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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roky Erickson Great American Music Hall - 3/3/12 Review

Roky Erickson
I went to Roky's show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Saturday night. We got the following:

Night Beats from 9-9:30
Jegar and backing band from 10-10:30 Roky and Dana went upstairs to the balcony to watch Jegar's set.
Roky and Jegar's backing band from 11:15-12:20

Set list was as follows. I haven't bothered spelling out the titles, since they're so familiar to anyone who's seen Roky live:

Cold Night For Alligators
Goodbye Sweet Dreams
Fire Demon
Bloody Hammer
Starry Eyes
White Faces
Don't Slander Me
The Beast

Two Headed Dog
John Lawman
Creature with the Atom Brain
Splash I
Roller Coaster
Didn't Recognize This Song
You're Gonna Miss Me

So, first off...the local paper had the show listed with just Night Beats and Roky on the bill. Night Beats played and they kinda mumbled something about something and Roky coming up. Night Beats finish and leave and this other band starts setting up and everyone gets their heads right and gets in position, figuring this is Roky's back up band. They start up and the singer comes out and has this confrontational murder punk vibe goin' on and people realize, A: This is not Roky...B: This is not very good and C We have to sit through 45+ minutes of this before we get our Roky on?

The crowd was very vocal about this making for a very tense and kinda confusing performance. They pretty much played their set and left the stage with a silent crowd standing there baffled and a bit blindsided. So we knew this was Roky's son but I don't think anybody else knew....at least not a large portion of the crowd. We saw Roky upstairs in his booth with his wife and people were heckling the band behind them. Roky's wife flipped them off and was duly apologized to. We felt bad for the band since they were in an impossible position...

Roky finally goes on and we saw him get up from his booth to go backstage and he looked really out of it..looks heavier than the last time I saw him. His set was very confused and he sounded really hoarse on a lot of songs. He was either forgetting lyrics or he was trying to get a call and response thing going with the band and occasionally his son got up there. He would start a line and then step away from the mic and look over at the band...We couldn't tell if he was asking for help with the lyrics or if he was just thinking they were singing it too...the other vocals were buried in the mix...so when he wasn't singing there were no vox. Also, his guitar tone was totally blown out and not in a good way...and the guitar tones in general were pretty weak. We felt mostly disillusioned and sad for the band.

We (my date and I) didn't like that the crowd reacted so negatively, but the whole thing was awkward and I would rather remember Roky Erickson from his legacy of work rather than see him dragged out to butcher his own music. I also have seen him totally sound great and when that happens it's magic. It's just such a crap shoot and when it's bad it's just such a bad feeling all around. I don't need to see that. I know what you might be thinking but I'm just not into the 'I'll take whatever I can get from a legend...even if it's one good version of 'Bloody Hammer' and the rest is just a mess. I'd rather he live out his golden years in peace with friends and family around or whatever. But maybe he really wants to play that badly and to entertain his fans...I respect that too, but if he's being driven to do this and he's only half into it or so out of it that he just agrees to do whatever, I can't enjoy that.

I'm happy I got to see him since it was a mystery if he'd ever perform again during that long absence....but I feel like a lot of people just need to say that they saw him and have no regard for his well being. He said and did enough in his body of work and contributed so much to music in general that if he never came back after that long silence...his image and work would remain untainted. Maybe more studio work...more writing...not sure what his med situation is either...so many factors. I really hated to see so many people leave a sold out show. At least a third of the crowd left.

El Jeffe Klukowski

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