Henry Rollins | 11.16.16

Music is the gospel he preaches, and he’s sharing it all over the world.


The Pageant, St. Louis

I’d like to consider myself mentally nimble. I like crossword puzzles and challenging books. I love riddles and puns and wordplay. I got a pretty large dose of humility last night, though, when Henry Rollins talked my brain into dizzy circles. He hit the stage at 8:06 p.m. and didn’t stop talking. He didn’t stop talking for two and a half hours. Straight. No drinking water, no notes, no lengthy pauses. It was truly amazing, and that’s not even considering the weight of his words.

I was a little afraid to hear what he had to say. I’m tired, you see. Tired of anger and hate and yelling and bullshit rhetoric. As much as I wanted to hear the Truth™ from Uncle Henry, I was also a little wary. I was very pleasantly surprised, however, when he started the evening by saying he believes this is the most interesting time to be alive and in America. He graciously congratulated those who voted for the new president-elect, and said he liked to vote, and it’s good to win. He then said that the Wall between the U.S. and Mexico has become a fence, and that “dismantling Obamacare” has turned into “amending Obamacare,” and that the guy who used to grab pussies has become one himself. “I don’t want the leader of this country to have racist dirt on his collar. I’m not a denier. I can’t excuse bad behavior. There is no such thing as political correctness. People are tired of shit coming out of people’s mouths and they’re calling them on it.”

He didn’t pull punches for Hillary, either, saying that operatives have no friends. These two remarks were about as negative as the evening got, though. He spoke of a rising tide that lifted all boats. That white power is not an energy policy, and that the only thing he was angry about was that 45% of our eligible voters didn’t vote. He said that the Jeffersonian clear lens of democracy works better when everyone who can vote, does.

I took so many notes I could literally fill up this review with quotes. That he doesn’t believe in killing time, or bruising it—but in using it well. That he puts the punk into punctual. That the New Deal allowed the American workplace to not be a place of oppression and that we all need to be switched on. More informed. Better read. He didn’t bring up any problems without offering solutions, which was so soothing, I can’t even express it.

Rollins spoke of his decades-long friendship with Lemmy, and his respect and relationships with Iggy Pop (including a great impersonation) and Leonard Cohen, and a really silly first meeting with David Bowie. As amazing as these stories were, the image of Henry Rollins and RuPaul walking together in West Hollywood—sparking rumors that they were a couple—was the most adorable anecdote I’d ever heard. They’ve been good friends for quite some time, and it’s just the sweetest thing to hear him speak about someone he holds in such high regard. He said that his friend RuPaul has saved lives by living so far out of the box. That being “cool” is part of the problem, and being authentic is the solution. “You and me—we are the solution. Always have been and always will be. I don’t have thick skin or thin skin. I have this skin because I’m human.”

Henry Rollins is smart. He’s sincere, and he’s really goddamned intense. He stopped playing music when the lyrics wouldn’t come anymore, saying that being a human jukebox takes no courage whatsoever. He has traveled extensively, and has started sharing music with kids in other countries as a way to introduce America to them by way of the Stooges. He spoke of a rough childhood, where music never let him down. Music never beat him up or threw him down the stairs. Music is the gospel he preaches, and he’s sharing it all over the world.

At 10:25, he got a second wind, which was just as intense as the first wind. He nearly lost the audience, who had been listening attentively for two hours straight. He was like a juggernaut. He got them back, though, with a collection of lovely thoughts. I needed to hear this, you guys. Maybe you do, too.

“The past holds frustrations and humiliations but the future holds hopes and ideas.”

“We are too high-functioning and too low-functioning to be anything but amazing and dangerous.”

“When you were given this amazing gift of life, why are you wasting your time with greed and meanness?”

“What could possibly go wrong? Nothing. What could possibly go right? Everything.”

He left us with this: “The weekend is coming and you’re in an amazing city so you’ll be fine. No president defines an age. You and I do. Find a decade when it wasn’t challenging to be an American. Freedom is big. Hatred is below the American conversation. We have to consider that this is a temporary situation and that we need to upgrade. We decide to be better every day going forward. Sitting still is part of a problem. Being cool is like being dead. My affection for you is a little obsessive. You should be careful of it.”

He said that he was like a Wallenda without a net, and he kept us all hanging on his every word.

If Henry Rollins comes to your town? You need to go. It’s important. | Melissa Cynova

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