Editor's Note: It's with heavy hearts that Up on the Sun reports that Mark Erickson, local songwriter and musician known for his roles in Colorstore, Gospel Claws, Sweetbleeders, and Roar, has passed away. Longtime Phoenix New Times music writer Serene Dominic brings us this note of remembrance. Our condolences are extended to Erickson's friends, family, and fans.
It was around midnight. I went to Lost Leaf expecting to see Make My Baby playing or at least setting up only to see a bare red stage. Manager Tato Caraveo informed me that the show had cancelled on account of Mark Erickson. "Is he playing a solo set?' I asked. Then I got the bad news.
It was only two Saturdays ago at the Los Dias de la Crescent celebration that I spoke to Mark at length, probably the only time we have ever spoken at length that wasn't in a New Times capacity. I'm not a close friend by any stretch but we had a mutual respect thing going, so that might count for something. When people describe you by using your first name as an adjective, you know you're on the outside looking in.
Recounting our conversation to friend who knew him a lot better, trying to make sense of the senseless, all he could say was "Mark was just being Mark."
Mark had just gotten through a raucous set with Roar. I watched the whole set, hearing this cranked distorted organ that seemed like a tribute to the late Jon Lord, I didn't know that it was Mark until he told me later. In the immediate round of catch-up, I found out from him that Colorstore was on hiatus and he was playing with Roar and Gospel Claws, his way of playing music without having to take on all the responsibility of getting people to hear it and not have to deal with the rejection if they didn't hear anything in it.
It was outside at the Crescent's newly dubbed Grande Stage that a popular local band blared on and Mark seemed a little annoyed that music that didn't take any chances was being so rapturously received. He seemed irked about a bunch of things and seeing me reminded him of the last article I did on Colorstore, where he thought he came off like a jerk. He blamed himself for saying dumb shit to sell an album. He said a lot of things in jest that maybe didn't read back so funny to him. Yet Mark always has this pumpkin grin on his face that maybe didn't translate into newsprint, a grin that makes it hard to decipher whether he's being serious or cantankerously funny.
And he was pretty funny that night: When he stopped by I had been standing with Yolanda Bergera of Snow Songs, engaged into a stupid game of daring each other to eat a chip from the bag that someone had left untouched. Mark took things to a whole 'nuther level, finishing off a half eaten burrito also left behind. We laughed for about five minutes straight, Mark included.
Yes, Mark was crazy. But he also saw the world in a different way than the rest of us and in that Colorstore article he was none too thrilled by, he described how his autistic daughter viewed things from an exclusive perspective: "The more abstract ways of thinking, that's how my daughter's initially programmed -- watching her build these amazing sculptures and paintings or her [emotional interactions]; she's brilliant. At the same time, I'm aware she's being looked at differently by her peers and other adults."
Colorstone really hit their stride with their second album Bonefish: The Legend of Mahogany Cass, psychedelia meets Americana, with songs that at once seemed more poignant than the indie sounds they'd crafted before. "These songs are more honest. Spilling guts. At the same time, they're much more upbeat."
I was glad I got a chance to tell him how great I thought the last show he did with Colorstore at the FilmBar was, how he was one of the few local artist to use that venue's unique setup combining music and visuals. And I was excited to hear about Ghost Woof, his new project. If only compliments and shared interests were enough to save someone from their own worst impulses. Or Mark just being Mark. Rest in peace, Mr. E.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!