Henry Rollins Is Mad as Hell and Surprisingly Optimistic at Yoshi's, 11/22/12
|Rollins onstage (file photo).|
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012
Better than: The turkey-induced coma most people were in, post-Thanksgiving dinner (by about a million times).
At the end of two and a half hours of non-stop talking tonight, Henry Rollins explains how he does entire spoken word performances without the aid of even a single sip of water: he's scared that if he takes a breath to drink, that the audience will leave. Which is -- as anyone who has ever seen Rollins talk will attest -- an entirely ridiculous notion. This is an information-packed evening, but one that flies by. And one of the reasons it's so easy to sit and listen to one man talk for such a long time is that his self-deprecating and humble demeanor makes him a thoroughly engaging performer. Sure, it's his opinions you're listening to for all that time, but he's just sharing them with you, as a friend would -- there's no preaching here. And with the kinds of subjects Rollins covers tonight, that's crucial.
Rollins shows some serious love for Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson along the way. But tonight is in no way laborious or hard to get through. It's not just Rollins' humility that consistently makes the show compulsive viewing -- it's his humor. When touching on the sheer number of old, right-wing men who felt the need to redefine rape and weigh in on women's reproductive rights in this last election cycle, he is cry-tears-of-laughter funny. "Four women voted for Mitt Romney," he wails. "[The rest of them] grabbed their vages and ran for the hills! 'The misogynists are coming! The misogynists are coming!'" He is fiercely feminist tonight and it's a breath of fresh air: "If you don't have ovaries," he directs at those backwards politicians, "Shut. Up."
Rollins' most hilarious moment tonight though, is in talking about an oversold, over-crowded Ramones show he once attended in Virginia, and the mechanics of where dudes put their junk when packed into "an oxygen-free fire trap" in a tightly-packed audience, like "punk rock sardines." What Rollins describes is, to put it far less politely than he does, a never-ending, super-awkward dick train. The punchline is that he eventually tried to use Dee Dee Ramone's sweat droplets as a means of hydration -- and we're pretty sure he's not making it up.
Most of all tonight, Rollins is a staunch defender of both common sense and his fellow humans -- regardless of how they vote ("Arguing and polarity in America is below us," he notes). He makes it clear than he uses his passport to refine his anger, and that on his almost-never-ending travels to impoverished countries, he has realized that people around the globe pretty much all want the same thing: "Peace and clean water."
The most surprising element of tonight's performance though, is Henry Rollins' incredible sense of optimism for America. He points out that the 14-year-old kids who we all see yelling at bus stops obnoxiously right now are the ones who are going to come out and vote in 2016. And it is Rollins' opinion that it will be completely impossible to sell these Internet-savvy, modern kids "ancient ideas" rooted in sexism, racism and homophobia. "Change is here," he says, "and it's happening. It's happening in my lifetime. We're onto something."
But Rollins wouldn't be Rollins without a giant dollop of rage, and tonight he offers plenty of that, too. He laughs about the fact that his optimism for the future makes him look like a "super-hopey-changey guy," but then points out that he is, in fact, "frighteningly angry." He closes the show imploring "Youth Man" ("anyone who's under 51") to "stay mad". It's not bad advice: If we were all as mad (and ultra-informed) as Henry Rollins, the world would undoubtedly be a better place.
Useful note: Rollins is performing at Yoshi's again tonight (Nov. 23) and also this Sunday (Nov. 25). If you can, find tickets -- you won't be sorry.
Old-school punk rocker-related note: Ex-Jawbreaker drummer Adam Pfahler is in the audience, seated with what appears to be his family -- two tween kids included, who seem thoroughly amused by the whole thing. Proof that, in punk rock households, it's never too early to get your kids informed and critically thinking. Best. Parenting. Ever.