Hey, did you see the Brian Jonestown Massacre laser light show last weekend? Wait, what? As if Saturday’s stellar show at The Wiltern wasn’t enough, BJM hosted a listening party on Sunday to promote their new album Aufheben…with lasers! I decided to double dip and check out both events, making my weekend singularly focused in a way it hasn’t been since, I don’t know, Pacific Standard Time?
To start, the concert exceeded all expectations. I know the letters on countless Mac keyboards have dulled in writing the turbulent history of the band and its frontman Anton Newcombe. I saw Dig!, the 2004 documentary which showcased the rivalry between Newcombe and The Dandy Warhols‘ singer Courtney Taylor, as well as Newcombe’s struggles with depression and drug abuse. I went to the show not knowing whether to expect a meltdown or a powerhouse. I’m happy to report it was the latter.
BJM played over two hours to an adoring full house at The Wiltern. Except for a visit from Black Ryder‘s Aimee Nash to sing “Anemone,” it was a showcase bro-down of eight guys on stage including founding member Matt Hollywood, bassist Will Carruthers, and everyone’s favorite tambourine man, Joel Gion. While they had sporadic sound problems like mic stand malfunctions and distracting feedback, Newcombe took it in stride and joked with the audience that “the speaker gods required a human sacrifice to stop that awful sound.” The crowd cheered, realizing that we were in capable hands and could just give over to the music, which sounded so good. They closed with a rocking extended jam of “Straight Up and Down.” One by one the guys left the stage until it was just Newcombe riffing on the organ, creating a thrilling wall of sound that left my ears happily tingling for hours.
If you look up the definition of Aufheben in the dictionary there’s a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel shrugging and saying. “It’s complicated.” The word has contradictory meanings including ‘to abolish’ and ‘to persevere.’ It doesn’t take a trained journalist (which I’m clearly not) to put together how this applies to BJM at this moment. The new album is a cohesive mix of Eastern influenced rock with some dance tracks like “Blue Order New Monday,” that might be polarizing to some fans but I love it.
Now, about those lasers. We gathered on the roof of a parking structure on 4th street where the Devil’s Night Drive In operates in the summer. Newcombe DJ’d as fans stretched out on astroturf donning holographic Laserium glasses, which advise you not to wear them while driving (see distorted image below). I was taken in by friendly group who offered me my choice of Pinot or mushrooms, befitting of people who love BJM’s psychedelic sound, or just people who like lasers. Luckily, my glasses advised me not to do those things and drive, so I just lay back and enjoyed Aufheben, the laser show and the cool night’s breeze. How can next weekend possibly compare?