7 Roky Erickson Moments at the Austin Music Awards

Roky Erickson and Will Sexton, 1993
Roky Erickson and Will Sexton, 1993 (Photo by Martha Grenon)

1986: The 1985/86 Austin Music Awards took place at the Austin Opera House on March 13. One of my fondest memories of that show was Roky Erickson playing with the True Believers. The set was ending, with Roky singing "Two-Headed Dog." Every time the Believers began to wind the song down, Roky would run up to the mic to sing the chorus again to keep it going. Finally, the band members encircled Roky, trying to keep him away from the microphone by blocking him with their guitars. Still, he made it through a couple more times before they succeeded. – Louis Black

1991: The You're Gonna Misunderstand Me Award meanders to whomever it was who decided that Roky Erickson really wanted to play with the Texas Tornados at the awards show. Roky ended up staring at the audience and eventually wandered offstage. – Ken Lieck

1993: Roky Erickson is standing onstage, arms folded, singing a chilling version of "Don't Slander Me." An all-star band led by Will Sexton is sizzling with Mike Buck on drums, Speedy Sparks on bass, and John X Reed reminding everyone he's Austin's best-kept guitar-slinging secret. Will is having to shout at Roky, who seems half-reluctant to be there, when it is time to sing the chorus. Then he sings. Arms folded, almost staring off into space, Erickson leans into the microphone and sings and that voice shoots right up and down my central nervous system, pinballing off memory and evoking desire. – Louis Black

2006: Then it was time for Roky Erickson & the Explosives to pull a rabbit out of our souls. Kicking off strong with "Cold Night for Alligators" and an extra-fuzzy version of "Starry Eyes," it was further evidence of Erickson's return to musical prowess. Fellow psychedelic traveler Powell St. John joined the band on vocals for "The Right Track Now." Moments later, he added fire to "You're Gonna Miss Me" with a smoking harmonica solo in the bridge. As one of only a handful of Austin songs you really can't get tired of, it made the perfect ending to this charmingly mushy love note. – Greg Beets

2008: Then Rokkervil fulfilled the night's promise, as Okkervil River delivered a cathartic "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" and "For Real," Will Sheff's bloody howl curdled against the cacophonous crash of keys and guitar. After leading the crowd in clapping through "Unless It's Kicks," Sheff introduced Erickson, and Rokkervil commenced with its own unsettling roar of "You're Gonna Miss Me." Okkervil ripped psychedelic as Erickson blew harp and harmonized on "Starry Eyes" before closing the night with epic "I Walked With a Zombie." If we have truly fallen into a place where everything is music, then everything is looking up. – Doug Freeman

2009: As the lights dropped for the night's final set, Shawn Sahm's groove gave way to a barrage of distortion at the hands of the Black Angels. Pounding out the psych rhythms and intensity of "You on the Run" and "Young Men Dead," the Angels bathed in the black light glow of the ages, brought full circle as Roky Erickson stepped to the stage to deliver 13th Floor Elevators' central "Splash 1." With Alex Maas taking up the electric jug, Erickson and the Angels shut the show down with a blistering "You're Gonna Miss Me." A collaboration not soon forgotten, but the music here never is. – Doug Freeman

2011: Which left the Meat Puppets warming up that era's "Touchdown King" – Roky Erickson – by opening with Curt and Cris Kirkwood and new drummer Shandon Sahm reliving Nirvana's MTV Unplugged in the elder brother's "Plateau," then segueing into the aforementioned football monarchy from final SST LP Monsters. As J Mascis watched from the floor, Erickson came on in full lion mane, delivering "You're Gonna Miss Me" and "Starry Eyes" with enough static electricity to make up for an obvious lack of rehearsals. "You know who that was, right?" asked Sahm when clearing the stage, naming Erickson and his late father Doug Sahm to the Top 2 spots of Austin's all-time musical hierarchy. – Raoul Hernandez

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