More Now Than Retro: Erik Davis On Lysergic Blues Rockers The Entrance Band
Originally published March 13, 2008 on Arthur’s Yahoo blog
A few nights ago I swung by San Francisco’s Café Du Nord to catch the Entrance Band, a psychedelic trio from LA that is riding a wave equally composed of fuzz and buzz. It’s the Noise Pop festival up here, and the crowd was full of groovy twentysomethings moving and shaking, in denim and suits and skirts, with thin-brimmed fedoras making a particularly notable showing. I hunkered down in front of the stage with my pint of bitter, chatting with bearded young men who were most psyched for what we were about to witness.
Trios are the most musically honest of rock combos: the singing is often secondary, and the guitarist has to carry a huge load. All sorts of interesting modulations between riff and solo are possible, with the wank potential of the latter restrained by the need to sustain the flow with a thickness of tone and a rhythmic sinuousness. In a trio, everyone has to be up to snuff, and all three of these characters–guitarist Guy Blakeslee, drummer Derek James, and bassist Paz Lenchantin–were up to their nostrils in the stuff. Ferocious entertainment.
Usually I only stick around past the first couple songs if the drummer is actually saying something, or at least respects the groove and does not rely on cymbals and bash to conjure up energy. Derek James was definitely on–he played with intensity but without slop, he held the beats tight while shifting the center within and between songs. But I didn’t really pay a lot of attention to the guy because I was getting all weak-kneed before Blakeslee’s guitar.
A lanky lefty with long hair and skinny wrists, Blakeslee’s one of the best young rock players I have seen in a while. His restless intensity is balanced with a methodical cool, and he managed to fuse far more eras and styles than your more typical devotion to ’60s blues-rock requires. Along with reviving the bends and boogie of Fillmore West lysergia, he also explored a raft of later metal and psych styles, including some minor key and middle-eastern modes that added witchiness to the bemushroomed killin floor. He also milked much fun from dense clusters of melodic hammer-ons that reminded me of, believe it or not, Eddie Van Halen (and that’s a compliment, chumps!). And while Blakeslee coaxed lots of delicious analog-sounding spooge out of his rack of FX, he was also perfectly willing to exploit the more crystalline echo labyrinth of fully digital effects.
Looking past the long hair and the classic Fenders, I saw a band that was way more Now that retro. Just the way that Brett Morgan’s new animated doc has rebranded the Chicago Seven as the Chicago Ten, the Entrance Band has rebranded ‘60s political and sonic clamor into something that a slicker, media-saturated era can embrace. Their riffs are not pop, but the band has an infectious charm that will, I hope, take them beyond the velvet ghetto of contemporary psych.
I mostly chalk up to this charm to their sense of the beat, which has definitely passed through the eras of disco and New Wave and survived. Bassist Paz Lenchantin, who both fulfilled and transcended the archetype of the chick bassist, devoted herself to a steady pulse that communicated both conviction and pop propulsion. A couple times, and without the usual feel-good grin, she raised her hands over her head to clap out the beat with the crowd. There was something almost communal about it, like she wanted to draw the audience back into the Movement through shared fusion in the beat. The band’s political lyrics–“M.L.K.,” etc.–were similarly earnest but mostly seemed kinda dumb to me. But I didn’t care. I just sipped my ale and waited for Blakeslee’s squalls to bust their moves. Okay, I clapped along with everyone too.
Erik Davis has a pretty spiffy website at www.techgnosis.com. He writes a column for Arthur Magazine called “The Analog Life.”
Never Too Much, Always A Little Less Erik Davis on the recently reissued recordings of Alan Watts’ Zen talks, haiku poetry and other moments of intense perception
Recently the good folks at Locust Music have seen fit to release three unusual Alan Watts recordings. Watts was a very social guy, and he hobnobbed with many Bay Area mavericks after moving to the region in the early 1950s. One of these characters was Henry Jacobs, a pioneering musician, sound collagist and radio prankster whose oddball 1955 Folkways debut Radio Programme no. 1: Henry Jacobs’ Music & Folklore was also reissued on Locust. That disc was culled, in spirit if not in fact, from the “Music & Folklore” show that Jacobs hosted on Berkeley’s insanely forward-looking free-form radio station KPFA. Jacobs was a Pacific Rim kind of fellow—he played tons of international recordings on his show, and was married to a Japanese woman named Sumire Hasegawa. In the late 1950s, Jacobs formed Musical Engineering Association, a record label in Sausalito devoted to the sort of east-west fusions that characterized much of the budding California consciousness movement. MEA issued three albums from Watts, along with some recordings of S.I. “general semantics” Hayakawa; they also recorded commercials for Japan Airlines.
