Monday, October 30, 2017

Roky Erikson, Death Valley Girls - The Roxy, LA, Saturday Oct 28, 2017

I've dug the 13th Floor Elevators since first hearing "You're Gonna Miss Me", probably on Lenny Kaye's Nuggets back in the 70's. When I discovered the other amazing sounds of that band, I was hooked. Then in the 80's I heard Roky's solo outings and groked the demented horror stories he put to heavy rockin' music then. He always sounded like he was teetering on the edge of sanity, and he probably was, which was exciting and gave the proceedings a fantastic bite. He had a razor-sharp band on records like The Evil One and added to his fan base with these heavier releases. He has been in and out of institutions and has not always had his medications managing his more extravagant behavior, but he now seems to be reasonably in control and has been touring with a new band to fabulous reception. I never had to opportunity to see him before and thanks to the benevolence of my pal Rob (thanks Rob!), we made the road trip to LA for this (possibly) once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Opening the night was LA locals, Death Valley Girls - a trio of females with a male lead guitarist (who also played in Roky's band) - who played heavy rhythm'd rock (great drummer!) with a bit of No Wave-y noise. The lead singer, whose Minnie Mouse-like voice could be a bit unnerving (not necessarily a bad thing), played some guitar and some keyboards, giving different textures throughout the set. One song was a "Love Buzz" rip that stood out with its familiarity. I was not knocked out, but they were an interesting and somewhat appropriate opener. (Sorry I didn't get any good pix).

By the time Roky was up, the Roxy was jam-packed in a way that we haven't experienced for years seeing shows in Vegas. I was not able to get close enough for my camera to get the best photos, but the sound in the Roxy was excellent throughout and Roky and his band captured the crowd right from the start. Roky played a little guitar (even a bit of lead on one song) but mostly just sang, with 2 guitarists, bass and drums backing him and, when they did 13 Floor Elevators tunes, a jug player joined them!

His set-list was phenomenal, opening with "Cold Night For Alligators", "Sputnik", "White Faces", "Mine Mine Mind", "Night of the Vampire", and "Bloody Hammer" - wow! The lead player did not play all of the classic licks, which I suppose I should not expect as he put his own spin on them, but otherwise, the band was spot on. Roky did not talk at all between songs - the others would say the occasional "how is everyone doing tonight?!" - and he forgot some lyrics here'n'there and didn't hit some of the high notes, but was in excellent voice, overall.

The Elevators portion began with "Fire Engine", moving into "You Don't Know", "Levitation" (one of my faves), "Tried to Hide", "Roller Coaster" and "Reverberation", before heading back into his 80's classics with "Don't Shake Me Lucifer" and "Wind and More" (with the crowd singing along with the "whoa-oh-oh" section) and then leaving for the first time. There is no way the audience was going to let him go that easily and Roky came back for "Burn the Flame" and his incredible "Two Headed Dog" and the expected "You're Gonna Miss Me" but with the unexpected guest of Billy Gibbons from the Moving Sidewalks and ZZ Top! Unfortunately, he was barely audible as the jug player wailed on harmonica on this number (appropriately) and drowned him out. Still, amazing to see Billy paying homage to one of his 60's peers.

I wish that I had been able to snake through the crowd for a closer experience and I wish the guitarist played more of the memorable licks from the 80's songs, but that's nit-picking. Overall, the band was excellent and Roky was fairly mesmerizing. I'm not sure how many more dates are on the tour, but see this legend if you can!