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Courtney's Story: The Brian Jonestown Massacre and an Ex-Lover

Courtney tells a story we know all too well- how does your break up affect your relationship with the band you shared?

I’ll admit it- I went to a show for a guy.

Well, okay, I’ve gone to plenty of shows that I maybe wouldn’t have gone to on my own because a dude had suggested it. But that’s more because, when it comes to concerts, I’m generally DTF. 

But this time I was going with the man, not the music, on my mind – and in my heart.

Brian and I met a decade ago when we were still in college. We dated. We fell in love. We went through a lot of shit together (and individually). We broke up and got back together; our families became each other’s; etc. etc. Flash forward to 2014. In our last, and most recent, incarnation I can’t say we were always at our best, but we were in it for the long haul.

Of course, one of the first things Brian and I bonded over was music. We traded mixes (yep, that was still a thing). We went to shows. He occasionally wrote me songs and I’d swoon real hard. When it came to repertoire at the time, his was generally cooler than mine. And if you knew anything about music in 2006, The Brian Jonestown Massacre was the infinite ‘90s cool kid reference.

That I hadn’t known them was my first fatal flaw. Brian sat me down and we watched Dig! (and then referenced it in as many conversations as possible). I spent a whole summer listening to Strung Out in Heaven and Earth To The Dandy Warhols on repeat in the CD player that I had installed in my 1987 Benz.

At this point, I couldn’t name one of their songs if you asked me, but I could tell you immediately if and when they were playing. The BJM aren’t the best musicians and I don’t think they ever were. But aside from his signature temper tantrums and shoegaze nostalgia, what Anton Newcombe peddled was a formula that seeps in your veins, not to be ignored, and always left you wanting just a little more. With their psychedelic sound droning in the background, you could spin and spin beside each other for hours and never know how much time had passed.

Over the years, Brian and I somehow always just missed seeing them live and cynically joked that we needed to before Anton killed himself. We never did. We parted ways for good last September. It was sad and ugly and permanent. I left the District and hid for a while.

Returning this spring felt good in many ways – new season, new path and all that. But D.C. is a small town and it’s hard to avoid people you know, especially if they’re at all involved in music or the arts.

When I saw The BJM were coming to town I panicked. I couldn’t go. But I had to go. As a (usually) self-respecting audiophile, I owed it to myself. What if Anton never came back from Germany and I lost my chance to ever hear them?

I had to go to see if that sound would still make me feel like I was strung out in heaven. I had to go because I secretly hoped Brian would be there, that we would see them together after all, even if not together. And besides, wouldn’t running into him on the neutral ground of the 9:30 Club be the best possible scenario?

While The BJM did their thing, I scanned the sparse crowd for Brian. I spent the better part of the set thinking about what I might say, if I’d even approach him if I did see him, or if I’d just be content knowing he was there.

At some point I stopped thinking and started listening and seeing. The crowd was lackluster. Anton was getting old. He made a few muffled, maybe slightly offensive jokes from behind thick gray muttonchops that were failing at being ironic if that was the point. The band was disinterested and mechanical. The tambourine was overdone. I couldn’t feel a spark; the magic wasn’t there. But they just kept playing, on and on.

I left before the set was over.


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