Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Brian Jonestown Massacre/The Blakes @ The Sugarmill, Hanley. June 30th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photos by Simon Bamford

All the way from Seattle, Washington, The Blakes bring a rich and well-respected rock heritage with them. A trio in the shape of Garnet Keim on guitar and lead vocals, with bassist Snow Keim also adding a voice and Bob Husak on drums, they pack a pretty ballsy punch. Husak drives the band along with some thundering beats and his impeccable timing is never less than spot-on. In certain ways, they reminded me of Franz Ferdinand, only more discordantly raw; their nine-song set liberally peppered with some hard and dirty riffing. Their songs are gutsy, gritty and the sheer power of the beat behind a track called ‘Two Times’ is really something to witness. They are in the UK as part of a fairly extensive tour of Europe and going by their very warm reception this evening, they should leave a very good impression indeed. Incidently, while looking for information, I discovered that Garnet dreamt he met 18th century artist, poet and visionary William Blake in a metalshop and when he awoke, he decided to call the band The Blakes, as brother Snow said the name reminded him of The Smiths; and why not?

Before we attended this gig, I was told to expect fireworks as frontman Anton Newcombe was liable to create all sorts of havoc. Shambling onto the stage 20 minutes late, he appeared dead beat, shagged out and generally like he’d just woken up, which in fact, as he subsequently told the packed audience, he just had. It turns out that they had played Glastonbury the previous evening and it would appear that possible celebrations had left the band a little worse for wear. It didn’t stop them playing a cracking opening number though; the song sung by some bloke who I can find no details of, but apparently from Iceland if I’ve got my facts right, who looked totally and utterly out of it. Hanging onto the microphone stand for support throughout the number, he left the stage after that one song, to be replaced by the non-singing, but enthusiastically tambourine-banging Joel Gion. Friendly jibes from the audience spurred reaction from Anton as they got into their stride and the 7 to 8-piece band, although obviously tired, summoned up the energy to play an interesting, gutsy set full of jangling tunes which brought to mind Hawkwind and even Little Feat in places, amongst other influences such as the Byrds and other 60s pop/rock; but in the main, they pretty much have a sound of their own. There aren’t many bands with four guitarists after all. Going by the audience reaction, Anton Newcombe is a well-respected man in his particular scene and there was a tangible feeling of disappointment when he unexpectedly announced that that was that and offstage they went. With no encore forthcoming, the clamouring audience eventually quietened when they realised he wasn’t coming back. No fireworks. No havoc. But a good show, nonetheless. Maybe next time, he’ll have had a good night’s sleep before he takes the stage.

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