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New City Arts Festival Welcomes Psychedelic Sounds of Roky Erickson

Posted by October 21st, 2010 No Comments »

Roky Erickson with The Maldives & Massy Ferguson Neumos
October 21, 2010 @ Neumos

By Tyson Lynn

It took nearly 40 years, but Roky Erickson is finally coming into his own as a psychrock legend. Of course, it also took one or two sidetrips into mental illness, a mail theft charge, a notarized statement of alien inhabitation, and a back catalogue of influential singles.

Back in ’65, Erickson formed the 13th Floor Elevators with Tommy Hall, tooling psychedelically-lubed garage-rock engines. Then 19, Erickson released the Elevators debut, The Psychedelic Sounds Of.., featuring the single “You’re Gonna Miss Me”. It charted high regionally and made a strong showing nationally.

And that was as good as it was gonna get for the next 40 years. In ’69, Erickson was arrested in Texas for the possession of one joint (He was booked under his given name: Roger Kynard). An Austin band, Erickson and the Elevators were not unknown to Texas’ finest. The Elevators often advocated the use of LSD, peyote, DMT, and marijuana, a choice that did not endear them to the man.

Facing a ten-year prison term, Erickson pled not guilty by reason of insanity and was sentenced to the Austin State Hospital. He escaped several times (and, we assume, did not make it very far), provoking the State into moving him to the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. There, Erickson was reportedly subjected to Thorazine, electroshock therapy, and other experimental treatments. He remained incarcerated until ’72. Don’t get caught with drugs in Texas, kids.

It gets weirder. After he was released from the state hospital in ’74, Erickson formed a new band called “Bleib alien”, a Germanic pun, and eight years later announced that a Martian had inhabited his body. Sez Wikipedia: “A concerned friend enlisted a Notary Public to witness an official statement by Erickson that he was an alien; he hoped by declaring so publicly he would be in line with any ‘international laws’ he might have been breaking.”

One year after THAT, Erickson was arrested agai”n, this time for mail theft. See, Erickson had a years-long obsession with the mail, culminating in him picking up mail from neighbors who had moved and taping it to the walls of his room. The charges were ultimately dropped as he insisted he never opened any of it.

It took him ten years to wean off his medication and slowly move back into society. Another six before Erickson began his long, slow walk back into the public consciousness. For the last five, he’s anchored his ever-dreamy head with the rock that got him started, playing shows around the world, and reclaiming the legendary status he rightly earned and deserves.

He plays tonight at Neumos with The Maldives & Massy Ferguson for the City Arts Festival. You should strongly consider getting on their wavelength.

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