Smackdown! The Brian Jonestown Massacre vs. The Dandy Warhols

By Rachel Colberg-Parseghian

When Jim Jones forced 918 members of the Peoples Temple to commit mass suicide at the Jonestown complex in Guyana in 1978, he had no idea what he was putting into action. He had a distorted understanding of religion, fervent disillusionment with socialist ideals, and a batch of Kool-Aid laced with cyanide and Valium. Such a large-scale display of “revolutionary” suicide would undeniably make a lasting impression on those capitalist pigs from the CIA and though Jim Jones was a crazy man who was misguided in his endeavors, he was right about the influence of The Jonestown Massacre. Though he had no way of knowing it, Jim Jones single-handedly gave rise to one of the most intensely bitter rivalries in music history: The Dandy Warhols versus The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Undoubtedly, there are some of you who have never heard of Anton Newcombe or the Brian Jonestown Massacre (there are probably a few of you have never heard of Jim Jones or Guyana for that matter). However, it is somewhat difficult to find someone who is unfamiliar with The Dandy Warhols; if you’ve ever seen “The O.C.,” “Six Feet Under” or “There’s Something About Mary,” you’ve already encountered their music.
It is precisely this shameless pursuit of commercial success that has put DW’s front man, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, at odds with BJM’s Anton Newcombe. It seems reasonable to assume Anton and the rest of his band are jealous of the success of their contemporaries. But there is a legitimate reason as to why this is not that case: BJMtook DWs under their wing and taught them everything, only to have DW turn turn their back on Jonestown when the promise of their own fame and success became evident.
The 2004 documentary “DiG!” follows their rivalry as BJM grew into a musically adventurous and imaginative force and decided to pursue music for its artistic value, losing a few fans in the process. After mild commercial success and notoriety, the Dandys acted like they mastered both worlds-that of commercial success and artistic integrity. That’s when the Jonestown boys called it quits with the Dandy Warhols.

Naturally, I started freaking out when I heard that BJM was playing their first live concert in New York City after years of being offstage.It would be their only U.S. appearance. Needless to say, it was the greatest concert of my life. Hands down. So you can imagine my skepticism and then ensuing fury when I arrived in Minnesota and learned the Dandys were playing in Minneapolis.

Now, I will be the first person to admit that what I did was a little malicious, but I decided to buy a ticket to the Dandys show, sort of as a cruel joke so I could go and tell Taylor-Taylor to his face that his music is a plagiarized abomination of BJM’s ingenuity and skill. After some time passed, I came to realize that they had every right to play a show (even if it was going to be a crime against music) and that I should go with an open mind.

That fateful Tuesday night rolled around and I’d completely forgotten about the show until late evening when it finally donned on me that the concert had already started. I immediately called a cab. When I got there, I heard weirdo hipster music and assumed the terrible attempts to imitate the Velvet Underground meant the Dandys were on the second half of their set.

They weren’t. They hadn’t even started playing their first song.

So (deep breaths), I was trying to make the best of the situation even though I was in downtown Minneapolis on a Tuesday night when I had class at 9:40, waiting for a band that was two hours late. Murphy’s Law holds true in this topsy-turvy world.

To be fair, the elements were not in their favor. But when the Dandys finally took the stage, they put on a decent show. One of the opening bands, however The Upsidedown, was the highlight of the evening. They had drawn major musical influences from Jonestown, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed their performance.

In the end, everything worked out I returned to campus and woke up on time for class the next morning. The only real dent in the evening was not getting close enough to the stage to yell at Taylor-Taylor face-to-face, but I heard someone in front of me taking that responsibility upon themselves for the good of the community. Thank God there are still some good Samaritans out there.