I’m always excited before heading out to a concert. Sometimes I have a pretty good idea of what I am going to see, sometimes not, but I always expect that I am going to get something cool out of the experience and enjoy my evening. I can’t see all the shows I’d like to that come through Seattle, so I pick the ones I really just don’t want to miss. I bought my tickets to see Brian Jonestown Massacre at Neumos many months ago, when summer seemed a long way off. I had never been able to see them play live before. I’m a big fan of their poppy-psycho-psychedelia-drone.

About an hour or so into BJM’s set, I ended up bailing, which is something that is an extreme rarity for me. Crowd problems? No, everyone was pretty mellow. Venue problems? No, I was right where I wanted to be, leaning on the balcony overlooking the side of the stage. Tired? Hot? Sweaty? Yes to all three, but that’s never enough to get me to leave a gig.

I left because I was bored. That bored. It just wasn’t worth staying to the end, because after so wanting to be engaged into the music, I just was not. I don’t know that I have ever had to write a non-positive review of a headline act here, because I LIKE the bands I go to see! But I was bored, a chunk of the crowd seemed bored or just mildly into it, and worst of all, Brian Jonestown Massacre seemed profoundly bored themselves. For me, that’s rock n’ roll cyanide. I would have rather seen a trainwreck than lackluster, and of course a great performance rather than a trainwreck. But song after song after song after song was indistinguishable from the last. I kept hoping the next one would be better, and it wasn’t. It didn’t help that the instrumentation, with EIGHT musicians onstage, was almost identical on each song, with FOUR guitars playing the SAME three or four chords IDENTICALLY. Why??? Instead of getting into a groove, the band dug a rut.

This time, the bright spot to the night was the opening act. Federale is one of the most unique bands I’ve seen. BJM bassist/guitarist Collin Hegna and a cast of other multi-instrumentalists deliver a witty and faithful tribute to the great Spaghetti Western movie soundtracks of the 1960s – think Ennio Morricone come to life, amplified. The crowd seemed a little puzzled at first, and then I started spotting these big grins coming to their faces as Federale brought out wooden Indian flutes, a melodica, trumpet, pounding doubled drums, melodies whistled coolly instead of sung. A surprise was opera-trained Maria Karlin, whose soaring voice perfectly complimented the eerie twang and desert dryness of the music. Impressive, fun, and well-executed. Here’s a short vid I shot – find out more about Federale on their MySpace site.

Clearing the small stage from one big bunch of musicians to the next big bunch of musicians took awhile, but Brian Jonestown Massacre eventually came on to big cheers and applause. Here’s one of their better-known songs, “Servo.” The blip in the middle is because someone handed me a bottle of water. Bad timing.

It probably didn’t help my experience that I had leader/founder/singer/songwriter/guitarist/etc. Anton Newcombe’s back to me all night, and that the girl standing next to me stunk of stale body odor and onion rings. Props to drummer Dan Allaire, who was hitting hard all night long; it was just too bad that no one else seemed to be matching his effort. The most I will say about tambourinist Joel Gion is that he is the Linda McCartney of Brian Jonestown Massacre. I’m thinking about joining Black Rebel Motorcycle Club for the next 20 years as a triangle player. Ding. Ding. Ding.

Sigh. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a terrible show. At times I was moving along with the others, nodding my head and such (and not in that pesky heroin way), glad to hear several of my favorite songs. But for me, Brian Jonestown Massacre shines far more in their recorded work than in live performance, and that is where my appreciation of them will remain.