I Was There: Brian Jonestown Massacre Welcomes Back Matt Hollywood at the Music Hall of Williamsburg

Words and Photos by Aaron Richter

The Band and Its Latest Release: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? (A, 2010)

The Show: Music Hall of Williamsburg, 6.5.10

The Set in a Few Sentences:Last time self-titled caught the Brian Jonestown Massacre was at Terminal 5 in 2008, what we remember to be an elbows-to-elbows show at one of New York’s biggest venues. At the time, it wasn’t like DiG! had just been released (four years removed, as a matter of fact), and the group wasn’t touring behind any sort of hyped or critically acclaimed album (let’s be honest, did anyone really care much about My Bloody Underground?). So if nothing else, the massive 2008 crowd seemed to be evidence of the band’s truly ballooned mythology, a firm legacy–catalyzed by controversy and bad behavior–but ultimately solidified, simply, by tremendous rock music. (Or perhaps everyone just wanted to see bandleader Anton Newcombe kick a fan in the head.) So why, two years later, can the BJM arrive in town to play a not-nearly-full Music Hall of Williamsburg (significantly smaller than T5), which steadily thinned out throughout the night? New York City, you baffle us sometimes.

Nevertheless, the band–though somewhat docile–was in fine form, chugging through their best-loved songs (essentially the Tepid Peppermint Wonderland tracklist) without a hitch or hindrance of nasty attitude. Newcombe, his face hidden behind his hair, spent most of the set with his back more or less turned to the audience; he situated himself onstage facing the other musicians, as if it were necessary to watch over his band. No one from the audience baited him, and aside from his vocals, he kept completely silent onstage, no doubt disappointing the meathead, spectacle-gawking contingent. But easily what stole the show was the return of founding member Matt Hollywood, whose entrance received an enormous cheer from the crowd (only tambourine man Joel Gion earned a louder greeting). Hollywood took the lead on his own songs, including “Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth” and “Oh Lord,” but the band wrapped up without an encore, which was disappointing considering that we could have enjoyed at least an hour more. Would it kill Anton to give us a mid-set interlude–say three songs, just him alone onstage with an acoustic guitar? Probably. Sigh.

And a Letter Grade: B