I was born into a Methodist family and was discouraged at a young age from drinking alcohol, dancing, singing( except for hymns) and playing musical instruments. My parents, I suspect, had no talent for these frivolous pastimes and so choose a religion that supported their world view. I myself lacked any sort of basic rhythm and am totally tone deaf. Armed with this genetic and acquired lack of musical talent I quickly became an embarrassment during my early forays onto the dance floors of live music. However something happened to change all this. HAWKWIND invited Stacia onstage solely as a dancer at their live gigs. This was my way forward and I could now follow her every move on film and TV while dancing in my lounge room. Her solely grease paint attire helped develop my muscle memory for her more complex moves. I gravitated to bands incorporating dancers into their live shows. When I moved to London Chas Smith of MADNESS became a guiding light. Although he did sometimes play an instrument, if I followed his moves I had rhythm and swagger. Then came Bez aka Mark Berry a dancer and percussionist with the HAPPY MONDAYS. He took stage dancing to another level and under his fine tutelage and recommended prescriptions of drugs and alcohol I became the rhythmic cavorting song list rat I am today.
So any band with a dancing percussionist is the holy grail of live performance. When THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE announced an Australian tour opening at Metropolis Fremantle in June with a new album something else to be released the day before, it promised to be a mouthwatering gig not to be missed. Anton Newcombe has led the BJM for 28 tumultuous years and can be at times a difficult character. Some might say a chaotic force. Tonight he started with his own musical welcome to country paying tribute to seminal West Australian bands THE TRIFFIDS and TAME IMPALA. But like many of Anton’s compliments his ego gets in the way and he gives forth a diatribe on the evils of DJs and directs his vitriol firmly at Kevin Parker of TAME IMPALA. Bile de gorged, Anton gets strait into it along with the 6 others members of this incarnation of the BJM. In true perverse Anton style he doesn’t start with the new songs released just yesterday but a couple of new new songs to be released on his forthcoming 19th studio album later this year. What follows is a cochlea shattering tour de force through his old back catalogues with some added new songs. All songs are highlights but especially jokers attack, that girl suicide and crowd favourite anenome. The music is relentless with that trademark BMJ “sitar” sound ebbing and flowing over Anton’s droning voice. And there throughout, front and centre with the finest sidewinders in rock and roll is Joel Gion the dancing percussionist of my dreams. Joel’s dancing is a rhythmic shuffle rather than the “freaky dancing” of Bez. But it is his mesmerising hands and arms that capture the imagination. There are huge flourishes of tambourines or maracas. About halfway through the set Anton stops mid song and loses it with the band. “You are playing too fast. Just listen to the tambourine!” Joel grins and having never really stopped just keeps going and the band and Anton and I followed the rhythm. Joel, for extra effect, hurls the tambourines high in the air catching one on each extended arm. BJM play for just short of three hours and I’m completely spent while Joel just keeps dancing. Is Joel Gion as good as Bez? Perth audiences will get a chance to decide who is Bez’s Bez when the HAPPY MONDAYS tour in February. My money is on Joel but don’t write Bez off.