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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brian Jonestown Massacre @ The Turner Hall Ballroom

March 27, 2009

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Milwaukee definitely got its money's worth when the Brian Jonestown Massacre (BJM) took to the Turner Hall Ballroom stage last Friday. Getting a bit of a late start, the eight-piece, neo-psychedelic pros drifted onstage, with infamous havoc-creator and frontman Anton Newcombe in a stately get-up of Army jacket and cap. With an air of arriving at the practice space a few minutes late, the band tuned, settled in and chatted, as if unaware of the excited crowd. Newcombe took his usual side-stance, facing toward his band, away from the audience, and the practice-space session proceeded.

Launching into a back catalog of nearly 20 years, and featuring returning veteran members Matt Hollywood and Joel Gion, BJM cherry-picked their singles, one by one, playing solidly and almost mechanically. Tambourine-shaker Gion, cool and composed center-stage, remarked after a couple of songs, "This is the best-looking hole we've been all tour," before the band ripped through "When Jokers Attack." Newcombe grabbed the mic out of its stand, holding it like a karaoke singer briefly before waving it in front of his amp to cause desired feedback. The crowd cheered.

"We're gonna play until they tell us to stop," Gion announced before drinking straight from a bottle of champagne. Guitarist Frankie Teardrop passed his bottle of Beam out to the front of the crowd, gesturing after a few long seconds for the bottle to come back. Newcombe played stand-up comedian while the rest of the band got buzzed.

A hazier set and more BJM classics followed, including "Spun," "That Girl Suicide" and "Love," with less space reserved for the newer and less-impressive material of My Bloody Underground. As it neared midnight, Newcombe and company continued to drink and announce, "OK, one more song," still in full practice-space mode. Newcombe shouted, "What should we play next?" only to testily admonish the audience, "I wasn't asking you, I was asking my band!" The dissipating crowd half-waited patiently, half-tested the band by catcalling and launching empty beer cans onstage.
At the almost three-hour mark, even the die-hard fans were getting bleary-eyed, and, finally, in a last hurrah of going out while doing it "his way," Newcombe left drummer Dan Allaire to a gratuitous solo before he and the rest of the band turned their instruments toward their amps to exit in a drone of feedback.