Formed in Austin, Texas, in 1965, the 13th Floor Elevators were psychedelic pioneers, influencing the likes of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, “led by outsider genius Roky Erickson, who combined offbeat spiritualism with crude R&B,” according to Allmusic. “Many have cited them as the first true psychedelic rock band, and if they weren’t, they certainly predated most of the San Francisco bands that gave the sound a global audience. The Elevators played a bracing fusion of garage rock and genre-defying musical exploration powered by Roky Erickson’s feral vocals and rhythm guitar.” Erickson and his bandmates were known as vocal proponents of mind-expanding drugs, and when the frontman was arrested in Texas for the possession of just one joint, he pleaded insanity rather than go to jail for up to a decade. Erickson spent three-and-a-half years in a mental institution and was subjected to electroshock therapy and Thorazine treatments before being released in 1972. He eventually became a notable recluse along the lines of Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, Daniel Johnston and Skip Spence. But Erickson (above, performing “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” and “Two Headed Dog”) still occasionally found time to record and even tour. His most recent solo release, True Love Cast Out All Evil (stream it below), backed by Okkervil River, came out in 2010. “A tumultuous history hasn’t stopped the former 13th Floor Elevator from achieving greatness,” said NME. And Pitchfork added: “On this affecting and ultimately triumphant album, Erickson comes out on top.” His new tour launches today, and Erickson plays Rough Trade NYC on Tuesday and Wednesday. L.A. experimental rockers Death Valley Girls open both shows.
Tag Archives: Okkervil River
Margaret Glasper – The Bowery Ballroom – February 16, 2017
The cold and wind in New York City was pretty insufferable last night. But lucky for me, I got to slip into The Bowery Ballroom and join a sold-out crowd for the brilliant Margaret Glaspy and the dynamos of Cuddle Magic, a chamber-pop group whose members have some impressive names on their résumés (Beyoncé, Amanda Palmer and Okkervil River). The six-piece took the stage first and launched into a set of songs from their brand new album, Ashes/Axis. Layered synths, staccato beats and exquisite vocals make it a great listen. The bandmates hopped down into the crowd and went acoustic for part of the set amidst their beaming audience. They also used the night as an opportunity to film a music video for “Kiss You”—there was a kissing booth set up downstairs and everyone was encouraged to slide on in for a cameo. Speaking of cameos, Glaspy briefly joined them onstage for a song they wrote together.
The headliner and her band made their way onstage next for a first-rate set of songs from her critically acclaimed full-length, Emotions & Math. Glaspy’s sultry voice could make any space intimate. She’s magnetic and it seemed impossible to not take a few steps forward to soak in every one of her nostalgic lyrics and jagged guitar riffs. Highlights included “Somebody to Anybody,” a cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” and a soulful rendition of Lucinda Williams’ “Fruits of My Labor.” Glaspy brought out friend and collaborator Julian Lage to add to the guitar magic with a couple of exceptional solos. There’s affection, hurt and pride in her music, and she scrutinizes the highs and lows of love and heartbreak in a jaunty, approachable way. There’s no limit to this type of exploration, as musicians have proved to us for years. Here’s hoping Glaspy keeps on bringing us her earnest, gorgeous take on the matter. —Schuyler Rooth | @SchuylerSpeak
Tags: Alec Spiegelman, Amanda Palmer, Ashes/Axis, Benjamin Lazar Davis, Beyoncé, Bowery Ballroom, Christopher McDonald, Cole Kamen-Green, Cuddle Magic, David Flaherty, Emotions & Math, Julian Lage, Kristin Slipp, Live Music, Lucinda Williams, Margaret Glasper, Music, Okkervil River, Schuyler Rooth
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Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com
Tags: Bowery Ballroom, Cully Symington, Justin Sherburn, Lauren Gurgiolo, Live Music, Michael St. Clair, Mike Benigno, Music, Okkervil River, Patrick Pestorius, Photos, Will Sheff
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Okkervil River began playing the Venn diagram overlap of alt-country, indie rock and folk rock a decade and a half ago in Austin, Texas. And although the lineup has changed over the years, Will Sheff remains the band’s guiding presence. Their fantastic seventh album, The Silver Gymnasium (stream it below), is the most personal to date—telling tales of Sheff’s small New Hampshire hometown. And the frontman, who’s been a Brooklyn resident since 2007, tells Brooklyn Magazine: “In order to bring that passion and substance and emotional investment to rock music, which I feel is becoming a little milky and watered down right now, I felt like I should put something of my own on the table.” And it worked. The LP has earned Okkervil River (above, doing “It Was My Season” in studio for WNYC FM) plenty of worthy acclaim.
Joe Lewis was working in an Austin, Texas, pawnshop when he first picked up a guitar. He began playing gigs around town as part of a blues trio. But his interests also included, rock, soul and R&B, so Lewis branched out musically and eventually started playing with different people. Then things clicked. With seven talented backing musicians (including horns), Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears (above, playing “Come to My Party”) have a big sound and so even the songs that are straight to the point, like “I’m Broke” or “Big Booty Woman,” will keep you moving. The Honeybears have earned comparisons to Stax Records groups—although keeping it local, they don’t sound too dissimilar from the Dap-Kings—and with his big, shouted vocals, Lewis’s name is mentioned alongside Wilson Pickett’s. The band’s excellent third album, Electric Slave (stream it below), came out last month. The Boston Herald says, “Black Joe Lewis’s music never felt restrained. But his new album, Electric Slave, shows he’s been holding back.” See both bands tomorrow night at Terminal 5.
Tags: Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Electric Slave, Okkervil River, Preview, Stax Records, Terminal 5, The Sivler Gymnasium, Video, Will Sheff, Wilson Pickett
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Roky Erickson – Webster Hall – May 25, 2010
Troubled rock legend Roky Erickson brought his wild catalog to Webster Hall last night, replete with moments both brash and reflective. Being backed by Okkervil River was the perfect complement, as Will Sheff and his bandmates blended country smoothness and hazy, loose blues to match Erickson’s erratic rock sound. Fresh off releasing an album together, True Love Cast Out All Evil, the collective was a wonderful marriage of sound and personality. Sheff took the lead through the early parts of the performance, shouting out the set list and interacting with the crowd. Erickson’s reticence and nervousness gave the feel of an old mass, with his back to the audience, only turning to his rock and roll worshipers to speak in his strange tongue.
But somewhere between the mid-set Little Richard cover and “I Walked with a Zombie” at the end, a flip was switched in Erickson, and he came to life with personality and bravado. As he and the band dove deep into songs from his 13th Floor Elevator days—like “Goodbye Sweet Dreams” and “Reverberation (Doubt)”—his lucidity grew and he embraced the fans before him. Instead of looking at Sheff for which chords to play, Erickson furiously ripped through them as his signature voice rang out as loud as his 62 years would allow. He even engaged the crowd, cracking jokes about his oldest songs now being on CDs. As if this middle-of-the-show awakening didn’t do enough to envelop the audience in joy, Erickson finished his encore with “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” a song that even casual rock fans know, and turned Webster Hall into a psychedelic-rock dance party deserving of Roky Erickson. —Sean O’Kane
Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com