Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Texas Psych: Is Roky Slipping Lately?

Texas Psychedelic Rock

Monday, November 15, 2010







Roky Erickson
I've been hearing that Roky is "slipping" lately. There have been some rumblings that the gigs were not tight and that Roky seemed "out there" and was forgetting the lyrics. Here is an exchange that happened on the world famous Texas Psych Google Group recently:
The Ultimust from NYC Wrote:
Hey everyone,

Caught Roky and his new backing band in NYC last night and I have to
say that it was about the worst I've ever seen him, musically. I'm
sure that the band spent more time on their look than they did on
learning how to play the songs and except for a few moments when Roky
played with some of the vocal phrasing, the entire performance was
about as flat as these songs can get. And yes, Roky did forget a
bunch of lyrics (including EVERY chorus of YGMM) but who can blame him
given the fact that the music was so uninspired?

I'm about as happy as anyone to see Roky touring and finally making
some money (I hope) off of his legend but last night really made me
wonder if it's a good idea to keep supporting something that may just
be ultimately detrimental to his health. I really got the impression
that this was just another job to Roky and that any of the creative
fire that was in him has all but gone. I mean, I'm all for Roky
getting paid but you gotta wonder if someone isn't just giving him an
allowance, keeping him out of trouble and propping him up on a stage
every night so that they can continue to line their own pockets.

I have no idea how Roky's camp picks his backing groups but whoever is
in charge of that needs to be fired and probably slapped in the face
too for good measure. Is it really that hard to find a competent
group who understands and respects Roky's musical history enough to do
the songs and him justice? For fuck's sake, give the guy something to
get excited about and I guarantee that people will turn their heads.
From what I've seen and heard, a lot more of his voice is left than
people might think, he just doesn't seem interested enough to use it.

I will say that the guitarist can play and he had a pretty good tone
as well, but his style was wimpy as all hell and his timing was pretty
lousy too. The bass playing was pretty terrible in general and much
of it was downright annoying. Gotta save my worst criticism for the
drummer, though. I know 3 year old girls who can hit harder than this
guy and I really doubt that he understands the meaning of the word
"accent" or how it applies to drumming. Drummers are the backbone of
any band which pretty much sums up why the songs last night had no
spine. And for chrissakes, can't we designate 1 roadie to make sure
that the mic is in front of Roky's mouth? Once again (same as the
Webster Hall show with Okkervil) you could barely hear Roky because he
mic wasn't angled right. He's got someone to put on and take of his
guitar, is it really that hard to pay attention to this detail too?
The band kept asking the sound guys to turn up Roky's mic which of
course did no good since he wasn't singing directly into it anyway.

You have no idea how much I hate to bash a Roky performance but last
night was so bad that someone had to call it. I'm assuming that
anyone reading this must genuinely care about wanting to see Roky
doing well and getting his due, but by the same token that makes us
all the people who should be calling bullshit on anyone who is
exploiting him in any way. And given the revolving door of bands over
the past few years, I'd say it's about time to speak up.

Call out Charlie Sexton, have him put together a band worthy of Roky's
abilities, get Rick Rubin to produce a record and I'll bet that Roky
will shine like the star that he is. If he keeps playing shows like
last night's, I'm afraid that he'll eventually just return to being an
under appreciated footnote in American rock and roll which seems like
such a waste given how far he's come.

lingeringlead replied:

Wow! Thanks for speaking up. Is anybody listening? I'm under the
impression Jegar and Dana are in charge. Last fall a bar owner friend
of mine in Nacogdoches, TX contacted Darren Hill about booking a gig.
His email went unanswered. To be honest it doesn't seem like anyone
is in charge.

Agree with your call for some "real" back up! Find some players with
skins on the wall. It's difficult for me to grasp why musicians and
producers aren't lined up at the door with projects for Roky. Funny
you mention Charlie Sexton b/c last year I asked Will when the
brothers might collaborate with Roky. He replied that no one asked.
True Love is great but the Will Sheff/Okkervil thing never made sense
to me. Rok needs muscle backing him not hipster angst! Why Rubin
isn't knocking on Roky's door is a mystery to me. What happened to
the Billy Gibbons rumors?

I'll give Kyle Ellison some credit though. He sounded well rehearsed
and had killer tone when I saw them.

