Roky Erickson performs 13th Floor Elevators hits and his “Rock & Roll Horror” solo work at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, with Death Valley Girls opening
Roky Erickson, the howling Texan with a fondness for horror movies, walked slowly and gingerly across the Brooklyn stage, like a baby taking his first steps. He needed some assistance as he sat in his chair, his guitar being placed gently in his lap by a bandmate. During his set, he barely touched his guitar. He mainly just sang the epic songs he wrote long ago about vampires, zombies, demons, beasts, and a two-headed dog into a microphone with his arms hanging down by his sides.
This was my first time seeing the man who created psychedelic rock with his band the 13th Floor Elevators, shaking up the folky, peace and love scene of the Sixties with edgier and darker lyrics. If you’ve seen the documentary, You’re Gonna Miss Me, or have seen Roky Erickson play before 2010, you know that he can be an energetic frontman, but tonight he reminded me of Jabba the Hutt, closing his eyes between vocals and only cracking his eyelids when he sang. His history of dropping way too much acid, shooting heroin, taking speed, and his unfortunate development of schizophrenia, has put him in the hands of caretakers. He’s a lovable and gentle soul, who comes off very childlike, even after decades of living an intense rock & roll lifestyle. I was shocked at how well he sang and felt honored just to stand in front of him during his set. He did pick up his guitar while he sang for my favorite of his songs, “Night Of The Vampire.” Roky’s solo work is self-described as “Rock & Roll Horror,” which is perfectly fitting.
Roky played two nights at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, Sept. 5th and 6th. The first night he played all the psychedelic 13th Floor Elevators songs, while dedicating the second night to his solo work. I arrived on the second night and was let down at first realizing I wasn’t going to hear the Elevators, but as the night went on, I had the epiphany that his solo work appeals to me even more with its hard rock guitars and spooky, B-movie lyrics. It speaks to my inner nerd. He’s a musical genius, having a hugely successful ‘60s band and then coming back with a successful ‘70s and ‘80s solo career. Not many people can do that, not even Mick Jagger.
The audience went wild throughout the entire set, screaming, “We love you Roky!!” between songs. A cute little smile would appear on his face, while he rested his eyelids. “White Faces,” “Wind And More,” “Two Headed Dog,” and “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer,” were all crowd favorites with an encore of the 13th Floor Elevators song, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” making even the shyest rocker in the crowd shimmy. A New York Dolls era Johnny Thunders dopple-ganger was jumping up and down next to me and shaking his head feverishly. People definitely had the time of their lives. Solid music never goes out of style.
Afterwards, I got a shot of Roky with my pals in front of the club. Even as his bass player was telling us he needs to rest and was trying to make us back off, Roky gave the camera a thumbs up and seemed to enjoy it. What a guy!
The opening act was the L.A.-based punk band, Death Valley Girls. A cute little nymph with black pigtails named Bonnie Bloomgarden was writhing around on the ground at one point, shredding on her guitar underneath the towering bassist Alana Amram’s body. This amazing photo op brought Mick Ronson/David Bowie imagery into my brain. Bonnie is also the singer and keyboardist of the punk-garage group who refer to themselves as “dystopian doom boogie.” I loved their female empowerment track, “I’m A Man Too,” which is off their album Glow In The Dark, released by Burger Records in 2016. Bonnie sounds and acts similar to a Bikini Kill-era Kathleen Hanna, with non-stop energy and quirkiness. Afterwards, I bought a Death Valley Girls shirt which had a cool photo of Jordan, the punk rock icon who worked at Malcolm McLaren’s Sex shop in London. Go check these ladies (and one man) out on their upcoming tour with the great Roky Erickson!!!
Death Valley Girls tour schedule:
9/27 – The Catalyst – Santa Cruz, CA
9/28 – Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA
10/12 – 10/15 – Desert Daze 2017 – with Iggy Pop, Spiritualized, Eagles Of Death Metal, Courtney Barnett, Ty Segall, Kurt Vile, and more! – Joshua Tree, CA
10/28 – (with Roky Erickson) The Roxy Theatre – West Hollywood, CA
Roky Erickson Tour Schedule:
10/6 – 10/7 – Orpheum Theater – New Orleans, LA
10/ 27 – The Casbah – San Diego, CA
10/28 – (with Death Valley Girls) The Roxy – West Hollywood, CA
10/30 – 10/31 – The Chapel – San Francisco, CA
The 13th Floor Elevators on American Bandstand: