Last Night: Roky Erickson At The Granada Theater

Roky Erickson, The Black Angels, Dove Hunter Granada Theater October 4, 2008

Better than: Sitting around my house, listening to records by legendary loons like Daniel Johnston and Nick Drake instead of seeing a real kook live.

Roky walked with a zombie last night. (Dylan Hollingsworth)

Although it’s almost a month until Halloween rolls around, that didn’t stop all the wackos and accident-chasers from making their way to the Granada last evening to see what--if anything--renowned psychedelic burnout Roky Erickson still had to offer. All sorts of area music journalists, promoters and local musicians gathered to see if Erickson, backed by Austin’s The Black Angels, would make it through the show without incident.

Well, he did.

Sort of.

Looking like a down-and-out Macy’s parade Santa Claus, Erickson appeared genial--but a bit confused--most of the evening. Starting with “Two Headed Dog,” Erickson and the band sounded a few practices short of proficient.

Not that this style of music lends itself to sleek professionalism.

The Black Angels obviously revered the 51 61-year-old former mental patient. Hell, Angels singer Alex Mass brought Erickson Gatorade throughout the show and even turned pages on a music stand so the rotund one could remember his own lyrics. Of course, one could argue that songs like “I Walked With a Zombie” which features, at the most, a couple of dozen words, wouldn’t require a make shift teleprompter....but, in any case, it was a sloppy but joyful set of a dozen tunes from Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators heyday and his fascinatingly bizarre and tortured solo career. “Creature With the Atom Brain” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me” sounded fine, mostly for the memories they induced.

At the end of the show, Erickson was beaming, and the crowd gave him a respectful ovation. And, looking much older than 51, Erickson was guided backstage like a grandfather being taken back to his Lazy-Boy recliner.

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: Although the band is often heralded as the forefathers of psychedelia, I often find myself bored listening to the 13th Floor Elevators. Erickson’s original band had only a couple of signature tunes that didn’t make bearable all the drug-addled noodling. And what was up with that annoying damn jug player? If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone was running a poorly maintained vacuum in the studio...

Random Note: Between bands, the Granada decided not to show any videos from bands that are coming to the Theater in the near future. Perhaps those DVDs from The Black Keys and Calexico are all they have... Well, I have a Mountain Goats live show they can borrow, if they promise to give it back!

By The Way: Dove Hunter opened the evening and, although only about 100 people had made their way into the venue, the band gave a spirited performance. A bit too-jammy at spots, the band made up for any meandering with interesting songs that show depth and a willingness to move beyond the expected. Same goes for The Black Angels, who not only provided stable backup for Erickson, but who also played a energetic 45-minute set of their own. Dense and engaging, the music of The Black Angels deserves further investigation. --Darryl Smyers

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