BJM jams with own brand of raw energy

Special to The Times

The Brian Jonestown Massacre is a special case: an underground sensation for most of its career, endlessly on the rise or breaking apart while making forward-looking music rooted deeply in the psychedelic past.

Leader Anton Newcombe was all love and gratitude at the band’s homecoming show Thursday at the Vanguard in Hollywood, talking endlessly of making art and revolution, and complaining of a voice thrashed during too many nights on the road. But his vocals were hardly the point during the band’s 90-minute set.

Drawing on music from a new EP, “We Are the Radio,” and the band’s long catalog of songs and experiments, the BJM rode lengthy instrumental jams of swirling, hypnotic, crackling melody that went on and on without growing tedious. Newcombe shares a certain dark and hopeful musical worldview that overlaps in places with such uncompromising bands as the Kills, the Raveonettes and the Warlocks.

But the BJM earned a certain notoriety with the award-winning 2004 documentary “Dig!,” which vividly followed the band during a particularly turbulent period. The film has been a blessing and a curse to the BJM, turning Newcombe into an instant rock icon for a wider audience, maybe less for his music than as a tortured, self-destructive artist.


A better reason to care was onstage at the Vanguard, as the band slipped in and out of edgy musical passages that were rich and memorable. There were no musical meltdowns, though Newcombe stopped one song late in the show, complaining bitterly that one musician was playing too fast. “Progress, not perfection,” he said. “Come on!”