Roky Erickson with Okkervil River

SXSW Music 2010

Roky Erickson with Okkervil River

La Zona Rosa, Thursday, March 18

Four songs into Roky Erickson and Okkervil River's official SXSW showcase set, the frontman shed his guitar and stood before the mic with an uncomfortable but determined look in his perpetually distracted eyes. Erickson's rough voice rose naked, vulnerable, as he crossed and uncrossed his arms, unsure how to hold himself bare of his instrument. Yet as he slowly closed the opening verse, starkly pleading "Suddenly I'm not sick, won't you be and bring me home" a cappella, Will Sheff, to his right, folded in a heavy down-strum across his acoustic guitar to swell support – a classic Okkervil flourish floating Down the River of Golden Dreams. "Be and Bring Me Home" encapsulates the experience of the Rokkervil collaboration, Erickson forced from the rote familiarity of his hit-treading sets that have defined his resurrection over the past decade. In Sheff and the band's support, calling out verses as Erickson occasionally stumbles through lyrics, and backing by both leading and carefully following Erickson's flow, the set took on a natural, affirming nature. From the opening bruising burst of the new "John Lawman" and classic "Two-Headed Dog," there was synchronicity between the two defining Austin acts that bridged the decades. As each song closed, Erickson's eyes lit with youthful self-satisfaction, a crooked grin emerging through his beard and serving as counterpart to Sheff's enthusiastic encouragement. Culminating in the comfort zone of "You're Gonna Miss Me," the two frontmen exploded in dueling howls as Lauren Gurgiolo conjured catharsis through her scorching electric guitar.

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