Tag Archives: Brian Jonestown Massacre

Wilderbeat Revisited: Brian Jonestown Massacre In The Bush During The Great Blackout Of 2003

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Brian Jonestown Massacre

It’s been a full decade since North America’s entire eastern seaboard was plunged into a multi-day blackout (which I remain convinced was a massive anti-terrorism fire drill). I spent that weekend camping out at an ill-fated mod rock festival called Wilderbeat. Here’s what I wrote in the aftermath:

Amidst the blackout chaos, low attendance and some devious local politicking working against them, organizers of the Wilderbeat mod/garage/psych festival definitely learned about bad luck the hard way.

The Brit-pop kids of Toronto’s Blow Up scene are generally too precious by half, so asking them to rough it in the wilderness for three days to hear bands they’ve barely heard of was a dicey proposition from the start. But throw in one of the biggest power outages in North America’s history and it made for a lot of no-show campers. Probably more damaging to the fest though was its location — the Country Camping grounds in Port Burwell. Calling itself “Ontario’s #1 party campsite,” the operators of the site apparently had a change of heart about that claim over the weekend. Citing a combination of blackouts, police warnings, noise complaints and some new local by-laws that had been passed, the DJs and bands set to perform during the late-night portions of the weekend were all forbidden to play.

All of which made for a fittingly fractured climax with the performance of California rockers the Brian Jonestown Massacre. See, despite everything Wilderbeat was up against, the bands that were scheduled to perform during the day Saturday dutifully came, played and did their job.

The Candidates have shown vast improvement over the last year or so. The Gruesomes were still a dose of entertaining nostalgia. And The High Dials potent set was more proof that they’re poised for bigger and better things. Despite the campsite security guards trying to enforce a “skinny-dipping only after dark ” policy in the campground pool and a DJ roster met with total indifference, the bands played. That is, until they got to the headliners BJM. Fronted by the always enigmatic Anton Newcombe, BJM set themselves up on the main stage at just about midnight on Saturday night. Things looked promising… and then before a note was even played, the plug was pulled.

All the power to the stage — the lights, everything — was gone. This, of course, cued up a spectacular rant from Newcombe. Standing at the side of the stage, he railed against the campground owners, calling them “hippie fuckers” and accusing them of trying to rip off the people. Somewhere in this tirade were also rants about the devil being at work here and a tantrum where Anton galloped through the pool/lounge area of the grounds while other BJM members took solace kicking a nearby inflatable palm tree.

In short, it was a total bummer scene. With angry folks milling about and clearly no BJM performance forthcoming, it was time to retire to our campsite deep in the nearby woods to salvage out of the evening what partying we could. It seemed like a lame way to end the weekend, but then around 2 a.m. a couple of well-informed stumble-drunks rushed into our site with exciting news.

“BJM are playing again!”

“They’ve got some crazy set-up at the movie area. They’re going on soon!”

See, deep in the heart of the campsite, the Wilderbeat folks had set up a giant outdoor whitescreen and had been running reels of classic mod movies. BJM, being industrious sorts, took over the movie area; they were going to perform after all. Just that instant of anticipation, the realization of what was about to happen, was an adrenalized buzz. BJM were subverting the system. And fuck everyone, they were going to play.

When we got to the movie area BJM were all set up. The entire band was crammed onto two pieces of plywood to signify the “stage.” A crude PA system had been set up and best of all, with no proper mic stand available, Anton’s vocal mic was set-up, bound via someone’s ratty bandana, to a wooden tiki-torch. And then they started to play. I’m not even sure what they started out with — I think it was “Servo.”


But in the almost total darkness, with the sound crackling through the jury-rigged sound system, the hundred or so people who were still awake and aware of the show started howling. Wild, out of control and drunkenly swaying, this crowd was ready. What seemed like a massive letdown was about to turn into one of the most transcendental concerts BJM will ever play. Another song in and the crowd was lurching, right up on the edges of the plywood. The tiki-mic completely collapsed and Anton enlisted Robbie from The High Dials to hold the microphone for him.

