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Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Literate, Cathartic, Bleak, Volatile Relief


I asked Billy to tell all about the most captivating musical experience he ever had, so I guess I ought to step up to the plate myself. (no idea where that expression originates...)

The first gig I ever went to was at the Mean Fiddler in 1991. I'd been to loads of festivals, and I'd followed local bands about making puppy eyes on a regular basis, I'd even played extremely badly alongside three or four indie chart toppers on their worst, most drunken gigs, but weirdly, despite living with a musician who'd charted, (once, heh), I'd never been as a punter to a proper single big name gig. So for my first gig ever, nervy, wired, not a bit drunk on gassy beer from Irish pubs, I chose Henry Rollins.
Here's what AllMusic has to say about Rollins:

Styles American Underground, College Rock, Alternative Metal, United States of America, Alternative Pop/Rock
Tones Fiery, Passionate, Thuggish, Aggressive, Literate, Cathartic, Bleak, Volatile
In the '90s, Henry Rollins emerged as a post-punk renaissance man ... Since Black Flag's breakup in 1986, Rollins has been relentlessly busy, recording albums with the Rollins Band, writing books and poetry, performing spoken-word tours, writing a magazine column in Details, acting in several movies, and appearing on radio programs and, less frequently, as an MTV VJ. The Rollins Band's records are uncompromising, intense, cathartic fusions of hard rock, funk, post-punk noise, and jazz experimentalism, with Rollins shouting angry, biting self-examinations and accusations over the grind.
Similar Artists: Greg Ginn The Red Hot Chili Peppers Minutemen Jane's Addiction Husker Du Gone Fugazi R.E.M. Shudder to Think Jawbox Sonic Youth Faith No More Dinosaur Jr.
Roots and Influences: Minor Threat The Velvet Underground Thin Lizzy Suicide Led Zeppelin Dead Kennedys Black Sabbath Bad Brains Iggy Pop Phil Lynott Ted Nugent
1991 was a pivotal year for Rollins, for better and worse. The Rollins Band inked a deal with Imago that promised much-improved distribution, and also appeared on the Lollapalooza tour. But in December of that year, Rollins and his best friend, Joe Cole, were held up by gunmen waiting outside of Rollins' L.A. home. Cole was fatally shot in the head; the devastating trauma of the incident never quite left Rollins, and occasionally (though indirectly) informed his subsequent work.
Yeah, well 1992 was a pivotal year for me, too, but in 91 I was still germinating. Although the sugar was turning to alcohol by then.
I lived in Kentish Town, in a poxy one room bedsit, above a drug dealing drummer who drummed all night, below a mad pensioner with Parkinson's who never wore anything more underpants, and tended to shit on the landing outside my door. I was living cheaply so that I could afford not to go home during student summers, and in order to have more money to discover London's nightlife. This meant the Mean Fiddler was a stagger away from the local bad boy's pub, next door to the second best chippy in Camden. Muso boyf and I had a pissy row early on in the evening, and he stormed off to nod sagely from somewhere stage right. I stood on the fire exit steps to get a better view, and tolerated the racket of the support band. I think they might have been Silverfish, but it was a terrible gig for them, much worse than any they did when they got even more unpopular. I was wired, and I was in a pissy aggravated mood. Hurry up and get this fucking farce over with, I thought. I haven't any more money for beer.
Rollins burst onstage. Now, I was brought up laughing at shoegazer indie bands. 'Hard' for me was the moth-top fopsies of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Bands full of sweet, soul searching boys whose pseudonyms belied that they all used to be called Jeremy. My finest audience moment so far had been yelling (while off my tits on some substance or other) 'crack a fucking smile mate' at Lou Reed (oh, the wit). I had no idea that men like Henry Rollins existed.

Stripped to the waist, skinheaded, monobrowed, rippling with muscles and tats covering his entire spine and calves, in cycling shorts and nothing else (these were the days before Kiedis made such displays acceptable), a pitbull terrier in human form, Rollins looked like a bad case of steroids gone wrong. My eyes boggled and the thought flashed through my mind: "Fuck me, it's Buster Bloodvessel. Oh God."
I was certain I'd be slinking away from a neo nazi mosh pit within twenty seconds, trying not to be noticed.

Wrong. He was thrash, and it was electric. He stood barefoot on the stage and screamed, bent over double, till his undeniably mentally disturbed looking face seemed to be spitting the words directly at the stage floor, a few inches away from his nose. Each lyric was screamed in this contorted pose.

Okay, so the energy convinced me to stay for two or three tracks. Infectious. I pictured the boyf nodding sagely in a 'jazz' fashion, laughed cruelly, and bopped up and down excitably. Didn't matter what the music was like, the buzz was energised.
Then, between songs, Rollins talked. And talked and talked. He talked about what had happened to Cale. How seeing your best friends brains blown over your shirt make you reassess whether you want to act like a new metal dickhead all your life. He read some of his poetry on the matter.