The first Watts record, Haiku, begins with a side-long lecture by the former Anglican priest about the relationship between Zen and haiku, the highly formalized Japanese poetic form of seventeen syllables. In his classy, comforting, tweed-jacket voice, Watts describes the “profoundly startling simplicity” that lies at the heart of both practices. The talk is a fine example of the sort of shimmering and crystalline lectures that Watts could seemingly produce at the drop of a hat, often live on KPFA, and that still blow through the mind like a cleansing breeze. On the second side, Watts reads selected haiku, grouped according to the four seasons:
Outside the window, evening rain is heard It is the banana leaf that speaks of it first
Following each selection, some Caucasian cats with Japanese instruments, including Jacobs, set off little improvised bursts of Japonica, not unlike the dramatic punctuations of a Takemitsu samurai soundtrack. Then Sumire Jacobs chants the poems in the original tongue. The contrast between Watts’ calm, storytime tones and Sumire’s witchy and Noh-esque singsong is marvelous, although best listened to with full attention and a receptive state of mind. As Watts explains on the first side, the sparkle of haiku partly depends on the open mind of the listener. In contrast to the over-saturation of our contemporary mediascape, the message of haiku is, as Jacobs explained elsewhere, “mystery: never too much, always a little less.”
Haiku sold decently. The intelligentsia were then fascinated with Zen, and the New York Times gave it a positive review. So MEA put out Zen & Senryu, a less successful but still worthwhile collection of Zen poems and satirical Senryu verse, drawn from Blyth’s Haiku book and Zen texts by D.T. Suzuki, Nyogen Senzaki and Watts. The poems are delivered in the same format as the readings on Haiku. The collection includes some classics—almost Zen cliches at this point—but some real gems as well:
Even in the mind of the mindless one Arises grief When the snipe wings up in the autumn evening Over the marsh
The second side of the disc represents a more wry and modern side of Japanese poetics. In the senryu poems, the attention to the thusness of ordinary life refocuses on the absurdity of ordinary life:
The husband’s toenail jumps into the sewing box
Overtaking and passing her I saw that she was not much
In the right space, these two Watts recordings go down like a cup of oolong tea in the late afternoon. This is IT, on the other hand, goes down like a bubbling vat of Haitian jungle juice cut with a fresh batch of Sandoz crystal. The origin of the recording, often pegged as the first aural document of psychedelia, seems to be a late-night free-association fest dedicated to nothing more than the pursuit and expression of The Ineffable ITness. Watts and Jacobs are joined by Roger Somers, who drums and chants, as well as other hipsters, including percussionist William Loughborough, hitting and plucking congas, bass marimbas, and a lujon. On the surface level, the recording resembles an improvised bongo jam between beatniks with exotica leanings, with moaning mantras, shaman rattles, faux gagaku, and dribbling Afro-Carribean beats. But just when you think things are just going groovy, some little nonsense ditty or stoner chant suddenly bristles into something ancient and enormous. The vocals of Watts and Somers are particularly intense, as words devolve into werewolf barks and demon coughs and windigo roars that are truly hair-raising. The contrast between Watts’ guttural incantations and the erudite diction on the earlier MEA discs could not be stronger, but both modes are equally inspired, and equally expressive of the same quest for authentic spontaneity.
