Roky Erickson has been one of my obsessions the year. He c0-founded the 13th Floor Elevator in 1965 and is said to have coined the term Psychedelic Rock. If you haven’t heard him, this will speak for itself:
There is something incredibly raw and primal about his music…and his life, too. And some point in the 80’s, he disappeared and stopped playing. Turns out he was living with his mother in the strange, alternate universe they’d created in her house (Kerouac anyone?). Some people believe the drugs are to blame…but the real problem was untreated schizophrenia…and a gifted, equally disturbed mother who preferred to keep him from being medicated. They were oddly comfortable in their mutual psychosis. There is an amazing, heartbreaking documentary about his life.
So when we saw he was playing in NYC, we had to go. He has only come back to perform recently, and he only does it on occasion. And it was great to see him and hear his music.
Part of him was not quite there…he was very dependent on the band, especially the guitarist, to keep him going. There was something sweet and kind of poignant about this band of young hipster 20-somethings acting as his protector and guardian. He’d look to them between each song for guidance and reassurance. They’d ask him questions “How do you like NY, Roky?” and he’d grunt his answers, and they’d say, “Yeah, yeah, completely.” Or they’d say things like, “This is your favorite song…right, Roky?” and he look happy.
And of course, Thomas got great pictures of the whole thing.
And in classic Thomas style, he walked us right onto the VIP balcony for the final few songs…and the bouncer didn’t even look twice (gotta love a cool Scandinavian). So we got to see You’re Gonna Miss Me from the the balcony, and that was surreal.
The thing about Roky…when he played, there was a disconnect….his eyes were glassy and absent. But here’s the thing…he still had that voice. A voice like that is undeniable. A gift.
And it was a gift to see him perform again.
and it made us happy:
and seeing Thomas happy is my favorite thing in the world!