May the Circle Remain Unbroken: Roky Erickson, 'True Love Cast Out All Evil,' at Black Cat

November 3, 2010

There were years when it looked like the world had lost Roky Erickson.

In the mid-’60s, Erickson led seminal Austin psych group the 13th Floor Elevators. He wrote some of the most powerful songs of that era, music that runs through the rock, folk and punk scenes of today.

Then, he fell ill. Diagnosed with schizophrenia in the early ’70s, Erickson struggled for decades with his genius and his demons, all the while making extraordinary music, haunting in its honesty and loneliness.

The early ’00s found him a support network and relative stability, and he started playing sporadic shows. In April, Erickson released his first album in nearly 15 years, “True Love Cast Out All Evil,” recorded with Okkervil River. The band embarked on a multicity tour, which stops at the Black Cat Friday.

Erickson says being back on stage is second nature. “I never get afraid. I just always think, ‘Everything’s gonna be all right.’ And I’m pretty sure its gonna be.”

After a long period writing about horror-movie monsters — and the ones inside his mind — Erickson says he’s finding inspiration of sorts in the Bible.

“If you’re tired of studying the Bible and you want to entertain yourself,” he says, “you can write a song instead about how true love casts out, well, everything.”

Recent set lists have included covers of old faves like Little Richard.

“I play this one called ‘Ooh! My Soul’ — but you gotta be careful playing that one,” Erickson says. “You should really have someone with you listening to those records.”

For Erickson, music is a mystical force. Some would say he is, too.

“Mystical? I guess I could be,” he says. “I read a lot of Edgar Cayce,” a turn-of-the-century New Age philosopher. “But you gotta take it easy with him.”

» Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Fri., 9 p.m., $25; 202-667-4490. (U St.-Cardozo)

Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

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