If you've seen the documentary 'Dig!' and the portrayal of variable mainstay Anton Newcombe therein then you might have some indication of what to expect at a The Brian Jonestown Massacre show.Although the film documents a period of the band from 25 years ago, except for a revolving door of band members, not all that much has changed since the events of that millstone remaining around Anton and the band's collective neck.
Besides what this film show us – and even if you have experienced the Brian Jonestown Massacre live before – there are always going to be surprises with the audiences' mouths agape occasionally brought on by Anton's mostly unprovoked commentary and extended asides; with topics not limited to the death of John Wayne, criticism and an impersonation of Auto-Tune, a joke criticising drummer Dan Allaire's ability (to which Dan goes along with and supplies a rimshot), and reminding the audience to consider their forebears when back announcing the song 'Forgotten Graves'.
A Brian Jonestown Massacre show can be an occasional tense event with an 'us and them' mentality more often than not between Anton and others in the band, although hecklers in the audience do get their share of Anton's wrath.
Read about the band's onstage fight in Melbourne on 21 November, 2023.
When someone in the audience calls out for Anton to hurry up during one of the many extended breaks between songs, Anton responds: "Are you in a hurry to get home and jack off or something?"
Usually, Anton's striving for a very particular musical perfection leads to disagreement between himself and others in the band, and on this occasion he is critical of guitarist Ryan Van Kriedt who I thought was going to get physical with Anton or storm off stage.
It was actually long-term tambourine player Joel Gion who seemingly stormed off later in the set to then be coaxed back onstage when Anton asks the audience to join him in the "ritual chant" of "Joel! Joel! Joel!" leading me to believe this was a planned event.
There's no denying Anton's songwriting talents and his genius for formulating classic, timeless tunes, but unfortunately performances such as this one at The Gov (15 November) can be variable, with regular diversions from the musical performances leading to losing the audience's attention and marring the overall flow of the show.
Anton's non-musical antics have some entertainment value, but the extended breaks between songs take away from the show as a whole ultimately leading to a less than satisfying evening; although the occasional appreciative shout out from enthusiastic fans would indicate another viewpoint.
It would be perhaps going too far to describe the show as a car crash, but sticking with the car analogy, it was definitely in need of some roadside assistance with a driver that may not have been safe to be behind the wheel.
The same cannot be said for local openers Druid Fluids whose frontman Jamie Andrew could teach Anton something about getting on with the show and playing the songs.
Earlier, this psych-rock collective were a tight, dynamic unit from the get-go and were immediately embraced by the sold-out audience.
With Jamie's hair taking on a life of its own, like something between a jellyfish and an octopus in the fan-flow, theirs was an appealing performance, jazz-like in execution with hints of Black Sabbath and a little reverb that didn't go astray amongst the welcome but seemingly unending guitar-noodling.
Given their allotted half hour, no time was wasted and talk was kept to a minimum, songs bleeding into each other with not enough space left to distinguish individual songs, a contrast to the headline performance that followed.