While Roky Erickson still offers a look over the edge into the abyss, his is one comeback that has made it all the way back. He can still sing with an intense, spine-tingling howl that sounds completely committed to the music. And he looks and acts no different from any aging ’60s musician: 40 years on, Erickson can now be viewed as the dark prince of Austin music.
Klaxons, scudding red lights, sound effects, guitar feedback and various voices announced the start of Roky Erickson’s set at the El Rey. A swirling, ominous cacophony that grew increasingly loud, it felt like the sound of incipient madness.
Madness is something Erickson is familiar with: a psychedelic trailblazer with the 13th Floor Elevators, he spent time in a Texas hospital for the criminally insane in the late 1960s and shuttled in an out of institutions for the next 20-odd years, a history recounted in the lauded docu “You’re Gonna Miss Me” (named for the Elevators’ lone 1967 hit) and the lavishly detailed biography “Eye Mind” published this month by Process Media. And many of the songs played Sunday, including “I Walked With a Zombie,” Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” and “Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)” turn horror movie clichés into personal psychodrama.
He has a few odd tics (including a habit of waving to the aud as he thanks them after every song) and after 45 minutes he sounded a little winded. His young band plays flinty, hard-charging blues rock; his thick and viscous cover of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me” balanced the dirty sounding guitars of Erickson and Jon Sanchez with the sweeter moans of John Leon’s pedal steel, taking it into territory not too far removed from ZZ Top.