On the hot summer solstice night, something akin to a cult gathered in a space resembling a school assembly hall. Many of the participants could not believe their luck, what were this Californian psychedelic rock group doing in this remote seaside town in the far west of England.
Of course there were members of the audience who were only familiar with the movie Dig! – that shot the band to fame in the noughties – and had arrived out of curiosity. Still there was an even smaller number of people who knew that if you heckled the frontman enough he would flip his lid, a very un-English activity to partake in but still more than the frequent apathy that can appear at a large amount of concerts.
The frontman in question was Anton Newcombe, the constant creative driving force behind The Brian Jonestown Massacre. On entering the venue hands were stamped with pentagrams and on looking up at the stage, all bathed in a lustful red light, you could see Anton, bearded, beaded and dressed all in white, his face hidden behind sunglasses and his wild hair that was Leon Russell like to look at.
There were rumours of a three hour set and this was confirmed with no support band being on the bill. One was forced to surrender themselves over to jamming through what resembled a greatest hits set, Anton crying out with songs about Jesus and heroin.
Once the hour mark had passed he finally said something to the stunned audience about wanting to find some sacred stones on the way to the concert but being denied by an authoritative bus driver. If he’d only known that some 40 feet from the stage stood a stone altar where once upon a time Reverend Coope would give mystical sermons out towards the sea to appease Morgawr, the ancient monster said to inhabit the Falmouth bay. In fact once Newcombe had started talking he was not afraid to speak for the rest of the evening which eventually gave rise to the hecklers. Whether he became genuinely enraged or was just playing the part for some restless audience members, Anton proceeded to turn on his bandmates, forcing them to start songs afresh when in all honesty his band played with a high level of accuracy – except the synthesizer player who insisted on tainting as many songs as possible with his unflattering one note drones. To give him some credit, at the end of ‘Telegram’ the band broke it down to just percussion – an arpeggiator weaved a rhythmic path enchanting the crowd like a snake charmer.
Anton was not so easily appeased as he later turned on the other shining light of the BJM, Joel Gion, the iconic (and drunk) tambourine player, the only other consistent member of the band. Joel took this as his cue to exit the stage (to get more beer it later transpired, Cornwall’s own ‘Proper Job’ to be precise) and on his return to stage position he found Anton gone also, so for a brief interlude the show became the Bez Jonestown Massacre.
With their leader Anton gone the band jammed for a hypnotic half hour only for Newcombe to return triumphantly, raising spirits and installing energy once more for the final third of their truly epic show. Come the end of the final song the audience still cried for more despite the sun having set on the longest day of the year. Anton had started the set by saying “Our music was made for this building“, come the end of the night it seemed like that message had been some kind of divine prophecy.
Words: Jake Willbourne