Roky Erickson and the Explosives Live at Bumbershoot

Seattle, WA – September 3, 2007

After spending the better part of at least a decade controlling Sputnik satellites from his remote position somewhere at zero gravity, Roky Erickson, of Thirteenth Floor Elevators fame, has decided to come back down to planet Earth in order to sing his wonderful songs about vampires, serial killers, ghosts, mythological beasts and other assorted creatures. In 2005, Erickson started performing again after disappearing from the public eye for many years. You had better be grateful for that because without his presence, rock music today would be missing an awful lot of character. Roky and his current group, the Explosives, performed for the first time ever in Seattle at the Bumbershoot festival, and they were incredibly competent, engaging, and touching at the same time.

They kicked off their hour long set with “It’s a Cold Night for Alligators” and then went into “White Faces,” both from 1980’s The Evil One, an entire album made up of songs concerning horror film and paranormal themes. The band were in great form too. Erickson handled all of the rhythm guitar parts and his lead guitarist was one of the best I have ever seen. I don’t even care for lead guitar most of the time, but this guy was incredible. The bass player was also noteworthy as he stood still looking bored for the entire show with his instrument hiked up to his armpits. Two Thirteenth Floor Elevators songs were performed, “Splash 1” and their best known song, “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” In addition, they played “Before You Accuse Me,” an old Bo Diddley song that the Elevators used to perform live.

One hysterical thing about the show was that after every song Roky would walk over to the microphone, raise his right hand and exclaim, “Thank Yooou!” once or twice before launching into the next song. Most of the remaining tracks that the Explosives played were from The Evil One, such as “Creature with the Atom Brain” and “Bloody Hammer,” but there were a few exceptions. From his first solo single, the surprisingly normal sounding, but excellent “Starry Eyes” was played as was its original A-side, “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),” which opens with the lines: “Two headed dog/Two headed dog/I’ve been working in the Kremlin with a two headed dog.” The show was closed with a personal favorite, “I Walked with a Zombie.” This piece has a beautiful melody and the only lyrics in the song are “I walked with a zombie last night,” repeated several times.

If you are not acquainted with Roky Erickson or the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, they are definitely worth looking into. The Elevators are genius psychedelic rock and their three studio albums from the late 1960’s are indispensable for those interested in Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. Roky Erickson’s solo albums are very good too. When he resurfaced years after his former band disintegrated and he underwent some personal turmoil, he went into more of a hard rock realm, but still managed to make great music that didn’t sound like a lot of other hard rock bullshit. Perhaps only Erickson can get away with the frequent use of B movie horror films as his primary subject matter. He pulls it off with a seemingly natural finesse and he sings his songs with such absolute conviction that it makes you wonder if he actually was born on another planet after all.

-Andrew Boe

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