This October is a busy month here in Seattle. The Black Keys just played on the 2nd, M.I.A will be here on Oct. 17th, Steven Wright is on the 20th, Trailer Park Boys perform again on the 26th, the city hosts shows by both Sufjan Stevens and Ryuichi Sakamoto on the 30th, then there’s the City Arts Fest (Roky Erickson, Cat Power, DJ Spooky, John Medeski, Gogol Bordello, Big Boi, The Vaselines, etc. etc) from the 20th-23rd, and Gary Numan performing on Halloween. And those are just the few events that I can name off of the top of my head. At a quick glance, I’d love to see everything but, in reality, that isn’t even remotely realistic. There is almost TOO MUCH shit going on and, believe it or not, I’ve found myself getting burned out on even going to a lot of shows these days. I can get super hyped on something but, as the date approaches, the sun begins to go down and, if we don’t already have something officially arranged for coverage, it becomes really easy to blow it off and go in an easier direction. It’s not usually being at a show that is overkill but, if it’s been an especially draining day or week, getting up and traveling there can be enough of a pain in the ass to feel like “work”. Maybe I’ve already seen them and feel like I can let it go until “next time”. Maybe I convince myself that it won’t be that amazing or I’m just too busy writing about/editing the show that I went to the day before. However, when I discovered that DUNGEN would be returning for an October 2nd show at Neumos again, there was no question that I would be getting off of my lazy ass and making the trek to see them again. There was even a free Del the Funky Homosapien show a mere few blocks away from my home but, the last time that I saw the Swedish quartet live, they damn near blew the cap off of my skull with their unique brand of psych-folk/jazz-prog.
Last years’ show took place on the exact same stage and, based on the quality of that display, anyone that was in attendance couldn’t be blamed for expecting that DUNGEN would have sold out this followup Seattle performance and in a larger venue, no less. I may have assumed something similar, had my friend Josh not already expressed shock about last years show not being packed, after being blown away by them a year earlier. He thought that they would have reached some sort of “Zeppelin status” by then, and deservedly so, but there didn’t seem to be too much of a risk of the show selling out on this Sunday night. Further reflecting on last years show, I knew that we should still try to arrive somewhat early. That show had featured a unusually solid lineup and introduced me to the incredible Brooklyn lo-fi folk outfit WOODS, so I was curious to see what tonight’s opener, The Entrance Band had to offer.
Doors were at 8pm. We showed up at 9 and the main entrance and will call window were closed off. Ticket holders were instructed to enter through the attached MOE Bar, which was the first sign that they weren’t expecting an overwhelming turnout. Sign number two was that the entire upper bar/balcony section was completely closed off. When we walked through to the stage, we were the only people in the place that were not staff. We looked at the merch booth for a minute, which had suffered a vinyl shortage do to a shipping error, and then headed back to the bar to get a drink. I was worried that it was starting to get late and the show hadn’t started, but then I saw DUNGEN bassist, Mattias Gustavsson walk past our booth with a pair of older Swedish women and I figured that we still had some time to kill. Even more time past but, eventually, we did hear some music coming from down the hall. The Entrance Band had started.
THE ENTRANCE BAND
The Los Angeles 3-piece, formed by Guy “Entrance” Blakeslee, wasn’t performing to a particularly large or active crowd, but that didn’t seem to affect them in the slightest. The trio was arranged with Blakeslee and bassist, Paz Lenchantin on corresponding sides of the stage, while psychedelic circular projections of light rippled outwards from center stage at the drum kit of Derek James. Much of the time, the southpaw guitarist remained just outside of the light-beam’s range, howling in the shadow and playing a right-handed Fender strung in reverse. Although the light show’s alignment was slightly amiss, I’m sure that the “upside down” Jimi Hendrix-style axe routine that Guy had going was purely intentional. Beyond the simple fact that he’s created a power-trio, Blakeslee‘s wild, electric distorted squeals screamed “The Experience!“, not to mention his antics of playing on his knees and falling to his back.
Lenchantin was wearing a dangerously short black and white Laugh-In-era-Goldie Hawn shift dress and aggressively manhandling her bass. The bassist was shoeless and rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. She remained in that balancing groove throughout the show, at one point even climbing onto her bass amp. Although Paz is a former member of the short-lived ZWAN; temporarily enabling Billy Corgan‘s insatiable fetish for female bass accompaniment (along w/D’arcy Wretzky, Melissa Auf der Maur, Ginger Pooley, and Nicole Fiorentino), it didn’t take long to realize that Paz was much more than simply filling some gimmicky role of token bassist with vagina. In fact, she is actually ridiculously good. I play bass and I love music, so two things that irritate the fuck out of me are terrible unoriginal bass players that contribute nothing and corny gimmicks devoid of substance. Lenchantin doesn’t, by any means, hide in the background. Her work is complex and inspired, but merges seamlessly with her other band members; broadening the sound, rather than detracting from it. She easily stole the show during the set and her love of performing was palpable. The multi-instrumentalist was also an original member of A Perfect Circle (strings, piano, acoustic guitar) and has even contributed to albums like Songs for the Deaf (strings) by Queens of the Stone Age and Silver Jews‘ Tanglewood Numbers (fiddle). She’s been on larger stages than this one; they all have, but The Entrance Band was still going pretty hard at this half empty Seattle club. With Blakeslee‘s habit of standing on one leg as he sings and Lenchantin‘s tip-toe balancing act, the trio resembled a pair of high-voltage lawn flamingos being backed by a bulldozer.
Derek James‘ hair hung in his face while he focused on applying a whoopin’ to his kit. The songs essentially consisted of the drummer chiseling out a beat and the other two members laying swirling, hovering grooves over it and jamming the fuck out. I’m not familiar with their recorded material, but I would wager that The Entrance Band is a group whose strength is their live show. They play well together and were able to really get their extended psych rock jams off of the ground and transport them into interesting directions without stumbling.
During his recent production work for Neil Young, Daniel Lanois spoke of his belief that new sounds are still available for creation and of the misguided tendency for “artists” to rely on the past for their sound. Blakeslee‘s group is definitely guilty of siphoning ideas for his 70‘s rock revival sound and I find it hard to believe that anyone could hear him play guitar without instantly noticing his admiration for Hendrix. It’s a slippery slope but, even with the obvious cliches, I feel that the trio somehow avoids the ultra-contrived end result and traps that I feel groups like Wolfmother have fallen into. Maybe it’s the rhythm section that the Baltimore transplant has working with him these days. Whatever it is, ENTRANCE has assembled something that, at the very least, works great in a live setting. There’s no denying that these guys draw heavily from their forefathers but, when they are on stage, they are entirely present, creating for the moment, and it’s tangible. A lot of this throw back psychedelia shit can easily come across as bad karaoke at a hippie-themed costume party. When I catch a glimpse of that filth coming, it’s often hard for me to let it go and focus on anything else besides how forced it feels. Sure, The Entrance Band travels in an old school bus and, if they had nothing else to offer beyond such outdated references and comparisons, then they’d be doomed. This is not the case and, while it’s next to impossible to completely separate them from their influences, it’s just as difficult not to acknowledge them for what they are: a solid, enjoyable group with a sound of their own, and a terrific live show that’s worth the “entrance” fee.