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Arts and Entertainment

Roky Erickson And Okkervil River Head For LA, Offer Free Show For Kids Only

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Roky promo (Small).jpg
Photo by Todd Wolfson, used by permission.

Photo by Todd Wolfson, used by permission.
Roky Erickson, one of the most crucial contributors to the American canon of garage rock, pyschedelia and proto-punk, will be in Los Angeles this week for two rare appearances. Tuesday night he’ll be at the Music Box (moved from the Mayan), and Wednesday, in what promises to be a supremely unique experience, will be playing an afternoon set at the Eagle Rock Center For The Arts, a free show and ice cream party at which all adults must be accompanied by a child. This trip to California is in support of his excellent new album True Love Cast Out All Evil (read our full review here.) He’ll be backed by Austin band Okkervil River, whose leader Will Sheff produced the album and selected the material from Roky’s entire history of un-released or under-released material, dating back to the mid-1960s. While much of Erickson’s work following his departure from the 13th Floor Elevators in 1969 was deliberately fearsome and disturbing, True Love brings out a side of his music that has been under-represented till now: his ability to be hauntingly beautiful.“I love the horror-rock stuff, but I felt that part of what he does was already very well documented,” says Sheff over the phone from Austin, describing his approach to production. “I wanted to show people that he has this other side to him. And also, as I listened to the songs I was given to choose from, the ones that really called to me, that I felt were the strongest, were these really open kind of ballads. So that was a combination of the material and my own desire to showcase another side of his music.”

Sheff did his job in that regard; True Love stands out in Roky’s body of work in the way Harvest does in Neil Young’s, or Pet Sounds in the Beach Boys’. It’s an elaborately executed production, incorporating strings and horns at times, and focuses on his more plaintive side. The result is generally less rocked-out than his past albums, though the few uptempo songs - “John Lawman”, “Bring Back The Past”, “Goodbye Sweet Dream” - are surely fine enough to pacify those craving more of the same. But it’s the country waltzes and slow burners that really kill, and Okkervil is simply the most all-around diverse and capable outfit he’s ever played with. The chance to see them perform this material together - one of only a dozen or so of dates scheduled - should not be missed.

In an interview setting, Roky’s a man of few words, his memories of past events not especially detailed. But he sounds alert, cheerful and excited to be working again, and when I tell him I really like the new record, he blurts out a bashful “Aw, gee!” Asked if he’s still writing songs or stories, he responds “I’ve been thinkin’ about it, and maybe doing some some drawings too,” revealing that Shout! Factory has asked him for some original art, prompting him to go through his drawers and seek inspiration. And Sheff states that although no further recording sessions are planned, “not everything we recorded was released, so some of that might eventually see the light of day.”

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To close, we asked Roky for a weekend recommendation of a movie, a record to listen to, and something to eat. The movie is easy - Halloween, the original. The music suggestion, upon consideration, ends up being some James Brown and Little Willie John. As for a favorite food item, Roky says “Well I guess I like a Snack Attack.” “Snack Attack, what’s that?,” inquires Sheff, probably guessing as I am that this is some obscure high-fat, high-carb item found in Austin’s convenience stores.

“Well you know, it’s like I get an attack, and then I just reach over and grab myself a snack, and I eat it. That’s what I like.”

And there’s my weekend sorted. Thanks, Roky. “Thank you, for the relaxing conversation.”

Roky Erickson and Okkervil River perform at the Music Box on Tuesday May 18 at 8:00PM, with special guests Leslie And The Badgers. Tickets at Ticketmaster. The group will also appear wth children’s author Dallas Clayton at the After School Ice Cream Party at Eagle Rock Center For The Arts, 2225 Colorado Blvd., at on Wednesday May 19 at 3:30PM. Admission is free but “this is a kid’s show so all adults must be accompanied by a child.”

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