For far too long, I have wantonly pined for an utter concussion of rock ‘n’ roll to rid me of this thirst that just will not seem to be extinguished. As the planets seemed to align on the brisk fall evening of Sept. 16, a few friends and I not only had our thirsts sufficed, we were almost knocked comatose by the display that Brian Jonestown Massacre unleashed through the speakers of Boulder Theatre.
There were only two bands on the list. One of them, Brian Jonestown Massacre, I am tremendously familiar with but the other, hailed as Bright Channel, not so much. However, my presumptions botched me once more as Bright Channel’s noise was bewildering, coated in distortion, bent with delay and clouded in reverb while masked by an arsenal of other blare. Upon a little research, I found the band was even named Best Live Band in “Westword” in 2004 with good reason.
This fearsome threesome from Denver is fronted by vocalist/guitarist Jeff Suthers whose “canned echoes” and illusionary presence made for quite a display. Armed with two brilliant telecasters, his atypical tone enchanted the listeners. However, bassist Shannon Stein was the concrete. Hammering and pounding, her uniformity was the pulse behind Bright Channel. The drummer, Brian Banks, was all over, playing in unusual time signatures and even stranger syncopations. Bright Channel is more like a refreshing dark conduit – very pleasing.
It was about a half hour before BJM came on stage. As Anton Newcomb carelessly strolled across stage, the audience hunched to all his grandeur. This is a man who has influenced everyone from The Strokes to Eddie Murphy and in return been granted nothing but poverty and addiction.
The lights dimmed and Brian Jonestown Massacre drenched the masses with a boggling elucidation of “Whoever You Are.” It in itself was amazing, but what came after I still ponder. As BJM moved through its superfluous artillery, the seasoned musicianship was quite unmistakable. With militaristic precision, Newcomb guided his shipmates into a loosely organized spectacle of the recorded and the live.
A few songs in, BJM unleashed “Hide and Seek” to what seemed like an endless stupor of eroticism. The three divergent guitars of Newcomb, Frankie Teardrop and Ricky Maymi were dueling to the extent that if a time machine were available, King Arthur probably would have knighted all three at the end of the set. Mixing the classic cleans with the dirty fuzz, it felt like a half hour of pure pandemonium on stage.
Of course it wouldn’t be a BJM show without a little political agitation, harassment and even a little rhetoric courtesy of Anton Newcomb. BJM live is not a show-it is an experience. Their presence, charisma and stamina as musicians is invigorating and refreshing in today’s world. First and foremost, BJM has never cared about money-obvious since they don’t have any-it has always been about the music. While most musicians charge ridiculous amounts of money for albums, they “give it away.” (Just check the Web site.)
BJM, after almost four hours of stage time without an encore or any of that Hollywood propaganda, closed appropriately with “Swallowtail.” It’s one of my favorite songs to begin with and the live version was even more heroic.
Dave Gnarly, one of my music commandants, said it best: “I can’t believe this shit – ridiculous.” Brian Jonestown Massacre served us a cool dish of structured disarray, fusing the nostalgic with the contemporary. I left feeling a little abused and in love, but mostly cleansed as my thirst was properly extinguished.
KCSU volunteer Ben Blascoe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org