Clearly, the Gods of Rock 'n' Roll were smiling on The Spin last night. Not only did we get to see psychedelic pioneer, punk forebearer and heavy-metal progenitor Roky Erickson at Exit/In — a thing that we just assumed we would never, ever see in our lifetime — but we also managed to get pulled over and let go without so much as a warning! And really, there were probably a few reasons we should have been warned by Officer Friendly. Maybe even one or two reasons we should have been arrested. But the Rock Gods took care of us, hallelujah, and what could have ended with a night in the slammer instead ended up being a pretty perfect evening. Our one major complaint? They didn't have any Roky shirts in our size. Bummerino Merch-opolis.
Now, please bear in mind that because this is one of The Spin's all -time favorite acts, we just assumed we'd arrive and there would only be three mid-20th century-vintage heshers, two twentysomethings with questionable haircuts and a bartender in attendance. That's usually how things go when The Spin's favorite artists come into town. And we won't lie: We went above and beyond the call of duty to get the word out about this show — we apologize if we happened to commandeer your morning radio show — if only to dilute our own inevitable loneliness. But maybe we overreacted, because when we walked into Exit/In, things were hopping: The crowd was healthy if not quite at capacity, and there was a palpable sense of energy in the room.
The Spin showed up about as close to on-time as we ever have, strolling into the club and scooping up a beer just as Brooklyn power-pop trio Nude Beach was really starting to shred. We've been saying that NB's latest album II is one of the best records of the year since it was released this summer — yes, it was so good we declared it "Best of 2012" with six months left on the clock — and we were not disappointed. New-school guitar pop with old-school psych rock might seem like an odd pairing on paper, but Nude Beach's Trick/Mats/Petty-channeling hooks and summer-y vibes were exactly what we needed to warm us up on a cold November night. With a show like this one, at which a relatively unheard-of band is opening for a legend, the openers can get the short end of the stick from an impatient audience waiting for their heroes. Not so this time. Good work, Nashville. Now, go buy that Nude Beach record, we know you'll love it.
And then Roky! Holy shit! As our wasted/elated compatriot kept saying — while possibly holding back tears of joy — “this is the man.” Erickson's contributions to the way-out-weirdo school of rock (our alma mater, in case you were wondering) are vast, and our admiration for him borders on fanatical, but that doesn't mean we didn't go into this show with a bit of trepidation. Trotting out legendary recluses does not always guarantee of a good show. Things can go wrong in a million different ways, but none of that happened. Barring a few feedback squeals here and there, the set was flawless, from the opening, slow-and-sludgy psych re-work of Bo Diddley's “Hey Bo Diddley” to the oh-God-we-can't-believe-we're-hearing-this closer “Two Headed Dog.” We were prepared for a letdown, and we are very happy to inform you that it was anything but. Frankly, it was incredible.
Backed by a brawny band six pieces deep, Erickson's voice — one of the most haunting and other-worldly in all of music — has taken on a much huskier, gravelly tone in recent years, which sounded terrific with muscular instrumentation behind it. Or maybe "terrifying" is the better word: Erickson has always tapped into a cosmic-horror vein on songs like “Night of the Vampire,” but with his shaggy white beard and rugged, grizzled vocal tone, he comes off like some long-lost Hammer Horror villain. When Erickson brought it back to his '60s-era songs like “Reverberations” and “You're Going To Miss Me,” his tone didn't have quite as horrifying an effect — it just sounded incredibly badass. From start to finish, Erickson & Co. barreled through the hits (or what might be hits if the man's legend wasn't built on obscure pressings and bootleg minutiae), and the crowd was right there along with them, reveling in a psychedelic world that will most likely never return to Nashville. Roky, thanks for coming. We're going to miss you.