Twelve years ago on a crowded London train, Guy Blakeslee, singer and guitarist for the Entrance Band, had an epiphany.
"The train broke down, and we were on it for more than an hour," says Blakeslee, on the phone from Los Angeles, where he lives. "Everyone kept their heads down and nobody spoke to each other. Everyone was isolated from their spirit and blocking each other out." After attempting to make eye contact with people to no avail, Blakeslee says he realized the culture of the city was keeping everyone isolated.
"It can be damaging to disconnect from each other," he says. "It can be healing and positive to break those barriers down and make that connection."
The disconcerting experience inspired "Silence on a Crowded Train," from the Entrance Band's 2006 debut album, Prayer of Death.
Since then, the Entrance Band have built up a heavy rock sound anchored by a throbbing, measured rhythm section—Derek James on drums and Paz Lenchantin on bass—that locks it down just enough for Blakeslee to go skyward with his billowing, psychedelic guitar riffs. After releasing a self-titled album on Thurston Moore's label Ecstatic Peace in 2009, the Entrance Band have just finished recording a new album due out sometime this year; it was recorded between touring extensively and a performance at the 2011 All Tomorrow's Parties, curated by Animal Collective. They play a sold-out live show opening for Mazzy Star at the Mystic Theatre on April 6.
And it's really in the live performance where Blakeslee and the rest of the band seem to find the most satisfaction, sustaining heavy-duty, searing rock grooves that go on for minutes at a time. Blakeslee likens the experience to a free-form musical ritual, "where the musician as a performer is just the facilitator, the channel for the energy that everyone co-creates."
Born in Baltimore, Blakeslee mentions that he finds a certain cultural comfort in the musical language of the blues. Lately, he's been revisiting the past, performing a cappella renditions of old folk, gospel and Appalachian music for audiences in Los Angeles. There's a spiritual energy to the combination of song and performance that he finds stimulating.
"When I perform, I'm tapping into something greater than myself," he says. "That's what I think 'spiritual' means; you're connecting to energy in you, beyond you. If someone is open-hearted, they can connect to it as well."
The Entrance Band play with Mazzy Star on Friday, April 8 at the Mystic Theatre. 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 8pm. Sold-out. 707.765.2121.