This is IT was recorded in 1962, at the peak of Watts’ interest in LSD. The back cover copy quotes from The Joyous Cosmology, which was written the same year and features a thinly disguised account of tripping with Somers and Gidlow at Druid Heights. Given the historical context of the recording, and the surreal and incandescent mind-meld it captures, it is impossible not to regard This is IT as a documentary recording of an LSD session at a time when the meanings and routines of psychedelic experience were barely articulated. For this reason alone it is an exceptional recording. This is what freedom sounded like in Marin County, 1962, and it became the fountainhead and prophecy of so much freakiness, sonic and otherwise, to come. But the condition of their neurons doesn’t really matter—on “Fingernail Poem,” Alan Watts may simply be drunk. What matters is the blast these mavericks send our way from the far fields that fringe our more mundane realities. In this way, This is IT achieves the goal of haiku: a moment of intense perception, the lightning strike we profane by thinking only that life is fleeting.
STRANGE BREW Canadian-Swiss anthropologist JEREMY NARBY on what hallucinogens like LSD and the Amazonian drink ayahuasca have to teach us
Introduction by Erik Davis Q & A by Jay Babcock Illustration by Arik Roper
Originally published in Arthur No. 22/May 2006
INTRODUCTION by Erik Davis
The anthropologist and author Jeremy Narby hit the intellectual freak scene in 1998 when he published The Cosmic Serpent, an audacious, intriguing, and entertaining dose of righteous mind candy that grew out of his decades-long explorations—both personal and scholarly—of the ayahuasca-swilling tribes of the upper Amazon. A Canadian living in Switzerland—at least when he’s not researching in the jungle or working on indigenous rights—Narby is no bug-eyed hippie prophet of “the tea.” He is a grounded, sensible fellow with a dry wit, an unromantic but respectful view of shamanism, and an allergy to vaporous supernatural claims. (In Europe he also sometimes performs with the guys behind the Young Gods, a seminal Swiss industrial band that led the Wax Trax pack back in the day.) While Narby’s head has definitely been broken open, his book does not spend a lot of time on the “spiritual” import of the jungle brew. Instead, Narby focuses on one of the biggest claims made by the Amazonian shamans: that their ritual ingestion of the hallucinogenic brew not only brought them contact with the spirits of animals and healing forces, but actually gave them knowledge—actual data—about the workings of the jungle around them.
After all, some sort of weird data transfer is going on in the jungle (though its hard to say it reaches the increasing numbers of spiritual tourists who are now hustling down to the Amazon and transforming shamanic culture with first world dollars). The existence of ayahuasca itself may be one of the greatest mysteries. Ayahuasca is not one plant, but a relatively complex brew that requires a fair amount of preparation. How did the old ones know that, out of the 80,000 some species of plants in the jungle, only this vine, combined with that shrub, and then boiled down into black gook, can produce the mother of all trips (not to mention some grade-A karmic Drain-O)?
Narby takes the mystery one step further: could the shamans be right? Could the brew, which one informant calls “the television of the jungle,” facilitate the knowledge of the jungle? To approach this question, Narby attempts to “defocalize” his gaze so that he can perceive science and indigenous understandings at more or less the same time. This trippy conceptual exercise leads him to the central mindfuck of the book: that the serpents that commonly slip into the visual field during ayahuasca trips are a figurative expression of the ultimate source of ayahuasca’s visionary communiqués: the coils of DNA. Ayahuasca is not just a head trip – it is a communication with the “global network of DNA-based life.” Narby is no true believer, and he is somewhat startled by his own hypothesis, but that makes it all the more compelling, and the lengthy notes in the back of the book prove he is doing more than riffing.
After co-editing a powerful collection of first-hand reports of Western encounters with shamans, Narby came out with the book Intelligence in Nature. Rejecting the idea that plants and “lower” animals are mute mechanisms, Narby uncovers scientific evidence that impressive feats of cognition are going on outside the precious smartypants club of the higher primates. Narby looks at bees capable of abstract thought, and unicellular slime molds who are able to solve mazes. Perhaps inevitably, the book is not as wild a ride as The Cosmic Serpent, and Narby spends too much time describing his mundane journeys to research labs and too little time wrestling with how “intelligence” relates to choice, or awareness, or intention. Nonetheless, the book is a worthwhile example of Narby’s “defocalized” gaze – an undeniably scientific appreciation whose inspiration lies with the fundamental shamanic belief that other creatures, and even some plants, are, in their own world, “people” like us.
INTERVIEW Cby Jay Babcock over the telephone in late January, 2006
Arthur: You attended the conference on LSD held in Basel this past January to coincide with the 100th birthday of the father of LSD, Dr. Albert Hoffman. What happened there?
