“Could that be him?” My friend asked as an elderly looking man got out of a cab and slowly made his way in the direction of a trailer.
“Nah, he looks too normal,” I quipped. Surely a ‘60s legend like ex-13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson would be arriving in style, not in a dingy cab.
We watched in awe as this man, who looked like just about any other guy in Asheville, slowly climbed the stairs into the trailer parked outside The Grey Eagle on the evening of Feb. 20.
In an attempt to ask everybody who walked by for tickets to the soldout show, my friend almost resorted to going up to the trailer to proclaim she was the long lost love child of Mr. Erickson. She figured that if he didn’t remember the ‘60s, maybe he wouldn’t remember the ‘90s, and surely then he would give her a ticket, if not a hug. Luckily though, there were enough drunk hippies gleefully hawking tickets to wanna-be tricksters like us, and we were able to slide into the Roky Erickson and The Black Angels concert in a most civil of manners.
The crowd, comprised of mostly aging hippies and edgy hipsters, was almost as diverse as the throng of people that had gathered outside the U.S. Cellular Center earlier this month to see the Pixies.
Whether or not they all knew who Erickson or The Black Angels were remains highly contestable, but the energy inside of the concert hall was ripe with enthusiasm. I’ve said before going to see artists that have been established for a while is usually a good idea, and Erickson did not disappoint. Upon hearing a loud series of cheers, we moseyed our way into the cave of the club and through a series of deft maneuvers, made our way close to the front. The performance was rancorous and energetic and possessed the energy of a mighty dragon.
The crowd cheered when Erickson fed his older fans their expected dose of hits like “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” and by the time his set ended, the entire audience was pumping their fists and chanting his name.
Soon after, the Austin-based psych band The Black Angels set up shop onstage. I heard about The Black Angels at the Pixies concert, and liking their sound, bought tickets. This has spurred a game that I have dubbed “concert telephone,” where you hear about a band at another band’s concert and go based off recommendations. It’s fun, try it.
Anyway, I had been told twice by the start of the show that The Black Angels were much better live than they were in studio. I actually liked their studio recordings, so to hear they were much better live was intriguing. This was most certainly true. While they did not thrash about the stage like Erickson and his clan, their music above and beyond played aural games with the audience. It can’t really be described in a rational sense. I suppose to come somewhat close would be to say it would be equivalent to a mental hurricane, where the music basically touches the frayed edge of every synapse you felt uncomfortable with.
Looking part jam-band, part-mod, The Black Angels lived up to their name with a twisted, delirious set accented by a giant background screen where various movie clips and trippy patterns played throughout.
The show was partly nostalgic, especially for those who grew up listening to Roky Erickson, and also fresh for those eager to see a hot band like The Black Angels. What’s interesting about the bill was the classic psychedelia in juxtaposition with neopsychedelia, so it was like observing two different musical generations. By the time it was over, I felt like I had just visited a burnt side of heaven.