Roky Erickson, Dim Locator
September 30, 2011
Better than: languishing away in a state hospital.
There's a difference between the psychedelic music that comes from Texas and that which comes from other scenes. Our state's brew has got a whole lot more soul to it, plus a slight dusting of twang.
Most notably, it celebrates a darkness far from the hippy dippy attitudes of the psychedelia from San Francisco and London.
The darkness and twang were present aplenty on Friday night at the Kessler Theater. Six years after his "comeback," the legendary Roky Erickson took to the stage of the Oak Cliff venue, wearing his blue suede shoes to perform songs such as "The Beast is Coming," "I Walked with a Zombie" and "Night of the Vampire."
The overall mood of The Roky Erickson Story is a somewhat dark and psychedelic one itself; he's an infamously tragic figure reborn, saved, perhaps not in totality, but well enough to tell his tale. He and others did so in the 2005 documentary You're Gonna Miss Me about his time spent as a psych music icon and as a patient institutionalized in a psych ward.
That story, no doubt, was a large part of the draw behind Friday night's show. But the crowd didn't gawk at the "acid casualty." Instead, they fostered a real bond the audience with the performer.
He's a hero of sorts who, for some, represents a cult figure in the history of rock 'n' roll. For others, perhaps, he represents the hope that you can get through some scary shit and still come out OK in the end.
Indeed, a number in attendance on this night looked like they were going through some scary shit. But in Erickson, they had something to distract them, if only for one night.
Starting very strong in presence and voice and backed by a crackin' band, Erickson ran through 15 or so songs from his solo career, plus a smattering of classics from his days with the 13th Floor Elevators.
As the evening wore on, he began to slow down a little, less confident with the material, perhaps a little lost with the words. Still, at 67, his trademark shriek and sincere phrasing carried the set through to its finisher, "You're Gonna Miss Me," which featured Erickson's son, Jegar, on harmonica.
Throughout the night, Erickson's backing players teetered on that fine line of either supporting or overwhelming him. Ultimately, they provided him a solid foundation musically, and guided him through the occasional forgotten lyric and worked with him on song choices. They also seemed intent on keeping him motivated and focused. Taking the occasional lead -- particularly on "The Beast is Coming," Erickson just seemed to delight in being on stage again. He never spoke more than an off-mic muttering to the audience, but he communicated much more though the glint in his eyes.
Opener Dim Locator, the one-man project from Denton's Will Kapinos (also of Dove Hunter and formerly of Jetscreamer), started the night with a swampy blues stomp on slide guitar, with electronic kick drums and triggered cymbal crashes. His songs read like short stories told on a screened-in porch between sips of booze. His last song, a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You," was a fantastic performance and beautifully set the mood for the headliner.
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A romanticist would herald the evening as a triumph of good verses evil, a victory in the redemption of a lost mind. But that detracts of that original element of Texas Psychedelia, its soul.
And that's what Roky Erickson still brings.
Personal Bias: My first real band, The Twangpopes cut our teeth on Roky and the 13th Floor Elevators, being one of a million garage bands that covered "You're Gonna Miss Me." I wasn't able to do justice to that scream, but I do to this day carry the twang in my voice.
Random Note: After what I saw one woman doing to the monitor at this show, I will never think of a P.A. the same way again.