Monday, September 24, 2012

Henry Rollins @ the Knitting Factory (9/18/12)

Even though this show didn't really have to do with music, I'd resolved to write about it.  Henry Rollins has been a huge inspiration to me for years.  From the music that he made with Black Flag and Rollins Band to his many books and spoken-word recordings/performances, the man has consistently shown intelligence, dedication and unflinching honesty.  He's not afraid to speak his mind, he tries not to take himself too seriously, he works hard and he has always seemed willing to go out and learn new things.  I try to emulate these qualities in my own life.

I'd originally planned to get down to the Knitting Factory good and early, since I figured that if any show would start on time, this one would.  Unfortunately, I'd gotten tied up with some stuff at home, so I didn't get there until around 8:05 pm and wound up missing the first few minutes of the show.  That wasn't too bad, though: Rollins had a LOT of things to talk about.

Clocking in at about two and a half hours, this spoken-word show actually lasted longer than some concerts I've been to.  Topics included Rollins's thoughts on this year's Republican National Convention (yes, he talked about Clint Eastwood and the chair), some clear-eyed reminiscences of his Black Flag days, his experiences while he was in North Korea and checking out Kim Il-sung's grave, his thoughts on the abortion debate (to wit: if you don't have a vagina, shut up) and his various misadventures while filming his show for National Geographic (I gotta wonder: who in God's name came up with the idea of "bulldogging" an alligator?).

As I watched and listened to Rollins, it occurred to me that you might think of shows like this one as a culmination of the various aspects of his fifty years on this earth (so far).  By talking for so long with barely a pause and without taking a drink of water (in spite of his profuse sweating), he probably showed something of the stamina and determination that saw him through countless gigs singing "My War" or "Liar."  The epic similes and surreal flights of fancy may have showed how writing several books has sharpened his literary skills.  The pacing of his tales, the telling details and the different voices that he slipped into may have evinced the same as well as lessons learned from acting in the odd movie and TV show (by his own admission, he's not much of an actor, but hey, you pick up a few things if you do anything long enough...).  Finally, his reflections on himself and the world around him gave the impression of a man who's been through more than most of us can probably imagine but who hasn't let it kill his compassion, his curiosity, his sense of humor or his determination to do the right thing.

I hung back after the show ended and watched people file out.  I noted the broad age range of the audience.  I thought about ending this post with something about how both younger and older folks could've taken something from this show, but that sounded too damn smug.  I'll just say that I took something from it and let it go at that.

For more info on Henry Rollins, you can go to and search elsewhere online.

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