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Roky Erickson and the Black Angels Psychedelicize Cleveland Audience

Heather Mull Photography

It’s been a long, often rocky road for Roky Erickson. The psychedelic music pioneer has had his share of problems over the years — legal, drug and mental among them. But judging from his show at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom on Feb. 8, he now seems to be embracing his glorious musical past.

The sold-out crowd cheered as a world weary-looking Roky took the stage with his band, the Hounds of Baskerville. He may have looked a bit confused as he tried to find his footing, but with a simple guitar riff, he and band were off and running. Solid versions of ‘A Cold Night For Alligators’ and ‘John Lawman’ — both from his ‘Gremlins Have Pictures’ album — came as a one-two punch, with his voice still in fine form and retaining that signature rasp. Another classic from his solo years, ‘Two Headed Dog’ would be a late set highlight, but this night belonged to the music he created with the 13th Floor Elevators.

‘Tired To Hide,’ ‘Levitation,’ and ‘She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)’ were rattled off one after another as the appreciative crowd basked in the glow. ‘Slip Inside this House,’ Roller Coaster’ and ‘Kingdom Of Heaven’ were welcomed with open ears and minds. Still, it was hard not to notice that at times, Roky seemed unsure of himself as he kept looking to bandmates for reassurance. While his band were a bit green, they were nonetheless sympathetic to his music, pushing him forward.

The oddest part of this exchange came as he appeared totally unaware as to where he was in any given song, then would suddenly rattle off these complex, surreal lyrics without blinking, and without a teleprompter. “Bedouin tribes ascending from the egg into the flower / Alpha information sending state within the heaven shower / From disciples the unending subtleties of river power / They slip inside this house as they pass by” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but he was able to hold his own for the most part.

The Elevators’ classic ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me‘ closed out the show as Erickson and band left the crowd wanting more. While not in command of all his senses, Roky seemed to be enjoying himself and appreciating the love from the audience.

The evening’s headliners, the Black Angels, have become an underground sensation of sorts over the past decade, and the packed hall of fans gladly attested to their power. Drawing on psychedelic greats of the past such including the 13th Floor Elevators, Spacemen 3, Loop, and Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Black Angels add their own drops to the cube as they faithfully carry the torch into the future.

Kicking off with ‘Mission District’ from their ‘Directions to See a Ghost’ album, the band were washed in volume and dazzling lights, and judging from the sea of nodding heads, the audience was right there with them. The Angels hit highlights from their impressive catalog, including a healthy chick of their most recent album, ‘Indigo Meadow,’ with the single ‘Don’t Play With Guns’ being a crowd favorite.

As the dizzying lights and music entwined, the venue was lost in its own space in time, somewhere between San Francisco 1966 and Space:1999. Encores including ‘ Bad Vibrations’ and ‘My Boat Is Sinking’ left the crowd sailing home with smiles.

Next: Top 10 Syd Barrett / Pink Floyd Songs

Roky Erickson Feb. 8, 2014 Set List

‘Cold Night for Alligators’
‘John Lawman’
‘Tried to Hide’
‘Fire Engine’
‘Levitation’
‘She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)’
‘Slip Inside this House’
‘Kingdom of Heaven’
‘Roller Coaster’
‘Reverberation (Doubt)’
‘Two Headed Dog’
‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’

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