More than 10 years after its release, Dig! remains one of the finest music documentaries ever made. The tale of two indie-rock bands — the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre — taking wildly divergent career paths still resonates today as an inside glimpse into the challenges facing artists on the periphery of stardom.
While he comes off as an insufferable asshole in the film, BJM’s chief genius/weirdo Anton Newcombe is easily the most captivating character in Dig!. He is a mercurial, drug-addled mess, but Newcombe is also a damaged individual who has an otherworldly ability to write some beautiful, effortlessly-catchy pop tunes. The viewer almost ends up rooting for his success, despite his self-destructive and abusive behavior (he actually comes off much more genuine than the careerist and opportunistic Courtney Taylor — Taylor of the Dandies).
The documentary certainly brought BJM a previously-unrealized level of fame, but Newcombe essentially disowned the film and new fans showed up to the band’s shows simply to look out for the spectacle of a live performance meltdown, the kind that were captured aplenty in the doc. Fortunately, Newcombe has toned down his on-stage antics, and the band has begun to become something of a more stable force.
That’s great news, because it puts more focus on the group’s music — a beguiling combination of ’60s British Invasion, late ’80s dreampop and shoegaze, and jangly Byrds-y folk numbers. Perhaps more than any of his peers, Newcombe has a talent for re-appropriating genre-specific sounds and making them his own.
After taking it easy for most of 2015, the group is set to hit the road in 2016, a tour that includes two shows at the Independent on May 27 and 28. The group has plenty of San Francisco ties (their tambourine player Joel Gion — who definitely wins best supporting actor in Dig! for his comedic antics — is a longtime resident) so there should be a strong turnout for the two performances. Tickets for the shows are on sale via Ticketfly. Buy ’em up now.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
May 27 and 28, 2016