Jeremy Narby: What didn’t happen? I think one needs metaphors to get at it, really. When LSD hit in the ‘60s, it was like a drop of mercury that went in all kinds of directions, broke into a lot of different shards. Because LSD affects consciousness and consciousness affects everything, LSD had an impact in art, in music, in thinking, in the personal computer industry, in biology, and so on. In Basel all the different little pieces came back together and arranged themselves in a kind of mosaic that was psychedelic, multi-faceted and beautiful. All the chickens came home to roost after 40 years, looking good. One of my favorite moments was when Christian Ratsch came on the big stage with Guru Guru, which is the original Krautrock band. He was walking around with amber incense and stuff, providing incantations and shamanistic energy during the set, and these sprightly gentlemen, who must be about 55, just rocked the house down. It was fantastic.
Arthur: So, where does it go from here?
Jeremy Narby: One of the aims of the symposium was a kind of explicit political aim at getting psychedelic research back on the scientific map, and I think the point’s well taken. But you know, I’ve been working as an activist to get recognition for the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples and essentially despite a couple of decades of work and a lot of clear data (it seems to me), there’s really a fundamental resistance coming out of rationalism, coming out of Western cultures, coming out of the political systems. So I have the feeling of having led the horse to water but it didn’t want to drink. Sure, we can talk to the horse nicely and try and get it to drink the water some more, but finally I feel like more drastic tactics are needed. Like kicking the horse in the butt, or telling it to go and take a hike, or turning your back on it.
So I applaud these efforts to legalize psychedelic research, but… There are those among us who have wanted to use hallucinogens how indigenous people use them—in a serious way to understand the world. And we’ve been doing it, underground, for the last bunch of decades, and getting results that are richer and more interesting than what the Western rationalists are producing. So, I’d say that I’d rather take hallucinogens and then write stunning books than make speeches about hallucinogens.
Arthur: What was the response of Western rationalists to your hypothesis in The Comsic Serpent—that Amazonian shamans were actually receiving information at the molecular level via the ayahusaca trance?
Jeremy Narby: Scientists said that I hadn’t tested my hypothesis. Well, okay : I was just happy to have it considered testable! [chuckles] So how do we test it? Well, you try to falsify your hypothesis. You come up with a test to try to demonstrate that it’s wrong. That’s the scientific method. So, I thought, let’s send three Western molecular biologists with questions in their labwork down to the Amazon and put them into ayahuasca-induced trances. If they didn’t come up with any information then my hypothesis would start to look falsified. Now, it is a heavy thing to ask people who have never taken mindbending hallucinogens before to submit themselves to the experience in the name of science. These people are making their psyches available to you and then you distort them with these powerful hallucinogenic plants. In terms of ethics, this is even worse than experimenting on animals. It’s experimenting on humans. They were consulting subjects and all, but sheesh, this is serious business. I mean, the first thing that ayahuasca does, before it answers whatever questions you might put to it, is it tells you about yourself. It puts its finger on your weak spots, fast. It encourages you to clean up your act. This makes it a hard path to knowledge for somebody who’s into ‘being objective’ in the lab. As a scientist, you’re not supposed to pay attention to your subjectivity—you’re supposed to jettison it. But when you end up in an ayahuasca experience, it’s your little subjective self that is the hot point. Your subjective self comes to the forefront in your acquisition of knowledge. For a scientist, that’s a rough one.
Arthur: You were able to find volunteers, nonetheless. I gather they were colleagues… ?
Click on the cover to go to a page on amazon where you can order the item…
“Rudolph Wurlitzer is the author of the novels The Drop Edge of Yonder, Quake, Flats, and Slow Fade, as well as the nonfiction memoir Hard Travel to Sacred Places. He wrote the screenplays for such classic films as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Two Lane Blacktop, and Walker, among others, and co-directed the film Candy Mountain with Robert Frank.”
