Local Psych-Rock Scene Unites for Casbah Roky Erickson Tribute

The late great 13th Floor Elevators frontman receives a hero's tribute at the Casbah

'You're gonna miss me,' indeed: On Saturday, July 27, San Diego's psychedelic-rock music scene comes together at the Casbah to pay tribute to Roky Erickson, one of the genre's pioneers.

As the trailblazing, and long underappreciated, frontman of the 13th Floor Elevators, Erickson (who passed away on May 31 at the age of 71) practically birthed the genre with his trademark howl and the band's minor-key garage-rock mysticism first unleashed on their 1966 debut, "The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators."

However, his well-documented struggle with mental illness (he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1968) escalated after his 1969 arrest for the possession of one joint, after which he was institutionalized and received electroshock therapy -- events that, coupled with heavy LSD use, crippled his mental health for years.

In subsequent decades, Erickson attempted various comebacks with a series of albums (some successful, some not so much). Over the last 20 years or so though, a resurgence of appreciation for his work took hold as a new era of psych-rock bands -- heavily influenced by Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators -- ushered the outsider genre into previously unreached heights.

On July 27, musicians from local groups such as Wild Wild Wets, the Loons, Drug Hunt, the Heartaches, the Night Marchers, Bloody Hollies, Miss New Buddha and others will take the Casbah stage and jam together on Erickson's music in honor of their hero. One of the evening's performers, Drug Hunt guitarist Rory Morison, explained the late great's everlasting impact.

"First off, his voice is surreal, his lyrics are impeccable and his story is a powerful one -- with success, injustice, insanity, and a catalog of amazing material," Morison said. "He really inhabited a special place both artistically and mentally. It's not just druggy music for the sake of it; it's spiritual, it has an elevated purpose.

"I mean, he released 'The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators' at age 19, he was tapped into something very special at an early age and kept that muse for much of his life," the guitarist continued. "The 13th Floor Elevators were pioneers. They opened a door to a room and sound that many of us contemporary psych bands walked through at one point or another. We adopted many of those sensibilities. It gave us the creative palette to extend blues and rock music to something beyond."

Like many, Morison can recount the exact moment he experienced Erickson's music.

"I heard 'You're Gonna Miss Me' at age 12 while watching the movie 'High Fidelity,'" he said. "I had faked sick, was smoking weed and eating pizza when I heard it. I remember immediately wondering, 'Who the f--- is this? What is this wild howling? What is this weird water chugging sound?' I didn’t play music at the time but I fell in love. I think it certainly changed the way I hear music and definitely earmarked that page; I wasn’t aware that type of sound existed."

Erickson's contributions to rock & roll are simply immeasurable and as such, his music and influence will live on forever. Celebrate it with friends at the Casbah on July 27.

For tickets and more information, go here.

Dustin Lothspeich is SoundDiego's senior associate editor, a San Diego Music Award-winning musician, and talent buyer at The Merrow. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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