Roky Erickson and The Explosives - You're Gonna Miss Me
Though not an "official" SXSW event, Roky Erickson's annual Ice Cream Social at Threadgill's is an Austin tradition that attracts not only SXSW badge and wristband holders, but SXSW performers such as Robyn Hitchcock, Spoon, and REM's Peter Buck. Essentially a day party that runs a little long, many special guests and performers have come to help fete Roky Erickson over the years. This year they came to help celebrate Roky being emancipated, becoming, for the first time in many years, legally his own man, not having to have a legal guardian represent his interests.
The line "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been" by the Dead could certainly be applied to the life and times of Roky. I was first introduced to the music of Roky Erikson and the seminal psychedelic band he co-founded in 1965, called the 13th Floor Elevators, by my high school english teacher. Long a proponent of marijuana and LSD use, in 1969 Roky was arrested in Austin for possession of one joint. Faced with the prospect of a 10 year prison term, Rocky made the horrible mistake of pleading insanity, and was sent to Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where he was forced to undergo electroshock and Thorazine treatments until 1972.
His treatment changed him forever, both personally and musically. In 1982 he asserted that aliens had entered his body, and later was arrested for mail theft after it was found that he had taped unclaimed, unopened mail to the walls of his room at the halfway house. I remember him myself at this time best from a series of odd solo acoustic video performances that would appear very late night on Austin public access TV, where he appeared disheveled and disoriented, playing an acoustic guitar, sitting crosslegged at town lake.
In 2001 Roky's brother Sumner was finally granted legal custody as his guardian, and this year, 2007, Roky is finally a free man again. Almost 38 years after his arrest for a single joint, Roky's time has finally been served, and Roky, performing more vibrantly and clearly than I have ever seen him play before, is back. It's good to see you again, Roky.
Thanks go out to Troy Campbell, Sumner Erickson, Roky Erickson, and the Rocky Erickson Trust for inviting us out to film this year's performance. We couldn't get there in time for Spoon, Robyn, or Peter, but we got to see Roky and that's all I cared about.
Roky Erickson and the Explosives at Threadgill's - Photo by Staff Photographer Jeff Barringer