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Austin City Limits 2008, Day 2: Roky Erickson

September 28, 2008  |  2:55pm
Wound up going with Kate and Kevin to see Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band at the AT&T stage on the way to Roky Erickson last night. It was a huge surprise for me-- with this new musical turn, he's shed not just the Bright Eyes name but the Bright Eyes mannerisms and affectations. Last night he seemed looser and happier than I'd ever seen him, and I believe he did a better Dylan than Dylan himself did last year on the very same stage. But more on that from Kate later. (Actual conversation we just had: "Do you want to do Conor Oberst? Oh, uh, I mean--" "Yes, and yes I'll blog about the show.")

Moved on to Austin Ventures for Roky Erickson after Oberst & Co. covered Paul Simon's "Kodachrome," and was stunned at the tininess of the crowd. Apparently the Austin-American Statesman called Erickson a "retirement-age rocker," which maybe was an easy way of skirting the decades of mental health issues, drug addiction, institutionalization, but hardly sums up the weight of his life and strange breadth of his career. The small crowd went wild as his band came on, and wilder as the man himself was escorted onto the stage, wandering to the side and standing with his arms crossed before being nudged to the front by a handler. For a moment it seemed like he wasn't sure what he was there to do, or wasn't interested in doing it, but with a guitar in his hands he was transformed from a seemingly hapless, ill man to a consummate rocker. Along with his apt backing band, he howled through opener "Cold Night for Alligators," "Don't Shake Me Lucifer," "Mine Mine Mind," and "Bloody Hammer." Had to leave a bit early to meet the rest of our crew, but it was a total dream and a privledge to the the man to play such a stellar set to his bafflingly miniscule but devoted hometown crowd.

Okkervil River and Tegan & Sara just swang by for some TOMS-- now it's time to see Gillian Welch!
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