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Ponderosa Stomp 2007 Review - High Times

CONCERT REVIEW: 6th Annual Ponderosa Stomp @ House of Blues - New Orleans, Louisiana

By Cree McCree

After a post-Katrina year of exile in Memphis, the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau stomped back to their home base of New Orleans, taking over the House of Blues with a three-stage marathon of blues, soul, rockabilly, swamp pop and New Orleans R&B capped by a mind-cracking set by the “Two-Headed Dog” himself: Roky Erickson, godfather of psychedelia (with his 13th Floor Elevators), pot-bust casualty, certified schizophrenic, progenitor of punk, notarized alien and arguably the most influential Texas troubadour since Buddy Holly, making a rare appearance outside Austin that some fans drove hundreds of miles to see.

Boy, was it worth the trip.

I met one of those fans, a Louisville slugger known as LP Burnout, on the outdoor patio, where Eddie Kirkland, Henry Gray and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson provided a one-two-three punch of deep Nawlins blues while we warmed up for Roky time by chilling with a couple cold ones.

House of Blues is no Rock ‘n’ Bowl, the funky club-cum-bowling alley that served as the Stomp’s longtime home. But despite some stairway bottlenecks between the main stage and the Parish, it worked surprisingly well, with the patio the primo spot to kick back between the hits-just-keep-on-coming craziness of the larger stages.

I hit the big room at a peak moment: Allen Toussaint had just joined Wardell Quezergue & His New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Revue, along with fellow legends Dave Bartholomew, Tony Owens and Jean Knight, kicking the hurricane force up to a Category 5 on a stage crowded with almost as many people as the dance floor. Later, up in the Parish, Dale Hawkins got deep, down, and dirty with Deke Dickerson and the Eccofonics during a scorching set of swamp pop that peeled the varnish off the floor.

Then, just around midnight, under a full Scorpio moon, in front of a crowd of rabid fans who’d waited years and whole lifetimes to see him, Roky Erickson took the main stage with the Explosives.

He did not disappoint.

“It’s a Cold Night for Alligators,” the perfect New Orleans opener, launched a set of ratcheting intensity that left no doubt that Roky was not only back but here to stay.

Looking hale and handsome, his yowling voice in fighting form, he delivered deranged classics like “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer,” digging deep into a songbook inspired by his three-year confinement in Rusk State Hospital following his bust for a joint’s worth of pot.

“Starry Eyes,” one of the lilting pop tunes that come as easily to Roky as they did to Lennon & McCartney, bridged the descent into madness we’d all been waiting for. First he bludgeoned us with “Bloody Hammer.” Then he whipped us into a frenzy with “Two-Headed Dog,” complete with delirious crowd singalong. (“Two headed dog! Two headed dog! I’ve been working in the Kremlin with a two-headed dog!”) Then, wonder of wonders, came the first big Elevators hit, “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” minus Tommy Hall’s burbling jug but with Roky’s primal scream as ear-opening as it was in 1965.

What could he possibly do for an encore? “I Walked With a Zombie,” of course. This is New Orleans, after all.

“Thank you,” repeated after every song, was all Roky said to the crowd. It was all he needed to say. His music, ably backed by Explosives guitarist Cam King, bassist Chris Johnson and drummer Freddy “Steady” Krc, spoke for itself.

The last time I saw Roky, back in 1994 when I went to Austin to “interview” him for HIGH TIMES, he was still crawling out of his shell and could barely function in public, let alone perform. Now he’s playing major festivals like Coachella, where he performed the weekend before the Stomp, after resurfacing with a vengeance at the 2006 Austin Music Awards.

It’s a remarkable comeback for a man who, like everyone else on the Stomp bill, had a remarkable impact on American music. Here’s hoping some of Roky’s mojo rubs off on the City of New Orleans, where we’re making quite a comeback of our own.
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