04 August 2007

We Missed Him

I've just gotten back from seeing Roky Erickson perform at the Abbey Pub. For those who are unaware of why seeing him perform is such a special thing, you might want to check out this article from The Guardian. To make a long, long story very short, Erickson was the singer of a group called The 13th Floor Elevators, who are generally considered the first psychedelic rock band (the opening song in High Fidelity, "You're Gonna Miss Me," is their most famous song). After years of heavy drug use, Roky was arrested for marijuana possession, plead insanity in a misguided idea of how to avoid jail time. He was released a few years later, havving suffered shock treatments and mistreatment.

His music changed after he was released. No longer songs about drugs or love or heartbreak, now all he talked about, all he sang about, was monsters and monster movies. He believed himself to be an alien, and had a statement to that effect notarized. He sank deeper and deeper into madness, and when he was looked up by filmmaker Keven McAlester, his teeth were rotting out of his head and he sat around his cluttered house all day, surrounded by junk, with dozens of radios and tvs all tuned to different noises. McAlester made a great documentary about him, also called You're Gonna Miss Me, which is worth checking out.

Roky has made a remarkable recovery. His singing voice is still in fine form, and he performed with passion. I did notice that he would watch the lead guitarist, who would give him cues when to do certain things, and when Roky would solo, he would turn his back to the audience. People there didn't care how he did it, they just went nuts over him (myself included). Roky would only say to the audience, "Thank You!" which he must have said two or three times after each song, but it was a happy, grateful Thank You, the Thank You of a man who is really happy to be there, and really means it. He even said, "We're having a great time!" but seemed like that was too much for him to say, and quickly darted back away from the mic.

Every song he performed was from his post-asylum career, and so I heard songs like, "Two Headed Dog" and "Bloody Hammer," but he also sang "Starry Eyes," which was just about the last non-monster song he ever wrote. I had no expectation that he would perform any 13th Floor Elevators material, but one of the last songs he did was "You're Gonna Miss Me," and I have to tell you, it's one of my favorite songs in the world, and hearing him sing it live, after years of thinking I'd never get to hear it that way (Roky's recovery is only a couple of years old), it was exciting and emotional and one of those great moments you are sometimes fortunate to experience when you are really passionate about music.


I've seen Roky Erickson.

If any of you are fortunate enough to have Lollapalooza tickets he's doing a set there, too, but I'm glad I saw him at the bar.

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