Live Concert Photography: 13th Annual New York Night Train Haunted Hop at Knockdown Center 10/31/18 feat. Roky Erickson with Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Death Valley Girls, White Mystery, and more
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of its almost nine year history, you’d know that for the bulk of its history, I’ve run it while maintaining a couple of full-time positions. Naturally, it meant that my life was always extremely busy and hectic — and I often felt like the Mad Hatter: figuratively speaking, I’d felt like I’d look at my watch and scream “There isn’t enough time! There isn’t enough time!”
After losing my last full-time day job, I fell into a bit of a funk. Although I had things to keep me busy, I had way too much time to accomplish them — and it didn’t seem to matter much if went to sleep at 6:00AM and got up at 3:00PM or if I went to sleep at a reasonable time and got up when normal people did. Add applying to jobs of all stripes and not hearing much beyond an occasional rejection, and some days it feels a bit difficult to remain hopeful. But you keep pressing on until something clicks, right? And as far as the occasional funk, I’ve made attempts to be out and among people during the day — even if it’s just at a Starbucks for a bit. It helps.
But let’s get to our regularly scheduled programming, right? Last Halloween marked the 13th edition of Jonathan Toubin’s and New York Night Train’s Haunted Hop Halloween Spooktacular at The Knockdown Center. The night featured the legendary Austin, TX-based garage rock and psych rock pioneer Roky Erickson, New York-based garage rockers Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock/proto-metal act Death Valley Girls, Chicago-based sibling duo and JOVM mainstays White Mystery and a labyrinth of cob-webbed rooms featuring a number of local acts performing as cover bands, horror movies, DJs and dancing, food and drinks, drinks, drinks, and drinks. Did I mention drinks?
Seriously though, check out photos from the show, below.
Born Roger Kynard Erickson, the Austin-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Roky Erickson is a legendary pioneer of psych rock, best known as a co- founding member of The 13th Floor Elevators. As a boy, Erickson was interested in music, playing piano when he turned five and learning guitar when he turned 10. In 1965, he dropped out of Travis High School, just one month before graduating, rather than cutting his hair to conform to the school’s dress code.
As a member of The Spades, Erickson scored a regional hit with “We Sell Soul,” a single that was later adapted as “Don’t Fall Down,” and he wrote an early version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” In late 1965, Erickson along with Tommy Hall co-founded The 13th Floor Elevators, with the duo acting as the band’s primary songwriters. (Interesting side note: Early in her career Janis Joplin actually considered joining the band, but Family Dog’s Chet Helms persuaded her to go to San Francisco instead, where she joined Big Brother and the Holding Company, eventually finding mainstream success.)
1966 saw the release of The 13th Floor Elevators’ full-length debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators, which featured their only charting single “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” a stinging breakup song that was a major hit across the Southwestern US and appeared on national singles charts. The band’s 1967 sophomore effort, Easter Everywhere is considered one of the band’s more focused efforts — and the album features “Slip Inside This House,” and a cover of Bob Dylan‘s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” With the band being known as vocal proponents of the use of LSD, mescaline, DMT and marijuana — and as a result, they received extra attention from law enforcement.
International Artists released Live a live album that featured audience applause dubbed over studio recordings of cover versions, alternate takes and older material in 1968; however, it had little to no input from the band. While performing at HemisFair, Erickson began speaking gibberish. Shortly after that set, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was sent to a Houston psychiatric hospital, where he involuntary received electroconvulsive therapy.
The following year, Erickson was arrested for possession of a single joint in Austin. Facing a potential ten year bid, Erickson pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to avoid prison. He was sent to Austin State Hospital. After several escapes, he was sent to Rusk State Hospital, where he was subjected to more electroconvulsive therapy and Thorazine treatments, remaining in state custody until 1972. He did write and record some material while in Rusk, which were released on a 1999 compilation, Never Say Goodbye. The band’s last official album, 1969’s Bull of the Woods was the last album that the band worked on as a group in any fashion although it was primarily the work of the band’s Stacy Sutherland, as Erickson (due to his health and legal issues) and Hall were only involved with a few tracks — namely “Livin’ On,” and “May the Circle Remain Unbroken.”
Erickson as released from the state hospital in 1974 and upon his release, he formed a new band, which he named Blieb alien.” Reportedly deriving its name from an anagram of bible and/or the German word for “stay,” with alien being a pun on the German word for alone, allein, the band’s name generally would mean “remain alone.” The new band was a decided change in sonic direction for Erickson, as the band’s sound was more of a hard rock-leaning sound with lyrics that drew from old horror films and science fiction themes; in fact, one of Erickson’s best known songs, the Doug Sham-Produced “Two Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer),” which was inspired by Vladimir Demikov’s head transplant experiments of the 1950s. Eventually, the band was renamed Roky Erickson and the Aliens.
After playing with the Reversible Cords, Erickson recorded 15 new songs with Stu Cook, who was a former member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, which were released as two overlapping albums — 1980’s I Think of Demons and 1981’s The Evil One.
