The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Vacant Lots at ABC, 5/7/14

Tonight’s opener is two-piece Vermont psych rock band The Vacant Lots and as they take to the stage the venue is almost empty; only about 10% of the crowd is here.

They don’t have much presence at the beginning of their set, perhaps a reaction to the lack of interest from the small crowd, which is a shame because their songs are quite hypnotic, if this was a headline show the crowd would be in the palm of their hands.

The sound is compiled of clangy post-goth guitars, and minimalist programmed drum beats and synths, a mix between reverb soaked singing and abrasive spoken word completes the vocals, and if it wasn’t for sound problems they might have been able to engage more with the crowd, which beings to fill out as the set goes in.

Vocalist and guitarist, Jared Artuad, begins to show some presence about five songs into the set, a sure sign that if this was a headline slot the atmosphere would be something very different.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre are a band whose reputation is more well-known than their music, thanks to the 2004 documentary ‘Dig!’ which follows the band’s chaotic life and their relationship with fellow psychedelic rock and rollers The Dandy Warhols.

Whether or not the documentary shines them in the correct light or not is irrelevant, it has earned them a huge cult following all over the world and Glasgow seems to have a special place in the heart of guitarist and vocalist, Anton Newcombe.

They take to the stage just before 8pm, with only around a third of the sold out crowd even in the venue.

With no cut off of venue music, and no sudden darkening of lights Newcombe and co take to the stage and kick straight into ‘What You Isn’t’ taken from their latest (and 14th) studio album Revelation.

The fact they have four guitarists, a keys player, a bassist, a drummer, and a percussionist does two things; firstly, it ensures they sound massive, and the slick, sleazy groove is consistent, secondly, the guitars and keys can simultaneously play different riffs, which is absolutely integral to their music; BJM are somewhere between psychedelic and rock n roll, they are unique as they combine a consistent groove with improvised blues riffs.

As the mammoth two-hour set progresses it is littered with a good mix of old and new songs, Matt Hollywood takes over vocal duties for ‘Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth’, which finally brings some life to the now full crowd, a mix between total diehard fans who are gripped from the first note and what can only really be described as a festival crowd, who are obviously fans of the music, but seem to be more interested in talking to each other and taking seflies.

Highlight of the night is the mesmerising and melancholic ‘Devil May Care (Mom and Dad Don’t)’, a song that has been neglected by the band in recent years, so it was a surprise they play it, and the crowd is extremely grateful joining in with the opening “woah oh” vocals.

Of course, it isn’t a The Brian Jonestown Massacre show without an onstage argument, Newcombe postpones the start of a song to have a moan, nobody really knows what about, but it seems Hollywood didn’t play a part of a song, or he did play a part of the song which he wasn’t supposed to.

Anyway, the end result sees percussionist, Joel Gion, walking off stage for two songs and then re-joining; a reasonably laid-back spat for a band who prematurely ended shows in the 90s to fist fight each other.

Words: Joshua Campbell
Photos: Stuart Westwood

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