Thursday, July 16, 2009
So I went to Rocky Erickson's Birthday Bash at Antone's with "No Expectations." These kind of affairs, not unlike the classic record release party, are usually about enjoyment and not music, and full of sloppy, schlocky sentimentality and not much in the way of worthwhile live performances. Apparently Texas didn't get that memo. I state categorically that last night's show at Antone's was one of the 10 best I've been at in my life and that includes stuff like The Smiths at the Manchester Club Academy in 1986 on their The Queen is Dead tour, Wire at the Double Door in Chicago (2003), the Buzzcocks at House of Blues, NOLA (2003), The Drive-By Truckers at the Old Main Music Festival (2006), My Bloody Valentine at Slim's opening the US portion of the Loveless tour (1992), and Mission of Burma's farewell show at the Bradford Hotel in 1983. In other words, I'm not a neophyte easily moved to raptures of positivity. 3 bands each very good and two great in different ways. And each band in a slightly different genre. Now that's what I call a killer show.
Starting us off at 8:30 was The Golden Boys, a classic Austin-style psychobilly country outfit down to the Nord keyboard. They were energetic and also had a lot of fun with guest stars, especially at the end of the night by which time they had added a mandolin, a fiddle, harmonica, and a sax amongst other instruments. The mandolin was apparently played by the manager of Antone's Record Shop. The whole night was about family really: fans of Roky and fans of Antone's as this the club's on-going 34th anniversary.
Next up was The Riverboat Gamblers, an Austin-based band who originally hail from Denton, TX home to UNT or North Texas State for us old timers. And probably home to more great unheard bands than any other city in America by population, due I suspect to UNT's famous music school. No number crunching here, but my two exemplars make my point. The Peel Favorite, Lift to Experience, and Starkvegas' favorite son Chapman Welch, excuse me . . . Dr. Chapman Welch . . . Oh yeah and someone named Norah Jones! Anyway I haven't seen a better live performance anywhere anytime any place in the last decade. These guys were incendiary and on it from the get go. Kinda like having been in LA ca. 1978 or DC ca. 1981. You're getting the vibe. The frontman had an Ian Curtis-kinda look but backed with an Iggy swivvely-hipped spirit and the mike twirling skills of either Daltrey or Pollard. The lead guitarist was either Southeast Asian or from the Middle East and he just shredded everyting in sight. Do yourself a favor run and out and get a disc by the Riverboat Gamblers. I was "singing" or at least "Hey Hey Hey"-ing along to songs I'ver never heard before.
Here's their actual setlist!
And then at 10:35 the main event, the legend in his own time Roky Erickson took the stage with a hot new as yet unnamed backing band (14th Floor Escalators anyone or maybe the Psychedelic Segways!). Anyway they immediately launched into a version of "Reverbation" that would have made the Reid brothers bow down. 12 songs later we got the double ending punch of "Two Headed Dog" followed by "You're Gonna Miss Me" and then it was done. The performance ran about 90 minutes and was astonishing. Not so much for stage presence or showmanship but for the glorious sounds produced by the pounding drummer, the bass player straight off a Surfari's record, and the lead guitarist, who reminded me of a younger Doug Gillard: that professional, that many riffs to spare, and frankly that nice a guy. He soloed so intensely on "Click your Fingers" he basically tore the skin off three fingers and bled the rest of the set, but he soldiered on as the great ones do.
Roky's Mom in her 80s here celebrating her son's 62nd birthday!
Antone's co-founder does the introduction
Roky unleashes "Reverbation" as an opener.
The crowd was into it.
Roky's Mom dances with some fans.
Roky looking for that "Two Headed Dog"
Roky unleashes the 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me"!
For the Roky fan's and any psycho completists, here's the official setlist:
Don't shake me
Creature with atom brain
The wind and more
Stand for the fire demon
Click your fingers
night of the vampire
cold night for alligators
and now we fly
two headed dog
Your gonna miss me
Not played were the extras: "Splash 1" (originally scheduled 3rd on setlist)" and "I walked with a zombie." Substituted extra was "Don't slander me."
Amazing footage from a fizzygeek, who was basically right behind me and about two people closer to center stage.
He also took some beautiful stills.