During the late ’70s and early ’80s, Erickson’s most frequent backing band was The Explosives and with that band, he contributed two live tracks to the first Live at Raul‘s compilation. Since then, a number of live albums featuring older material have been released — and in 1990 Sire Records/Warner Brothers records released a tribute album, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson that featured The Jesus and Mary Chain, R.E.M, ZZ Top, Poi Dog Pondering, Julian Cope, Butthole Surfers, Bongwater, John Wesley Harding, Doug Sahm and Primal Scream performing covers of Erickson’s work. According to the liner notes, the title of the album was derived from a remark Erickson made to a friend, who asked him to define psychedelic music, which he reportedly replied “It’s where the pyramid meets the eye, man,” an apparent reference to the Eye of Providence and the Great Seal of the United States.
1995 saw the release of the Speedy Sparks, Stuart Sullivan and Casey Monahan co-produced All That May Do My Rhyme that coincided with the release of Openers II, a complete collection of Erickson’s lyrics that was edited and complied by Casey Monahan with assistance from Henry Rollins and Erickson’s youngest brother Sumner. Sumner was granted legal custody of his older brother in 2001, and Sumner established a legal trust to aid Roky. And as a result Roky received some for the most effective medical care and legal aid of his life — with the legal assistance useful in helping sort out a complicated tangle of contracts that had reduced the royalty payments for his work to almost nothing. Erickson also started taking medication to control his schizophrenia.
2005 saw the release of a Keven McAlester-directed documentary biopic You’re Gonna Miss Me, which was screed at that year’s SXSW film festival. That September, Erickson played his first full concert in over 20 years at that year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival with The Explosives with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. By 2007, Erickson played his first New York City area gigs at Southpaw, played Coachella and his first shows in Europe, including shows in the UK and in Finland, at the Ruisrock Festival.
More recently, Erickson has collaborated with the likes of Mogwai, Okkervil River and The Black Angels and with the reunited 13th Floor Elevators, which featured a lineup with original members Erickson, Tommy Hall, John Ike Walton, and Ronnie Leatherman, joined by Roky’s son Jegar Erickson, and guitarist Fred Mitchim, as well as a number of solo recordings including — 2004’s Don’t Knock the Rok!, 2005’s I Have Always Been Here Before, 2008’s Halloween and his most current album, 2010’s True Love Cast Out All Evil.
Comprised of Henry Wood (vocals), Logan Montana (guitar) and Max Quinn (drums), the New York-based punk/garage rock act Hank Wood & the Hammerheads are comprised of grizzled vets of the city’s punk scene — and interestingly, the band can trace some of their origins to when the band’s founding members Henry Wood and Logan Montana met through a mutual school friend. Although they knew each other, Wood and Montana weren’t especially close; however, because of a mutual love of punk and skateboarding, the duo began jamming together. Initially formed as a last minute, one-off fill-in for a cancellation, the duo recruited Max Quinn, a former bandmate of Montana’s for the set. The trio envisioned themselves as a surf rock band, but as Quinn confessed in an interview on Bandcamp Daily, but “our ineptitude at playing that sort of music made us play something different.” Eventually, the band began playing what was a mash-up of The Sonics, The Spits, The Mummies and the blues with a sneering punk rock attitude.
The members of the band received attention for a wild live show that included stage-diving and nihilistic mayhem — right up my goddamn alley. Word spread quickly and it lead to more gigs and eventually an offer from Toxic State Records, who released their debut 7″ and their full-length debut, the Jeremy Opitz-produced Go Home! an effort that was recorded during a flurry of recording that included albums for Crazy Spirit and The Dawn of Humans.
After Go Home!’s release, Montana took some time off to focus on Cheena, who released their Ben Greenberg released full-length debut through Sacred Bones Records. Montana, enlisted Greenberg’s assistance for their third full-length album last year’s self-titled album, a blistering take on garage rock that’s feral and completely unhinged in a way that recalls The Stooges.
Founded by Hole‘s Patty Schemel (drums), Larry Schemel (guitar), Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals) and Rachel Orosco (bass), the Los Angeles-based garage rock/psych rock/proto metal act Death Valley Girls have largely been influenced by Manson Family/B movie theatrics while their work lyrically touches upon occult themes. The band released their 2014 full-length debut Street Venom through Burger Records — and shortly after, Patty Schemel left the band and was replaced The Flytraps‘ Laura Kelsey, who was with the band for the writing and recording of their sophomore album Glow in the Dark.
Since then the act has primarily featured core duo Larry Schemel and Bonnie Bloomgarden with a rotating cast of collaborators including Alana Amram (bass), Laura Harris (drums), Shannon Lay, members of The Make Up, The Shivas and Moaning, as well as the aforementioned Laura Kelsey. The band’s third full-length effort, last year’s Darkness Rains may arguably be the most menacing and darkest material they’ve released to date.
Opening the night, was the critically applauded Chicago-based sibling duo and JOVM mainstays White Mystery. Since their formation back on April 20, 2008, the duo comprised of Miss Alex White (vocals, guitar) and Francis Scott Key White (drums, vocals) have released eight full-length albums and played 1000 shows on three continents with the likes of Iggy Pop, Garbage, Thee Oh Sees, Patti Smith, the aforementioned Roky Erickson and a growing list of others.
Also, White Mystery have been featured in an ad campaign for Levis, appearing in the clothing brand’s public art project Station to Station, eventually documented in the Sundance film of the same name. They’ve played on a parade float with Sir Richard Branson and adding to list of accomplishments, they made their national late night TV debut on Last Call with Carson Daly. And they’ve done all of this in a plucky, jovial and downright impish DIY sensibility.