Roky Erickson at The Chapel, by Joshua Huver
Roky Erickson (photo: Joshua Huver)

Over the course of two nights last weekend, Friday April 19 and Saturday April 20, the Chapel and (((FolkYEAH!))) hosted Roky Erickson of psychedelic rock originators the 13th Floor Elevators. Two of the biggest holidays in the world of psychedelia and often referred to as Bicycle Day and 4/20 respectively, they represent the intentional intake of LSD and cannabis for many people. Erickson was a proponent of both, even though his use of substances may have exacerbated underlying mental health issues.

Roky Erickson at The Chapel, by Joshua HuverRoky Erickson with the Mad Alchemy liquid light show at The Chapel

In 1965, nobody was howling into the microphone or thrashing on their instruments like Roky and his band. As the story goes, Erickson nearly had Janis Joplin join the ranks, only to be outdone by Chet Helms. Helms, the manager of Big Brother and the Holding Company, recruited her for his own band.

Helms was also known for helping to pioneer psychedelic light shows in San Franciso’s ballroom theaters. It was only wholly appropriate then that SF’s current liquid light show wizard stepped up to perform for the Friday show. The Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show is a local original that has been perfecting the art of analog oil and water projections for nearly 50 years.

Although Erickson’s past traumas and deteriorating health leave him unable to wholly perform, the show was great. He would occasionally strum a few riffs but often didn’t play his guitar. The energy behind the production and crowd was exceptionally and perfectly executed. Where he would slip in a verse, an army of rail riders stepped up and shouted the words along with the music.

Roky Erickson at The Chapel, by Joshua HuverRoky Erickson with the Mad Alchemy liquid light show at The Chapel

The band hit every note and took all the right liberties with their fills, keeping the energy peaking for the entire hour-long set. It was truly magical to watch Roky drinking in the love his music has generated. The love in the experience was only heightened by the Mad Alchemy liquid light show being broadcast across the walls and ceiling of the venue. It was wonderful to see the smile on Roky’s face throughout the night.

On Friday, Erickson performed a 50-year retrospective of tunes that covered his solo work and his work with the 13th Floor Elevators. On Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday, the band performed Easter Everywhere.