29 Apr 2016

Roky Erickson @ Voxhall, Aarhus DK 28.04.2016

A shadow of his former self, a semi-rehabilitated Roky Erickson goes through the motions on life support
It was a tired looking Roger Kynard Erickson who entered the stage at Voxhall the 28th of April, 2016. Whether this is the current state of the influential musician or a result of excessive touring is uncertain, but nonetheless coloured the evening's mood a bleak shade of blue.

You don't have to be much of a rock fan to know who Roky Erickson is. Together with bands like The Seeds and Electric Prunes, Roky's band The 13th Floor Elevators more or less created psychedelic rock in the mid sixties. Their '66 debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, remains a classic to this day, with the track You're Gonna Miss Me being regarded as the group's biggest hit. Two albums followed, Easter Everywhere and Bull of the Woods, before the band dissolved and Erickson continued with other projects.

"When one of his brothers took over his care, ... Erickson started touring and making music again."

Saluted by well known musicians like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and Patty Smith, Erickson's illustrious career was especially public as he was made a sort of scape-goat for celebrity drug-addicts. The Austin, Texas, musician has had problems with mental illness and was by the nineties basically unfunctional in society. When one of his brothers took over his care, things started looking brighter and Erickson started touring and making music again. A much more detailed chronicle of Roky Erickson's life was recounted in the film You're Gonna Miss Me from 2006.

Though uncredited on the venue's website - And possibly unplanned - the backing band's drummer Matt Long did a short singer-songwriter solo set before the main course with a few bleak, down to earth compositions. His set failed to impress and his songs were almost offendingly ordinary, with the closing song being the exception to the rule. As such it felt mostly like he was stalling for time, as his music didn't really have any stylistic place alongside the psychedelic sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, or Roky Erickson's harder rock compositions post-Elevators.

Roky Erickson - Picture courtesy of Sabrina T. M.
Shortly after, Roky entered the stage. A haggard man, he looked disinclined and tired. A member of his backing band gave him his guitar, and the show commensed with a rendition of the Elevators classic Fire Engine which lacked the intensity and urgency that it originally had. Roky, it seems, was unable to produce much more than half-hearted singing, and barely had the energy or focus to play his guitar in more than a token fashion. As the band - jug-player and all - make the rounds through a well rounded set which featured songs from all Elevators albums, Roky showed varying degrees of being into it, and though his backing band did a great job at sounding like the 13th Floor Elevators, the overall performance fluctuated between being almost embarrasing and an alright tribute.

"Only for the most classic tracks ... did the audience truly cheer and whoop."

It felt like Erickson should have stayed home. A decent cover band could probably have pulled off the energy in the music more aptly, and for the most part the decent-sized audience remained unresponsive and motionless. Only for the most classic tracks as well as the encore set consisting of the Evil One classics If You Have Ghosts and Two-Headed Dog did the audience truly cheer and whoop. After most performances Roky managed a quiet thank you, but not once did he actually address the audience, letting instead members of his competent backing band do all the talking.

As an overall experience it's great to have Roky Erickson crossed off the list - Especially with a special set like this 13th Floor Elevators tour. But as actual entertainment it falls through, exposing the prolific musician and songwriter as a sick and tired old man whos best years are behind him.


The concert took place on the Roky Erickson Plays the 13th Floor Elevators tour at Voxhall in Aarhus, Denmark on the 28th of April 2016.

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