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LondonNet Clubs Guide

LondonNet Gig Review


Entrance

Born Heller
12 Bar Club
28.02.05


Marauding bluesman
Baltimore's Guy Blakeslee not only passes the blues authenticity test, he sets it on fire...

A lithe, stumbling man, whose raven beard and tangled nest of hair nearly obscured his entire face, Guy Blakeslee (aka Entrance) took stage and immediately rattled off a litany of psychedelic drugs he had taken recently after announcing he'd been up for four days. I checked for the nearest high ground lest I began to drown in his lysergic stew.

Having captivated the audience with the sheer enormity of his drug consumption, Blakeslee thankfully launched into a stomping, smoking slab of primal freak-out blues, keeping time by ramming his heel into the stage floor, the loop of bells around his ankle producing a formidable jangle with each step. His insistence on making things as loud as possible in the claustrophobic space of the 12 Bar, as well as his random feral shrieks, was a welcome speed injection after the lulling Born Heller. The crowd, curiously, started to thin out almost immediately after he began playing, but I guess Entrance's untamed one-man circus of schizoid blues-stomp would have been jarring after the hefty dose of narcotics provided by the openers.

After loping through the lovely "Darling", a derelict train-car hobo lament with a structure of verse after verse and ending with the titular invocation, he asked for requests. Someone, naturally, requested Vashti Bunyan, after which came the inevitable "play a Devendra song!" invoking his doppelganger (and friend and one-time touring mate) Banhart. Entrance opted for ending with the truly frightening and devastatingly beautiful "Mirror / Mantra", the last few minutes of which saw him gyrating on the floor as though in his death throes (which, considering the amount of drugs he purportedly ingested, was a genuine concern), succumbing to the sonic prowess of his guitar as he gunned it to its last vapours of gasoline.

In the proliferating neo-folk movement, the line between authenticity and contrivance is growing ever more blurred as would-be Appalachian bards sprout beards, drop a hundred bucks on Harry Smith's Smithsonian anthology, and pick up guitars. It doesn't help that hordes of cloying critics still insist on treating each new release that falls vaguely under the folk umbrella with words like "spectral", "haunting", and "backwoods". These commodities, though, do not a genuine folk eccentric make, as demonstrated by Chicago-based duo Born Heller. Yeah, so they both grew up next to mountain ranges, which they play up to the hilt: neat. That doesn't mitigate the fact that Josephine Baker's warble sounds less like the endearingly off-kilter, wounded howl of Karen Dalton or the dewy wisteria of Brit songstress Vashti Bunyan - both commonly cited influences among neo-folk darlings Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom - and more like the chaste, wavering voice of a singing nun on public television.

"This is our first time in London," Jason Ajemian said, speaking in a barely discernible murmur, before talking about the Nascar-obsessed hillbillies from his hometown. The American myth does not, in fact, deepen. The highlights of their set were in the Harry Smith covers, but unlike Entrance, who pillages and twists the blues canon while still managing to remain reverent, Born Heller seem to merely regurgitate yarns of yore - a sort of formaldehyde-preserved retrospection that's inherently inauthentic. Although the freak-out folk bandwagon's got ample room and more than enough beards and barefootin' to sate the Appalachian fantasies of a thousand self-styled troubadours, neo folk'n'blues really belongs to the true weirdos like Entrance

Ashley Brown


Autokredit
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