Bread and the Rebel Motorcycle Clubby Rob Scher / Images by Adam Kent Wiest / 06.12.2011
The decision to return was made the moment the international headline act was announced. I imagine this is what it was like for Robert De Niro’s character in Deer Hunter, except replacing gooks and tortured screams with neon-capped northern suburbanites and the agonising wails of ‘Barbara Streisand’. We were on the road to Boschendal to endure another year of Synergy, or as we were calling it the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club gig. By 6pm we’d barely ventured from the safe confines of our campsite. Friend Bread has made his way through a bottle of Cane and two Monsters. His parting words upon leaving camp – “you guys better not lose me tonight”. BRMC can’t come soon enough.
The distinctive skull emblem appears on the main stage screen, cueing the appearance of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The show is a no-frills exhibition of rock ‘n roll. Understated visuals and a dimly lit stage frame the three piece, who launch into their set with absolutely no banter. Their set lasts close on two hours as they exude the talent worthy of international headliners. Their show is not made to be spectacular. There’s no rotating stage or fireworks coming out of the frontman’s ass. BRMC play straight rock ‘n roll. Hayes and Been interact on stage like they’ve been doing this forever (they have) whilst Leah Shapiro keeps rhythm with Germanic precision, maintaining a simple hard beat – a more attractive Meg White. Crowd pleasers include earlier stuff like “Spread Your Love”, “Shuffle Your Feet” and “Ain’t No Easy Way” to the title track from last years offering, “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”.
After a staggering three-song encore BRMC leave the stage. It’s been almost two hours of aural sex and the thought of facing the monotonous wub of electro is just not an option. Bread, somewhat more sober than he was during the Great Apes show earlier, where he punched Andy in the head, announces to the group: “I need to meet Peter Hayes. If anyone else wants to join, come with me now.”
Everyone walks away, dismissing this as another one of Bread’s elaborate claims. The look of determination on Bread’s face says otherwise. It’s time for another episode of our favourite sitcom – The Bread Show.
“Hi, what’s your name?” Bread enquires of the steely-eyed security guard that blocks the way to backstage.
“Herman.” He answers coldly, barely registering our presence.
“So… great show?” Bread mumbles, slightly less confidently as he searches for the angle he needs. A group of excited girls approach Herman.
“We won the competition to meet BRMC! We need to speak to Maryke.”
Bread immediately jumps the bandwagon.
“I also won that competition!”
A quick check of the list reveals this obvious lie and Maryke’s not budging. Bread resorts to keywords.
“SYNERGY. FACEBOOK PAGE. EMAIL. MARYKE”
Maryke turns her back for one golden second and he’s in.
He walks towards a camper van with an attached canvas tent and immediately notices the generous snacks table and buckets of Red Bull, making a mental note to attack only after meeting the band. The legit winners of the competition are briefed by Maryke’s bark: “10 minutes only!” There is a surreal odd-ness to ‘meet this famous person’ competitions. Most of the conversations extend to “I’m such a huge fan. You guys rock”. Not so much questions as statements with little room for response. Peter Hayes seems used to it and remains humble despite the outpourings of compliment. The guy before Bread goes as far as shoving his demo CD into Hayes’ hands for “you know, if you or your people are interested.” He smiles courteously and accepts the offering.
Bread immediately ingratiates himself by thanking Hayes for playing “Awake”, a song off their first album. Hayes, surprisingly short given his large stage presence is disarmed by the compliment, “oh, you were the guys chanting ‘Awake’,” he says. “We don’t really play that song live much.“
And thus begins a conversation that lasts for the next hour. I wish there had been a recorder; what follows is from memory.
The subject turns to the topic of Hayes’ involvement in the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the event’s surrounding the acclaimed 2004 documentary about the band – DiG!
The Brian Jonestown Massacre held massive potential that was both made possible and also not realised, thanks to the efforts of enigmatic frontman and songwriter, Anton Newcombe. Bread asks Hayes if he’s as irrational as he comes across in the film?
“Anton can be extreme at times but if you take anyone’s bad moments over 10 years they’re going to come across as a bit of an asshole. Most of the time he’s a pretty relaxed, nice guy.” Hayes responds diplomatically.
“You have to understand that the woman who filmed most of the documentary was just hanging around with us at the time. That’s how she was able to get the footage that she did,” he explains of the numerous trying moments that feature Newcombe’s outbursts. “So… The Dandy Warhols?” Bread open-endedly enquires.
DiG! documents the respective rise and fall of these two bands spurring evident animosity. Hayes laughs recounting the famed photoshoot The Dandy’s staged using the Brian Jonestown house Hayes was living in at the time.
“They came the morning after a party at the house and used it for a photoshoot. We made fun of them for a good time after that.”
It’s a fitting metaphor for the relationship between the two bands. The Dandy’s piggybacking of the unrestrained cool of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, many would argue.
With an almost encyclopedic knowledge of genres and bands, Bread turns the conversation to BRMC’s influences. Noting the shoegaze elements in their sound evident in Hayes’ elaborate use of pedals and effects which lends the band its full sound, he asks Hayes about the obvious influence of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
“I would actually say less The Jesus and Mary Chain and much more like My Bloody Valentine and The Verve.” Hayes informs.
Some visibly irritated ‘actual’ winners of the competition ask for a couple photos with Hayes. Bread takes the opportunity to talk a bit with bassist, Robert Been, noting that he sang a lot more during the show than expected.
“Peter’s voice was a bit sore tonight so I sang quite a few of his parts.” He answers nonchalantly.
His time with BRMC comes to an end. Hayes gives Bread a friendly parting wave. Washing down a mouthful of Camembert cheese with a Red Bull, he thanks him for the chat. It’s great to meet an idol and they don’t turn out to be a douche.
*All images © Adam Kent Wiest