Read the introduction to the new edition of this “headventure” classic by Arthur columnist Erik Davis: download PDF
Dear Arthur, Okay, so a lot of people in Arthur have been coming out of the Deadhead closet lately [cf. “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band”, Arthur No. 11]. Someone, maybe Bastet, maybe someone else, should put out a mix CD or two of some of the Dead’s material that might be most likely to impress the contemporary drone/noise/psych/improv and/or free(k) folk scene(s). I have enjoyed a very small percentage of the G.D. that I have heard, and have been unwilling to delve through the catalog in search of the gems. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and would like to hear a carefully selected mix made by discerning ears. Example: Garcia solo piece on Zabriskie Point soundtrack. Rick Swan via email
Dear Rick, There are over 2,800 Grateful Dead shows available for free download at archive.org, and depending on who you talk to at least a half-dozen studio albums worth checking out. That’s a lot of music to sort through, even if you can get your hands on most of it without laying down any cash. We convened a conclave of reconstructed Deadheads in order to help you and any other greenhorn seekers of the Dead find your way around. The Knights present for this meeting were:
Geologist, a member of Animal Collective, that incredible international post-hippie string band. N. Shineywater, of Alabama’s creamiest slow-folk practitioners, Brightblack Morning Light. It is worth nothing that Brightblack’s cover of “Brokedown Palace” with Will Oldham on vocals makes us weep. Ethan Miller, of the mighty Comets on Fire. Daniel Chamberlin, a contributing editor at Arthur, and the author of “Uncle Skullfucker’s Band” (Arthur No. 11) about life as a closet Deadhead. Denise DiVitto & Brant Bjork: Owner-operators of Duna Records, which releases records by Mr. Bjork (co-founder of Kyuss) and other worthy artists. Two mellow souls who hang in the desert. Erik Davis, Arthur contributor, native Californian and the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information. Barry Smolin, the host of the essential “The Music Never Stops” Dead showcase on Los Angeles’s KPFK, 90.7 FM. Michael Simmons, a contributing editor to Arthur. The Seth Man, a/k/a The Seth Man, editor of FUZ and author of “The Book of Seth” on Julian Cope’s website.
GEOLOGIST (Animal Collective) The birth of my father was a mistake; an unplanned pregnancy in the 1950s. As a result, his brothers, and my cousins, are much older. During the ’80s, my cousin Adam was my idol. I was in grade school, he was in high school and later went to college in Athens, GA. The guy was all about “rock & roll.” He had Live…Like A Suicide by Guns N’ Roses on vinyl in 1986. He predicted the worldwide stardom of REM and the B-52’s as far back as I can remember. But his first musical love was, and as far as I know, still is The Grateful Dead. By the end of the ’80s he had been to over 100 shows.
As I got older and began to hunger for more music than what was being fed to me on MTV, I of course turned to him. Like any true Deadhead, my cousin immediately pushed me towards their live material. His Dead collection was just a box of tapes with dates written on them; I don’t really remember seeing any albums. It is to this aspect of the Dead’s output that I would direct any new fan. I listen to the ’66-’74 era, pretty much exclusively. An easy place to start is the live albums released during this period, specifically Live/Dead (from ’69) and Europe ’72. The former has my all-time favorite Dead jam, “Dark Star” into “St. Stephen,” and the latter contains my second favorite, “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” (affectionately known to Dead fans as “China Rider”). In addition, there is a killer CD release of a Fillmore East show from 2/11/69, which has some of the same tunes. And for 1974, the Winterland shows from February of that year totally rule, even though you have to endure the awful background singing of Donna Godchaux.
I certainly don’t mean to discount the worth of their studio albums, because there is no denying the greatness of Anthem Of The Sun, Aoxomoxoa and American Beauty. I love them all and listen to them frequently, but I still lean towards the live stuff. The reason for this is simply “good times.” I recently got into an argument at a bar about whether or not you can give credit to someone for nothing more than “good times.” I say you totally can. Why not? Isn’t that pretty much what most of us want on a day-to-day basis? I was fortunate enough to see the Dead on one of their last tours in 1994. I was 15 years old, and had moved from Philly to Baltimore, where I was in the early stages of becoming best friends with the dudes I still consider my closest friends in the world. At the time, however, I dearly missed my old friends from middle school. They managed to get tickets to the Dead show at the Philly Spectrum, and my parents, being the wonderful folks they are, let me skip school for three days and hop on the train to catch the show. Jerry may have been old and forgotten some lyrics here and there, but man, good times were had by all. I’ve never since been in an environment as positive as that concert. As people who are passionate about music, especially music that is outside of the mainstream, we sometimes get caught up in our own brand of snobbery. But when I catch myself acting like a dick, I try and think back to that night wandering around the burrito stands and hacky-sack circles in that parking lot. If people continue to care about the music we make and continue to come see us play, I really hope our parking lots will look and feel like that one day. Good times.
