Brant Bjork & the Bros
Things often start in a weird way.
A stoner concert, something you expect to experience with a burning Death Valley wind, sunglasses and a cold beer on a wide open space eventually scattered by some new millennium hippies, is happening on a freezing London night, in a small obscure club where a shot of whiskey is not enough to warm up any of the post-metal British fans.
It is from strange situations that most interesting stories take shape.
Brant Bjork, still in his mid thirties, has already a biography that would fill up as many pages as one about the entire life of a successful rockstar.
To make it short, he started drumming for Kyuss (the proto-Queens of the stone age band formed with Josh Homme, Nick Olivieri and John Garcia which disclosed Desert rock from Californian sun to worldwide audiences) then for Fu-Manchu and Mondo Generator. Crucial bands which reshaped hard rock in the last 15 years guaranteeing him a place among the most influential drummers.
In the meanwhile he produced, recorded, appeared as a guest and founded his own label, Duna.
With his label he started recording solo works and his own creature: Brant Bjork and the Bros. Surprisingly, he left the drum kit and takes guitar and vocal duties.
If you can think of some spare time, he has been touring the world incessantly which is also the reason he ended up on liveon35mm.
I may have the weirdest friends around but the story tells that after leaving a Brant Bjork gig in Rome a year ago, enlightened, they ended up following his bus for the entire Italian tour.
A year on, they caught a plane to London to see the “unmissable concert” again in one of his passages to London.
I didn’t know a great deal about Brant Bjork’s projects, beyond Kyuss, before the friends’ enlightenment so, to catch up with them, I listened to some of his music and decided to follow them to this London concert. Albeit, I must admit, on records he does not sound as good as I was being told for months. Trust, that’s what friendship is for, isn’t it?
Once there, I experienced a night of pure stoner rock in its purest, distilled, tasty juice.
Brant Bjork comes on stage with his Fender-Squire (?) sunburst (easy guess!) strat-guitar and plugs it to an amplifier head borrowed by the support, after its Marshall just burnt out. He then starts following a heavy, low and hypnotic rhythm designed by a simple as powerful drum and bass rhythm section.
That was it. A concentrated trio of pure desert rock or, as Brant Bjork put it down “I really don’t care what anybody calls it any more… If it’s stoner rock nowadays, fine. It’s all rock’n’roll, and we all smoke pot, so it all makes sense anyway.”
Ninety minutes of straightforward, stripped to the bone music that managed to warm up any single soul in the audience without any trick but their sound. Constant bass lines, powerful drumming (gently offered by jazz trained Alfredo Hernández the drummer who took Brant Bjork place at Kyuss) and Bjork persistent, psychedelic guitar riffs able to hypnotize the audience for minutes. The concert gives its best when Bjork stop singing and the trio immerse itself on his grass driven, stoned, musical trips .
Apparently, on that now legendary Italian tour, there was a lead guitarist added to the ensemble, which was missing this time. I cannot imagine how he would fit this music. Those must have been quite different shows, which implies I will be going to see these guys again and again.
This was quite rare, actually unique so far.
Backstage shooting. If you are a gig photographer write down this name, Camden Underworld.
The night didn’t start in the best way. The place is arranged with no pit and a platform to the side of the scene. Photographers are allowed to stand on this platform, left to the stage. Not a great position especially if your main act decides to locate on the right leaving, between you and him, two sets of amplifiers, a bass player, a drum kit and a huge drummer.
After a song I was annoyed to use my telephoto and I walked along this passage ending up to the rear. I managed to put myself in a position that I have been looking forward for years: the back of the stage.
I put on my favourite 35mm f/1.4 wideangle lens, I stepped as close as I could, stopping just inches away from the drumsticks, and shot the band with the audience on the back.
Unfortunately the lights were not ideal but you can’t have everything.
This is the perfect position to shoot daylight in a open space, but was also enough to try and to frame those fanatical friends with their hero. They are now keen to have an original print. My first Christmas presents are sorted.