Saturday, November 13, 2010

Roky Erickson

Everybody's Got a Story:
by Julie Stoller

Tonight in Boston - 6pm
Bowery Presents at Royale
w/ Lyres & The Happen-Ins

INTRODUCTION - One of the earliest psychedelic electric blues-rock bands, The 13th Floor Elevators were wildly innovative, credited as pioneers of the psychedelic rock genre, and the first to make heavy use of reverb, echo and electric jug in their unique sound. At their creative center was Roky Erickson, singer-songwriter and guitarist, who had been playing music since the age of 5; one of his early bands was The Spades, when he was about 15. Though "You're Gonna Miss Me" was the Elevators' sole chart hit, they were extremely influential. ZZ Top, Television, R.E.M., T-Bone Burnett, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cramps, Television, The Minutemen, Lyres and Radio Birdman have all performed Roky's songs, and he's influenced many others (The Damned, Pere Ubu, The White Stripes, and Patti Smith, to name just a few).

STRUGGLE - Roky's life is an astonishing story of survival and resurrection against all odds, his immense personal struggles giving his recent songwriting a richness that speaks of great loss but with the enduring hope of a enduring spirit. We're very fortunate to have him here at all. In addition to he and the Elevators' exuberant drug use in the '60s (which led to periodic legal troubles), Roky had a long-term struggle with mental illness. These two situations came to a bad crossroads, which led to him being committed to a state hospital for the criminally insane (a ridiculous sentence for the possession of a single joint, but those were the times and worse still, Texas was the place). The dangerous experimental psychiatric treatments that ensued caused further emotional damage, and we might have lost him forever, were it not for his brother, singer/songwriter Sumner Erickson, intervening and getting him the help he needed.

CHARACTER - Even in the throes of his schizophrenia, Roky continued to write and record, battling his personal demons and monsters internally and giving them voice externally in his music, which took a turn from the psych-electric-blues of the '60s, to heavy metal and songs about vampires, zombies and aliens in the '70s and '80s. Fortunately, with his brother's help and quality medical care, he was eventually able to recouperate well enough to make a few public appearances, including a set at the Austin City Limits Festival in 2005, backed by The Explosives, which then led to other shows in Austin, New York, Coachella, and then in Europe.

MODERN - Erickson first teamed up with fellow Austin, Texas-based Okkervil River for performances in 2008 and 2009, who join him on his latest album (released in April), True Love Cast Out All Evil, his first CD of original material in 14 years. It includes autobiographical and introspective songs written while in the hospital, produced by Okkervil River's Will Sheff, who was inspired by Roky's heartfelt songwriting and personal story. Okkervil River are also performing with him on this tour; a wonderful opportunity to see a legendary, innovative musician collaborating with very cool and highly-regarded indie folk-rockers.

TONIGHT - Also performing at the Royale on Saturday night will be Boston's Lyres, legendary in their own right, and Austin's garage rock and R&B purveyors, The Happen-Ins. Both bands cite the 13th Floor Elevators as influences and are wonderfully scrappy and bluesy, with lots of heart... all the makings for a terrific evening.

Roky Erickson
Web / My /Fb / Tw

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