Robbie’s job was simple, hold the mic for Anton to sing into while he played guitar. It just added another layer of chaos to the whole performance. And then, like a walking, unkempt buzzkill, the campground security showed up. Brazenly sauntering onto the stage and threatening Anton to stop, the music was temporarily halted. Somewhere during exchange, Newcombe told off the guard, yelled at one of the band members for being out of tune and was the beneficiary of the following chant from the crowd: “Angry mob! Angry mob! Angry mob!”

Security got the message and left.

Someone shouted “Just play!” and the band ripped into the song “Who.” Frenzied from all the drama, the savages in the audience brayed in a united, primitive chant. “Who!” then guitars, “Who!” guitars “Who!”

It was magical. Then the plug was pulled.

The security folks had found and cut the power to the movie area. The show was over. What could have been something incredible had been crushed underfoot. But everything wasn’t a total loss. For those few fleeting moments, rock ‘n’ roll had succeeded. And even though the first ever Wilderbeat Festival ended up being a near-complete fiasco, those few brilliant moments of howling at the moon will never be taken away from us.

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Filed under Concerts, Culture, Recollections, The Misadventures Of, Travel

Six Extremely Detailed Descriptions Of Rock Musicals We’d Like To See

Scenes From American Idiot, The Musical

Scenes From American Idiot, The Musical

There’s been a lot of talk in the Risky Fuel household over the years about things like Pippin, Cabaret, and Hair. All of it by Sarah.

She’s moderately obsessed with musicals and has crafted a number of fake ones in her head. It would seem the enablers at AUX TV thought it would be cute to set her loose and reveal some of these ideas. The result: storylines for musicals about Bon Jovi, Arcade Fire, Rush, The Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre, Joel Plaskett, and the topper, a gay love triangle called Heavy Metal: The Musical set to Judas Priest songs.

You can read all about said musicals by clicking here.





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Filed under Dance, Music, Shameless Promotion

Aaron’s Top 10 Albums Of 1999

The Boo Radleys

The Boo Radleys

This is my official Top 10 album list for 1999:

1. The Boo Radleys Kingsize
2. Guided By Voices Do The Collapse
3. Tricky Woo Sometimes I Cry
4. Hefner The Fidelity Wars
5. Death In Vegas The Contino Sessions
6. Brian Jonestown Massacre Bring It All Back Home Again
7. Kula Shaker Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts
8. Nine Inch Nails The Fragile
9. The Flashing Lights Where The Change Is
10. Sloan Between The Bridges

I don’t know what I was thinking on a bunch of these records.

Kingsize at #1? I mean, I really like this album — it’s grand, has a number of interesting songs, and shows more sophistication than the Boos’ earlier noise-filled Creation Records-defining albums. It all probably had something to do with the pre-millennium tension at the time. That song “Monuments For A Dead Century” had a particular melancholy hold on me. Also ruling were “Comb Your Hair,” “Adieu Clo-Clo,” “Eurostar”… actually, it’s coming back to me now… yeah, I guess I still dig it.

“Monuments For A Dead Century”:

Guided By Voices Do The Collapse? This is a peculiar aberration. It’s the only GBV record I own. I don’t really care for ’em, I haven’t even bothered to rip this record into iTunes over the years, or had the inclination to listen to it. Frankly, the fact that I put it at #2 at the time is kind of embarrassing.

My #3 album, though, remains an all-timer for me. Right around the time Tricky Woo put out Sometimes I Cry I was convinced they were going to be the biggest rock band in the entire world. The rest of the world ended up not caring but I steadfastly maintain that in ’99 the Woo WERE the best rock band in the world.