Responding to a previous post about Roky being off his meds (and playing gigs):

andyexcuse wrote:

"...I've heard that Roky is off his meds (for quite some time)..."

I think we're seeing some evidence that evidence that it was too soon,
and it's tragic considering how far he had come. It's a very common
story with people who are living with a delusional mental illness. A
correct diagnosis, the right meds and therapy can have a very positive
effect over a relatively short period. Patients can become much more
lucid, their caregivers and support system are working hard to help
them get better, and before long it's easy to think, hey, I'm all
better. Going off your meds before you really get used to such a big
adjustment often results in losing everything you've gained, with the
added depression and confusion thrown in after you thought you were
doing fine. It seems like Roky's gone through a ton of changes in the
past few years both professionally and in terms of his health, and
maintaining mental stability is going to require more treatment than
he's currently getting. To hear that he's acting confused and
withdrawn is very scary and sad for someone who's been there. To an
extent, every patient responds differently, and care needs to be
tailored to the individual, but this is a very familiar pattern.

Marti Stivers replied:

Well written. Meds for psychotic disorders generally must be taken for a
lifetime; & often have very debilitating, uncomfortable side effects, which
cause the patient to attempt to function normally without them.
Unfortunately for family, friends, caregivers, counselors/therapists etc,
once the disorganized thinking/perceiving starts recurring, it is very, very
difficult to convince the patient that he or she is having problems. Even
when extremely psychotic, they believe that their thinking is just fine. A
good portion of my caseload comes to me after being successfully treated for
these problems so that I can assist them with stabilizing their living
situations & ultimately get them back into the workforce. Because of the
problem of having them continue their meds, the majority don't make it. I
cannot even count the number of times I've seen former clients now living on
the streets.

Kevin Combs replied:

Hello interested parties- The band behind Roky now consists of:
Kyle Ellison - guitar
Kyle Schneider - drums
John Michael Dayspring - bass

------------------------------------------------------------------

Do not attend one of these performances expecting slickness. Leave your rockshow preconceptions for another time. This is Roky now, playing for you now...It is what it is, and that's what it is.

Open up your mind and let everything come through.

regards,
kc.

Brat Brains replied:

I definitely would like to echo KC's sentiments about the current Roky
tour. Don't go to these shows expecting a presentation similar to ANY
of the recordings. It's a whole other thing, maybe Roky's not as "into
it" or whatever the Post article purports. I personally believe that
Malitz had an axe to grind. If Roky was so bad off he wouldn't be
playing ANYTHING, shows, recordings, NADA!!! That's been well
demonstrated/documented in the past. The backing trio (thanks, again,
KC for the names) is WAAAAAY better than Okkervill River and, indeed,
Roky seems energized by their performance if not a little hesitant to
go balls to the wall AWESOME as he might with the Explosives or that
ACL super group. In DC I watched intently as a 63 year old Roky
Erickson ROCKED-THE-HELL-OUT, at one point closely resembling the
youth from the grainy videos we've all seen dozens of times of the
Elevators playing poolside.

A couple other points: "Goodbye Sweet Dreams", by no means, "stood
out" at the Black Cat show. Sorry, but the arrangement we all know and
love from the recent album is not easily replicable by a shit-kickin
rock trio. The songs that did stand out were typically those with the
most repetitive lyrics. Roky seemed to have trouble remembering the
words to the songs. Get the dude a lyrics sheet for christ sake!
Younger people read lyrics on stage! It's not "uncool" for a musician
of his age to have a little help like that.

So yeah, to hell w/ that Post article. Go see Roky, he's great. It's
worth a $25 ticket just to see him alive and doing something other
than watching cartoons. My only critiques are: put the "simpler"
worded songs closer to the beginning of the set to start the evening
off with a bang and get the man some damned cue cards, people! It
ain't rocket science.

Here's a link to download the FLAC file of Roky Erickson at the Black Cat in Washington DC.



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2 comments:

thom young said...

it's roky...a legend..he's forgotten more music than the audience could ever know

Andy 7 said...

I like the way people can't face up to the fact that Roky is technically a senior citizen and may just be too old to rock out for you fanboys. Leave the poor guy alone, we're not supposed to be 17 forever, thank God.