ROKY ERICKSON + DEATH VALLEY GIRLS @ THE ROXY
Photos by Danny Hernandez Words by Madison Desler
At the filled-to-capacity Roxy, chants of “RAW-KEY! RAW-KEY! RAW-KEY,” rang out throughout the night. The fictional Philadelphian boxer wasn’t present, nor the man who plays him, but a fighter of a different kind. As a founding member of the pioneering psychedelic rock band, The 13th Floor Elevators, Roky Erickson has taken some Apollo Creed-sized hits in his life since writing the band’s best-known song—the epochal “You’re Gonna Miss Me”—but has kept on coming.
It was while in the 13th Floor Elevators that Erickson was arrested on drug charges to which he pled insanity, leading to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and years spent in a maximum-security mental institution. Upon his release, Erickson formed a new band, Roky Erickson & The Aliens, releasing the classic album, The Evil One, in 1981—songs like “Sputnik,” “White Faces,” and “It’s A Cold Night For Alligators” getting enthusiastic replies from the audience last night—before being arrested again for mail theft in 1980s. In recent years, support from friends, family, and musicians who never forgot their debt to Erickson’s high-flying psych-rock have put him back on his feet, regularly playing shows and reunions for fans that are happy to see him doing well.
Erickson, with his rosy cheeks and long hair, looks like a jolly mountain man or some kind of fur trader. He sat down for the duration of the set, a smile appearing on his face every now and then. Highlights included “Mine Mine Mind,” and “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer,” which got a crowd sparsely sprinkled with Halloween costumes movin’. The base of his signature wail is still there—although now he sounds more like Axl Rose in need of some Throat Coat—able to power through a 17-song set that alternated between the psych-rock of the Elevators and the hard-rock of Erickson’s solo work.
He had to be helped off stage, but not back on—the crowd refusing to leave without an encore. The band blasted through the headbanger “Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)” before serving up the main event. To commemorate the influence of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”—the song that launched 1,000 garage bands, they brought out ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons—a fellow Texan and longtime champion of the outsider artist. His surprise appearance added an extra vibrancy to the song—causing the crowd to once again chant Roky’s name as they spilled out into the night.
The show was opened by our own Death Valley Girls who are touring with Erickson. Guitarist Larry Schemel is doing double duty by also playing with Erickson. As you may know, DVG is a collective of scary-hip rockers peddling brawny, bat-out-of-hell rock n’ roll. “All the bad stuff in the world is gone, starting after this song,” lead singer Bonnie Bloomgarden said in a cartoony, Tommy Pickles voice, launching into a song that sounded like the devil himself peeling out in a Camaro. Bloomgarden screeched and warbled her way through the Sunset Strip slither of “Glow In The Dark” and the organ-accented stomper, “Disco” setting the mood for Erickson’s oddball-rock and creating the perfect soundtrack for a Halloween party in hell.