You're Gonna Miss Me: A Film About Roky Erickson
Not rated, 91 min. Directed by Keven McAlester.
Standing in his front yard, holding a Mr. Potato Head, unshaven – this is the Roky Erickson we see early in the film. Thirty years earlier he legally declared himself an alien. Nearly 40 years earlier he and his bandmates in the 13th Floor Elevators coined the phrase “psychedelic rock.” So it’s jarring to see the once hair-raising howler, who so decimated their hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” living in a ratpacked Austin apartment where he sits in a chair with sunglasses on and the TV up, while white noise blasts from a Casio to keep out the voices. Filmmaker and former Texan McAlester documents Erickson’s musical rise and unfortunate decline into a mental illness he still struggles with, unleashing archival performances and home videos in this documentary film, which premiered at SXSW Film 2005. He also filmed Erickson for nearly two years. Much like this year’s eerily similar The Devil and Daniel Johnston, it’s hallucinogens vs. mental illness and what exacerbated what. First-wife Dana Gaines recalls that she would have to hold Roky in front of crashing waves to “knock some sense into him.” (Later in the film we see his mother, Evelyn, standing in Barton Springs, possibly doing the same.) After being arrested in 1969 on drug possession (for one marijuana joint), to which Erickson pleads insanity to avoid jail, he’s sent to Rusk State Hospital, where he starts up a band with a murderer and a rapist and receives shock therapy. It’s Roky’s family – namely his mother – that drives the film. McAlester’s shots in the home are personal, never claustrophobic, and we are allowed access to Evelyn and Roky’s domestic co-dependency. Scenes in the cluttered apartment feel like they’ve been ripped out of Grey Gardens. Evelyn is a bizarre study, so desperate to tell her side of the story she’s surrounded herself with reassuring scrapbooks, memorabilia, and cardboard collages of her five sons, as a buffer for her eldest son’s mental health. Still, McAlester gives them room and the silence speaks loudly; his camera lingers on them respectfully. The opening and closing courtroom scenes, in which brother Sumner is granted legal guardianship, show a family in need of healing, mentally and spiritually. Today, Roky is playing again, proving he has always been here before. (Roky, Sumner, and Evelyn Erickson will attend the 7pm show on Friday and conduct a Q&A following the screening.)
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