Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roky Erickson Comes To Toronto

I had the privilege of attending the Toronto Raptors' season-opening game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday evening. Even better, the Raptors upset the Cavaliers and scored 100 points, which means I can exchange my ticket for a free slice at Pizza Pizza after my volleyball game tonight.
I was with the owner of Lee's Palace, who invited me to the club after the game. We arrived too late to catch The Sadies' opening set, but that's no big deal since I'll see the band playing with Andre Williams at the Horseshoe Tavern on Nov. 19.
But the main attraction was the legendary Roky Erickson, who was making his first Toronto appearance (and I think his only previous Canadian show was the night before in Hamilton). 
The leader of the pioneering and influential Austin, Texas '60s psych-rock band The 13th Floor Elevators suffered from schizophrenia and drug and electroshock-induced mental illness for decades, but performed for the first time in 10 years when he played three songs in his hometown in March 2005 during the South By Southwest Music Festival. That's where I saw him for the first time last year, and where I took the above photo at Stubb's.
Erickson played with some older musicians at that show and, while he's worshipped by local music fans, I thought the performance lacked passion. Last night, with three younger guys supporting him, there was more life and energy.
I missed the first four songs but arrived just in time to hear my favourite Erickson song, "Starry Eyes." His voice didn't sound great, but the mid-'70s tune is so catchy that you may have no soul if you don't like it.
Speaking of souls, and those who try to claim them, Erickson followed "Starry Eyes" with "Don't Shake Me Lucifer." Though I'm sure Erickson wasn't thinking about Halloween, much of the set list was appropriate for this time of year, as it included "Stand For The Fire Demon," "I Walked With A Zombie" and a sludgy "Night Of The Vampire."
Erickson didn't say a word between songs the whole time I was there, and he turned his back to the crowd to play his guitar whenever he wasn't singing. But the younger guitarist played lead, and was very good. 
The 13th Floor Elevators' signature song, "You're Gonna Miss Me," brought whoops from the crowd of 400 (which included The Sadies, who idolize Erickson, as well as local singers/musicians Ian Blurton, John Borra, Gord Cumming and Kate Boothman) who paid $35 to get in. Despite a rousing ovation that lasted for several minutes, there was no encore, so "Two-Headed Dog" ended the night.
It's unlikely that the 62-year-old Erickson will return to these parts again in the near future, but there seemed to be a consensus among those I spoke to or overheard that this show supplied sufficient gratification.
For fans or those who might be interested in finding out more about Erickson's fascinating life, you should definitely seek out the 2005 documentary, You're Gonna Miss Me. It's worth 94 minutes of your time.

1 comment:

Simply Saucer: The Film said...

Saw his show in Hamilton. It was great seeing him in a small venue. He did one set there too, ending with "You're Gonna Miss Me". With his voice not what it once was, it was wise to surround himself with a tight band who kept it all together.