the brian jonestown meltdown

the brian jonestown massacre
pianos, lower east side
20 sept 2005

I know what you’re going to tell me: I should have known better. It is my own fault for voluntarily purchasing a ticket to see this band and expecting anything resembling a show. I know, I know, I know.

But I can’t help it; part of me still likes my rock stars to be outrageous and fabulous and Anton Newcombe and co. fit that bill (c’mon. They have a guitar player that goes by the nom de guerre Frankie Teardrop. How fucking cool is that?). I don’t go to a Brian Jonestown Massacre show expecting them to be on time, or to be sober (some friends ran into them at the Save CBGB press conference and said, “We met them, but they were drunk.” Me: “Wow, the Brian Jonestown Massacre were drunk? Imagine that.”)

But you know what? Maybe I’m just getting way fucking old and uptight, but when I pay $15 to see a band, I want to see the fucking band get on the stage and play. It might be hard and it might suck and you might not be as brilliant as you want to be and can be, but I will respect you for at least getting onstage and doing your fucking job — a job that you chose and that thousands of people would give their right arms to get paid to do.

I have great sympathy for the fact that the band’s equipment was stolen after their show in Brooklyn last Saturday. But people had helped them for Sunday, and they could have managed tonight, somehow, to cobble something together. I cannot even begin what a crushing blow this must be, I accept this. Bill it as “special acoustic show” and pull through somehow, I’ll take it.

But tonight was a total fucking meltdown that most people around me felt was Anton’s worst one ever. Cursing out the soundman, cursing out friends that were loaning him instruments (and saying horribly hurtful things I won’t repeat) and trying to get him through the show, cursing out the audience. Yes, too many people have seen “Dig!” and come to the show to wind him up, but GET OVER IT ALREADY. Either ignore them, or put them in their place and move on.

There was one moment, when someone yelled out a song request, for “Stars,” and Anton looked relieved and asked the requestor to come down front.
“What’s your name?”
“You’re a fucking hero, John. Where are you from?”
“New Orleans.”

Of course, everyone with a heart caught their breath at that moment, and I thought, here is the moment where Anton will get it together and pull through. Who knows what has happened to this guy’s friends and family, we all know what has happened to his city, could you give the guy something to hang onto.

But no. He couldn’t. Yes, the volume was uneven and he hit more than a few clams, but WE DIDN’T CARE. That’s what got me. I wanted to grab him and say, “Listen, almost every person in this room gives a damn about you and your music. Could you focus on the music for five minutes and we’ll have your back, I promise?”

Eventually he stormed offstage and that was the end of it for me. He might have well come back to play with the Morning After Girls but at that point I was fed up. I was pissed at myself for bothering to care, I was pissed because of the guy from the UK standing next to me who had flown over just to see the last few shows, I was pissed at the audience members who applauded because the meltdown was what they came to see, not the music.

And I was pissed that we’re going to lose someone who could be brilliant because he can’t ignore the myth and just make music.

Wait, I’m not pissed. It just breaks my heart, at least a little bit.