N. SHINEYWATER (Brightblack Morning Light) Early-era Dead songs resonate with me, so I would maybe dig a collection of songs featuring Pig Pen. The first recording I heard by Grateful Dead also served as a successful backdrop to a good time. It involved my native Alabama woods, an old Jeep chasing another old Jeep through the mud, and the constant doobie. The friend of mine who was driving the jeep let The Dead’s American Beauty repeat over and over … Somehow a very long early-version of the song “Dark Star” appeared on the homemade cassette, and when this came on we had just taken a doobie break. One friendly sister starting throwing mud at me so I threw mud back at her and the next thing I saw was this dancing grey mud flying and hitting smiling bodies of friends.
One time this same Jeep-friend has to drive across the country in a new Ford van. He happened to know he was going to be using reefer along the way. The van had only one sticker, plain in style, that read, “GOOD OL” really large, followed very small by “GRATEFUL DEAD.” It wasn’t the kind with little orange bears; it was red, white and blue. He chose this plain sticker to avoid attracting the Man. Yet he knew that he wanted to share his love of Grateful Dead music. It was a risk he didn’t mind taking.
Later in life he led a Greenpeace effort to successfully lower himself and a few others over the side of the Mitsubishi building in Oregon with banners that read, “BOYCOTT MITSUBISHI, MITSUBISHI DESTROYS RAINFORESTS.” The last I heard of him he became a river guide.
ETHAN MILLER (Comets On Fire) First off, I also loved that article by Daniel Chamberlin in the July 2004 Arthur also and found it very inspiring to try and track down the more extreme avant-garde Dead stuff that the author of that piece talks about being fooled that it was Dead C. or Sonic Youth or whatever.
It’s Coming Down, Baby! Erik Davis catches up with SIR RICHARD BISHOP—gypsy picatrix, ex-Sun City Girl and guitarist extraordinaire Illustration by John Coulthart
Superlatives can be lame, but Richard Bishop is one of the few post-punk guitarists who came of age in the 1980s to have achieved the incendiary prowess of a true Guitar God. Though largely unknown outside the underground, Bishop plays and improvises with an uncommon and original power. He can tantalize in a myriad of styles, he has a global jukebox in his head, he can shatter the walls of sleep and chaos, and he can turn on a dime. He loves the guitar and mocks it: he plays like an absurdist and a romantic at once. He studies the occult and travels the Third World fringe and you can hear it. He plays guitar to save himself and fails in the endeavor and you can hear it. He can scare the shit out of you sometimes, and he can make you giggle and grin.
For decades Bishop played with his brother Alan and the Charlie Gocher in the Sun City Girls, where his ferocious and inventive exploration of psych-rock, punk spew, idiot jizz, Indo-Arabic fantasias, and jazzbo abstraction was often shadowed by the madcap antics, acerbic lyrics and general air of arcane weirdness that surrounded that impossible act. Gocher passed away in February this year at the age of 54, and the Girls are no more.
But over the last half decade, Bishop has also been playing and recording solo instrumental music as Sir Richard Bishop, and the effort is really starting to flower. This year SRB released two great albums. While My Guitar Gently Bleeds features three long pieces that triangulate his essential territory as an improviser: a North African arabesque, a noisy electronic nightscape, and a modal neo-raga on the tantric tip. Polytheistic Fragments is a more accessible and varied work, featuring a dozen tunes that also stretch into Americana, gypsy rag and Lennon-McCartney charm. As always, the recordings are packaged with strange and mystic images that speak to Bishop’s longtime study of esoterica.
Earlier this fall Bishop toured with labelmate Bill Callahan. I called him while he was taking a break in Seattle.
