watching ‘Dig!’ and had a good old chuckle at Anton’s mental antics? Or does she recognise an eccentric song-writing genius when she sees one? Who knows, we’re just thrilled to be seeing the band in such rarefied surroundings. As are various tightly trousered, pointy booted, shaggy maned beat types who mill around the venue. Also in attendance are wondrous psyche-folksters The Eighteenth Day of May and er, ex-Banana Siobhan Fahey. The whole shindig has Pop Event written all over it.

Okay, so Anton may be a bit of a head the ball, but tonight, seemingly out of respect for his hostess Patti Smith, he’s reined himself in and is letting his music speak for itself. This is a grand thing, Anton’s music is eloquent, resplendent…the guy can write a song innit? Despite numerous antagonistic tosspots shouting out wind-ups from the safe anonymity of the audience, Anton restricts himself to pointing out that he doesn’t come to their places of work to yell at them “when you’re on the till in Boots!” There’s also some entertainingly random slaggage of Jet along the lines of “you send your criminals over to Australia and what do they send back?”

World's most disdainful percussionist. BJM’s on-stage set up is sparse, members of the band scattered across the large space interspersed with vintage amps and gorgeous 12 string guitars. Anton is looking Sonic Boom-tastic with his poker straight bowl-cut and shades. But that’s not all. For one nite only BJM are graced with the presence of everybody’s favourite shock haired, bug-eyed tambourine joker and ‘spokesman for the revolution’ (heh!) Joel Gion who’s been invited to share in this particular BJM highpoint. Joel’s rocking his feted ‘world’s most disdainful percussionist’ look from beneath a wooly hat and a beardy chin so his whole drug-deranged groover and shaker shtick is slightly diminished, but hey it’s great to see him up there.
Blasting on despite Frankie Teardrop’s problems with a dodgy amp (a knackered fuse), BJM hammer out a masterful ‘greatest hits’ set that draws on tracks from ‘Tepid Peppermint Wonderland’ their delicious new retrospective album. They sound immaculate, like the greatest, coolest piece of musical pop-art you’d always imagined never really quite happened in the sixties. It’s The Velvets resplendent in a bohemian West Coast pad, rather than being uptight in NYC. It’s Syd maintaining a grip and showing Keef a thing or too. It’s a fast-driving rave-up alright, but we the audience are confined to our (actually jolly comfy) seats, so we have to do the whole head-noddy confined freak-out thing like in old clips of Beatles audiences. Songs hit the perfect point between sparkling sixties-grooves, olde English psychedelia and the blissful white-out of (for want of a better phrase) shoe-gazeyness. ‘Hide and Seek’ circles and buzzes like a hive full of spaced bees. ‘Telegram’ is the Teardrop Explodes refracted through a cute Byrdsian jangle whilst ‘This Is Why You Love Me’ whips The Byrds ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better’ and twists it into odd new shapes. ‘Who?’ is a clattering, saucer-eyed freak out and ‘Going To Hell’ shakes its hips, licks its lips and absolutely demands that you gogo on a tabletop. ‘Sailor’ sets you adrift on a gently lulling dreamscape, ‘Jennifer’ is sweetly strummy and ‘When Jokers Attack’ is a strident blast of fuzzy riffing.
Support act Ed Harcourt makes an appearance on ‘Here It Comes’ and shares the mic and a kiss with Joel. Such is the mightiness of the BJM back catalogue that each song has you thinking, ‘Ohh I love this one!’ Time flies and we’re all too soon reaching set closer ‘Swallowtail’. It’s utterly gob-smacking. Each layer of spinning chords settles on top of the last allowing you to sink into this deep drift of oscillating noise until you want to stay balanced there forever. In reality the song lasts nearly 15 minutes and it truly doesn’t feel like long enough. This is something else. Forget ‘You broke my sitar motherfucker!’ and Anton dissing the Dandys on rollerskates. Plug yerself into the BJM now. Gobsmacking. No, really.
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