BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE @ THE HENRY FONDA

June 30th, 2010 | Live reviews

A tip if you have the Brian Jonestown Massacre play your music venue: Try not to flatten out their sound by pushing up the volume on every single instrument and mic all the time; instead, take a page from the production of the albums and bring out all the subtleties by dropping levels. Don’t worry, it’s still plenty loud enough.

I’m sorry I didn’t pass along this gem prior to the BJM’s L.A. show—the last of their tour—at the Music Box in Hollywood June 22. I could have saved some ears, and saved some lovely ephemeral sonic art from overmodulating washout purgatory—a real shame when you consider how tight and nuanced this version of the BJM (which includes Matt and Joel and over a half-dozen stringed instruments going rather constantly, half-turned-away Anton subtly conducting the whole thing).

Playing a set that seemed shorter than its nearly 2 hours (maybe just ’cause they’ve got such a great body of work at this point), the band treated the sellout (in the good way) audience to nice versions of “Nevertheless,” “Super-Sonic,” and a couple newbies from 2010’s Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?; “Servo,” may be the coolest song on Earth that never comes off right live; and a smattering from a list of albums not including My Bloody Underground (alas).

But it was the three-song sequence “Sue,” “Oh Lord,” and “That Girl Suicide” where the band got transcendent. The latter two were the night’s premiere dance moments (even if the refrain of “That Girl Suicide” dragged a bit).

But “Sue” stole the show. Situating themselves between Velvet Underground and The Cure during the verses, just as on the original recording they brought on the distorted lo-fi jam. But what came next is wholly a product of the BJM of 2010, as the jam sped up, evolved, morphed sonically into a pulsing hi-fi swirl that was the longest climax you’ve ever had. Glorious.

And then a Music Box employee began shutting off the three PA speakers out where I was on the smoking patio (indoor/outdoor seating, a big-screen projection of the stage, a beautiful SoCal summer-solsticetime evening, a stringy blond guy you think you saw in DiG! (i.e., “Creepy Dave,” who they say is not creepy and indeed did not seem so), and the most pristine sound in the whole place). “This area is closed!” the gal called to us, and she seemed genuinely surprised that several of us told her she was rude, annoyed as we were at being unceremoniously taken out of the show’s best moment. You couldn’t wait 30 seconds? Oblivious.

Greggory Moore