This August, around 25,000 people hauled their kits and caboodles down a long hot narrow road in the middle of the Portuguese nowhere to camp like migrants along the shores of a lake not far from the Spanish border. They made the trek to attend Boom, a biannual electronic dance music festival that has grown into a large and successful event that eschews corporate sponsorship and keeps its roots in the underground alive. There were all sorts of people at Boom, but the dominant vibe of the weeklong festival was neotribal: a rave-inflected millennial florescence of hippie shit like long hair, fashion exotica, hardcore psychedelia, trance dancing, healing arts, and pagan-ish New Age mysticism with an apocalyptic thrust. There were chai shops and vegan grub vendors and massage centers and drug information booths, plus four music stages that provided everything from cheesy breakbeats to live world fusion to ambient driftworks. But the core genre was psytrance, an intense and sometimes unnervingly trippy form of electronic dance music whose pulverizing, brain-synching and monotonous beats that embody a ferocious psychedelic aspiration that makes dancing at Boom as much a ritual as a party.
“On Saturday, October 4, Esotouric, the eclectic bus adventure company whose tours reveal L.A.’s secret history, returns with a second edition of VISIONARY HOLLYWOOD, the sold out tour which debuted in June, hosted by San Francisco-based writer [and Arthur columnist] Erik Davis and inspired by his acclaimed 2006 book “The Visionary State.”
“On this journey of exploration through the mystic realms of Los Angeles, passengers will join Erik on a guided tour of five extraordinary religious sites, meet followers of their respective faiths and explore the fascinating history of alternative religious practice in Southern California.
WHAT: “Visionary Hollywood” bus tour of historic spiritual sites
WHEN: Saturday October 4, 11am-3:30pm, departs from Bodhi Tree
Bookstore in West Hollywood
COST: $64/person, snacks included
MORE INFO: visit esotouric.com or call 323-223-2767
The tour departs from Bodhi Tree Bookstore in West Hollywood and includes visits to five extraordinary destinations:
THE AETHERIUS SOCIETY, a center for cosmic consciousness and healing founded in 1955 by UFO contactee Dr. George King, where guests will hear actual recordings of an extraterrestrial voice conveying significant messages. KROTONA APARTMENTS, a former Theosophical retreat founded in 1914, where guests will have a rare opportunity to visit the central courtyard and view the Rosicrucian window of this now-private residence. SISTER AIMEE SEMPLE MCPHERSON’S PARSONAGE, the beautifully restored private home and museum to the life of the influential and charismatic founder of the Foursquare Church on the edge of Echo Park. THE PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH SOCIETY, founded in 1934 as a non-denominational repository for the wisdom of the world, where guests will be guided by librarian, lecturer and author Maja D’Aoust through the Society’s remarkable library. THE VEDANTA SOCIETY OF
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, founded in 1930 to bring sacred Hindu philosophy to the West, where guests will be given a presentation on the Society’s history and programming, and browse in its fine gift shop.
Tour cost includes snacks and beverages served at The Aetherius Society and a seat on a luxury coach class bus equipped with monitors, air conditioning and restroom.
The post tour book signing at Bodhi Tree includes host Erik Davis, Maja D’Aoust (Philosophical Research Society librarian and author of “The Secret Source”) and Louis Sahagun (author of “Master of the Mysteries,” a new biography of PRS founder Manly P. Hall).
ABOUT THE HOST: Erik Davis is a San Francisco-based writer, culture critic, and independent scholar. He is the author of “TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information,” as well as a short critical volume on “Led Zeppelin IV.” Davis writes the “Analog Life” column for Arthur and contributes to scores of other magazines. His profile of Joanna Newsom in Arthur No. 25 was selected for inclusion in the “Best Music Writing 2007” collection from Da Capo. He won a Maggie award for his “San Francisco Magazine” profile of the Internet entrepreneur and UFO contactee Joe Firmage, while “The New Yorker” has recognized his expertise in the works of the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. He lectures frequently on topics ranging from electronic music to the evolution of consciousness.
Longtime Arthur contributor and columnist ERIK DAVIS was recently interviewed in the always impressive L.A. Record. Discussed: origins of Erik’s interest in the occult; occult figures, societies, spaces, artworks and events based in California; Manly P. Hall; Kenneth Anger; Cameron; and more. Read it here.