I never really paid attention at the time so I don’t know if this Hilarious House Of Frightenstein riff is a fan video or an official video for “Fly The Orient,” but it pretty much perfectly sums up my feelings on the matter:

At #4 is another album I rarely go back to, Hefner’s The Fidelity Wars. Hefner were a great and underrated band, and their particular brand of intimate observations on relationships were cuttingly spot-on. I was pretty swept up in Toronto’s whole Blow Up scene around this time, so that probably accounted for the high placement. Realistically this isn’t a Top 10 album anymore.

The Contino Sessions by Death In Vegas would have hit all my buttons back in 1999. Dark electronica that was too smart to be big beat and too rock to be electronica, plus Jim Reid, Bobby Gillespie and Iggy Pop as guests? Yes please. But I’ve kind of forgotten about this album since then, which means it’s probably this year’s place-and-time record.

Film students appear to have gotten their hands on the particularly wicked song “Soul Auctioneer”:

The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Bring It All Back Home Again is the musical high-water mark for Anton Newcombe’s band as far as I’m concerned. The six songs on this back porch psychedelic outlaw masterpiece capture a particularly dangerous and unique strain of rock ‘n’ roll. It probably helps that the epic 13-minute song “Arkansas Revisited” was adapted from a Charles Manson song, but sometimes that’s what it takes.

BJM’s “The Gospel According To A. A. Newcombe,” from Dig:

I know lots of people hate Kula Shaker for the same reasons they hate the band The Tea Party, but Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts speaks to me. I appreciate its lack of shame in being a spiritual quasi hippie quest of an album.

Kula Shaker’s “Mystical Machine Gun.” Watch this video ’til the end for the payoff:

Nine Inch Nails The Fragile was a big deal at the time, sort of like Chinese Democracy for the Alternative Nation. I think NIN rule but I’ve never really warmed to this album. Heck, I can’t even name any of the songs on it anymore. It’s too long and there’s too much to digest. But these are relative complaints. The Fragile remains a better album than whatever got put out that wasn’t by any band named Nine Inch Nails, so that’s probably why this snuck onto the list.

The Flashing Lights were an amazing band. Definitely better than The Super Friendz. And Where The Change Is was their lightning bolt moment. It bothers me to think that this album will be lost to all but the most dedicated Can-Rock hunters because it fairly matches anything in the Sloan catalogue.

Check out this clip from Jonovision(!), featuring both the poppy song “High School” and their super-amazing Elevator To Hell tribute “Elevature”:

Ah Between The Bridges. This is Sloan’s very much slept-on we’re-going-back-to-Halifax album. I loved it and it reminded me of those hyper-provincial British records by the likes of The Kinks, The Smiths and Blur. It was romancing their hometown and songs like “The Marquee And The Moon” did a whole lot to mystify Halifax to impressionable music listeners.

Other album lists…

2015 Top Ten — SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart SUUNS + Jerusalem In My Heart is #1
2014 Top Ten — Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is #1
2013 Top Ten — M.I.A.’s Matangi is #1
2012 Top Ten — Dirty Ghosts’ Metal Moon is #1
2011 Top Ten — Timber Timbre’s Creep On Creepin’ On is #1
2010 Top Ten — The Black Angels’ Phosphene Dream is #1
2009 Top Ten — Gallows’ Grey Britain is #1
2008 Top Ten — Portishead’s Third is #1
2007 Top Ten — Joel Plaskett Emergency’s Ashtray Rock is #1
2006 Top Ten — My Brightest Diamond’s Bring Me The Workhorse is #1
2005 Top Ten — Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Howl is #1
2004 Top Ten — Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry is #1
2003 Top Ten — The Dears’ No Cities Left is #1
2002 Top Ten — Archive’s You All Look The Same To Me is #1
2001 Top Ten — Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow is #1
2000 Top Ten — Songs: Ohia’s The Lioness is #1
1999 Top Ten — The Boo Radleys’ Kingsize is #1
1998 Top Ten — Baxter’s Baxter is #1
1996 Top Ten — Tricky’s Maxinquaye is #1


Filed under Music, Recollections