He analysed how he felt. He weighed up relationships he had with his family, with his friends, with friends of his friends. He blogged aloud, essentially. It was intriguing: this thrash merchant, this angry looking single neuronned purveyor of white noise, was articulate. Emotionally aware. Intelligent even.
But what really captured me wasn't any of these things. It was his humour. He knew how he looked, and he played with it. With my expectations. Just when he'd suckered me into the New Man, emotionalguyintouchwithhisfeelings thing, just when we were eating up all the details of his therapy, he turned to the issue of a pal's girlfriend, whom he'd never really connected with. He analysed the difficulties they'd faced, and explained his decision to put the past behind him, and document his newfound feelings and understanding of her in a song. I was ready for a slowie on the rebirth of a friendship - a poem in acapella format.
"one - two - three - four - crouch: YOU FUCKING BITCH - I HOPE YOU DIE - YOU FUCKING BITCH."
God, I thought I was going to piss myself laughing.
I came out of my first proper gig ever walking about two feet above the ground, pogoed my way into the chippy and picked up the bloke. Bounced, shouted and laughed my way home.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 10:18 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 January 2004 10:38 PM GMT
Post Comment | View Comments (13) | Permalink | Share This Post

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 11:06 PM GMT

Name: tess
Home Page: http://www.tessb.blogspot.com

I'm not 100% sure but I think that stepping up to the plate is to do with one of those American sport tingummies - baseball probably. You step up to the plate to take your turn at hitting the ball. I think.

Tuesday, 20 January 2004 - 11:16 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Not a dinner plate, then. Ah.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 12:16 AM GMT

Name: jatb

I think it is a baseball thing. But I'd like it to be the fourth tier at the Ritz.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 5:14 AM GMT

Name: Lux
Home Page: http://www.shylux.blogspot.com

tess is right. now if i only knew where 'face the music' originated. sort of a mixed metaphor isn't it?

p.s. sorry about the lack of capitalization. brain cells are chronically fatigued on the mitochondrial level so something's got to go.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 7:26 AM GMT

Name: Yorkshiresoul
Home Page: http://www.yorkshiresoul.org

Tess is correct, 'face the music' I don't know, but it is what a conductor does, is that significant?

Life changing musical experiences, hmmm, Marillion were one, after hearing them on the Friday Rock Show I became an uberfan, hitch hiking all over the country to see them.

My first big thrash gig though, Megadeth headlining the Christmas On Earth Fest at the now defunct Leeds Tramsheds. When the 'Deth came onstage and started pounding away, the audience exploded, almost literally, bouncing up and down, bodies flying on and off the stage, people being passed around above your head, I was enthralled.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 1:32 PM GMT

Name: Rose
Home Page: http://greatgooglymoogly.blogspot.com

I love Henry Rollins.

I've loved him for a long time but never saw him live until just last year. If you ever, EVER get a chance to see his Spoken Word show, please do yourself a favor and go see him. It's not as energetic as the Rollins Band music show, but it's great nonetheless. He was just here in Phoenix and we didn't get to see him because we were preparing for S. to ship out, but I saw him speak last year in a very intimate venue (about 1,000 people) and it was worth every penny.

You can also rent some of his live performances as spoken word on DVD or VHS here in the states, so it might be something you can find there.

Rollins is a deep guy and he is - just as you described - a pitbull. That was a great description, it really made me remember what it felt like to see him. Thank you.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 1:49 PM GMT

Name: billy
Home Page: http://billyworld.typepad.com/

..in baseball there is a "plate" on the ground in an area called the batting box...it is over this plate that the pitcher (person throwing the ball) has to throw the ball...the batter (the bloke hitting the ball) stands next to the plate...to signify that the batter is ready to recieve a pitch he enters the "batting box" - he steps up to the plate...the pitcher releases the ball and the batter swings...sometimes he hits, sometimes he misses...

...in this case - "the pitch" was 'what was the most motivating musical experience'...the batter was vanessa...she took the pitch and sent it out the ballpark :^)...which means it was a very good "hit" :^)...

...ever think I should get out a bit more :^)...

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 3:18 PM GMT

Name: yidaho
Home Page: http://www.yidaho.com/mt

From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable:

"Face the music, To. To brave the consequences of one's actions or to put on a bold front in an unpleasant situation. The expression may derive from the stage, although some authorities take it from the military ceremony in which an officer being cashiered was required to face the drum squad while his charges were read out."

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 3:47 PM GMT

Name: Jenn
Home Page: http://silicone.precious-illusions.org

Henry Rollins is such an interesting person. He reminds me a lot of Marilyn Manson. Just the way they think and interpret the world. They have this sarcastic kind of truth to their thinking and I think its great. They're very aware, but they make light of it.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 4:16 PM GMT

Name: Looby

Jeez! He makes the England Rugby team lok like right girls' blouses!

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 5:31 PM GMT

Name: em
Home Page: http://yuptrenton.typepad.com/quick_story/

Excellent description--felt like i was there too. the allmusic decrition mentions Fugazi--now there's a good show. saw them several times in trenton, remember the clouds of steam coming off the hot bodies thrashing and straining around the floor.

small factoid--the mother of the drummer in the Rollins Band lives down the street from me. Audrey, an interesting, lovely woman and she has a sensational garden. She's originally from Scotland i believe.

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 6:25 PM GMT

Name: Vanessa

Oooh, don't tell her I've been deeplinking her kid's band's piccies, willya....

Wednesday, 21 January 2004 - 6:33 PM GMT

Name: em
Home Page: http://yuptrenton.typepad.com/quick_story/

:-x does that mean "my lips are sealed"? or some else. something vulgar. hope not. if so, apologies!

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