Paz Lenchantin, Psychedelic Goddess 

The Entrance Band's bassist discusses her inspirations and their Satellite residency

Thursday, Mar 3 2011

Once upon a time, circa 1966, the blues begat a mutant form. Known for a while as "power trio" or "blues rock," this form elongated the simplicity of the blues into electric explorations of guitar tones, with deviations into jazz and other complex structures.

Its heyday was fairly short: Think of Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Live at Leeds–era Who (after 1967, really a power trio plus a vocalist) as the classic stage, and Blue Cheer and the instrumental core of the Stooges as the decadent phase. By the time you get to Page-Jones-Bonham, Grand Funk Railroad and Motörhead, you're already on the way to metal, and that's a different branch of the blues' genealogical tree.

But the psychedelic trio never really disappeared after the rise of metal. It just went underground. And it kept developing.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MAGDA WOSINSKA - Paz Lenchantin gets high at an Entrance Band show.
  • Paz Lenchantin gets high at an Entrance Band show.

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The Satellite

It's no secret, for anyone who's caught their word-of-mouth-heralded live shows, that the best local practitioners of the form are the Entrance Band. Led by charismatic, slightly messianic singer and (crucial for psychedelia) guitar fiend Guy Blakeslee, and anchored by Derek James' drums, the Entrance Band has opened for the likes of Sonic Youth, Devendra Banhart, Will Oldham and Dungen. Which is very gutsy of them because, really, the kind of energy unleashed by the trio is a tough act follow. The band's repertory is just a basic blueprint for them to depart on groove-heavy journeys into the heavy mystic: Everyone, on and offstage, works up a sweat.

Oh, and then there's Paz Lenchantin.

What neither Hendrix nor Clapton nor Lemmy have had as a secret weapon is a dynamic, music-possessed, mesmerizing bass player who onstage outmesmerizes anyone in her celebrated cohort of First Ladies of Indie Bass (including Kim Gordon, the Pumpkins' D'arcy Wretzky and even Lenchantin's sometime collaborator Melissa Auf der Maur).

And she can most likely outplay them all.

The Entrance Band was chosen by the bookers of the Satellite, the Silver Lake venue formerly known as Spaceland, to play one of the club's earliest residencies, Thursdays in March. Lenchantin and Blakeslee are working on the Entrance Band's new album, a process that coincides with their relocation from the hippie-friendly hamlet of Idyllwild, in the San Jacinto Mountains, near Palm Springs, to the O.C.'s San Clemente (going, so to speak, from Oliver Stone's The Doors to Oliver Stone's Nixon). Drummer James still lives in Laurel Canyon, where Blakeslee lived until last year, in a home photographed by arbiter of lifestyle cool Todd Selby.

These locations, even surf bum–friend ly San Clemente, define a certain idea of bohemian Southern California, one deeply rooted in local rock mythology. Lenchantin's straight, long hair; her striking features (striking is an adjective often used about her, and she grows more so when she straps on a bass and gets down to business); her fashion sense (classy, idiosyncratic, wouldn't have been out of place in a David Bailey photo shoot from 1969). Hers is not the L.A. of showbiz and the downtown Nokia venues or the Gothic black letter of the tattooed Strip.

An earthier psychedelic flair also has defined our considerable town, particularly produced and exported by Angelenos who come to L.A. from elsewhere suffering from a certain physical and psychological displacement — cf. Jim Morrison, Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell. You can add Guy Blakeslee and Paz Lenchantin to that list.

But nothing is so simple in this city of mirages. When we met Lenchantin in Echo Park, she was in town for just a couple of days and couldn't wait to go back to Idyllwild to continue packing up her house. "I don't come to L.A. very often," she told us. "But I was here for the NBA All-Star Game." Is she into basketball? "No, I played violin for Rihanna." What?

"My sister Ana is organizing string sections all the time for different events. If they wanna go on tour, or, like yesterday, for the All-Star Game. She called me and said, 'What are you doing Sunday?' I said, 'I'm packing, I'm moving to San Clemente,' and she goes, 'Well, if you're interested, Rihanna needs a string section and I'm organizing it.' "

We asked Lenchantin — impeccably attired for the Eastside in gray-and-black argyle tights, tap shorts and a vintage velvet blazer with a homemade pin of a magical eye — if there was a dress code for the violinists at Staples Center.

"There was, yes," she laughed. "Black, elegant."

Did she know the song in advance? "It was the 'Umbrella' song, but we still had to learn the part. We rehearsed a few times. It was the half-time show at the game."

And that's how psychedelic goddess Paz Lenchantin of the Entrance Band ended up on TNT playing violin for Rihanna. "She's amazing," added Lenchantin about the pop star. "A natural star. And it was her birthday! She has a great voice and she's also very professional, really nice.

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