01 April 2010: The Kent Stage, Kent, Ohio
Tracy and I embarked on a mid-week “Three Shows in Three Nights” marathon. We didn’t plan it this way, and we didn’t originally set out to prove we can still live the life we did twenty years ago, but that’s how it ended up. And we were treated to an amusing exercise while experiencing unique acts at completely different venues.
You gotta love college town concert spots. Sticky floors, uncomfortable seats, overpriced beer, barely functioning bathrooms, and the smell of stale beer hanging in the air. That’s pretty much what we got at the last show in our whirlwind week when we saw Henry Rollins at the Kent Stage. But the atmosphere felt as appropriate as ever. (The last time Rollins came through town a few years ago he played Thursday’s, the Akron punk bar Tracy and I frequented and loved in the late ’80s.)
Taking the stage in a dark t-shirt and pants shortly after 8:00, Rollins was unstoppable for almost three hours. Covering everything from politics to travel to religion to Hollywood, he never stopped to take a break or even a sip of water.
We’re all getting old. Henry Rollins referenced his age repeatedly throughout the night. He’s got 10 years on me, but he looks fit and ready to go at a moment’s notice despite his gray. His body might say “aging tattooed punk elder statesman,” but as soon as he opens his mouth all you see is an intelligent, left-leaning, skilled public speaker.
Opening with the Mississippi high school prom canceled by the school because a lesbian student wanted to attend with her girlfriend, Rollins moved seamlessly from topic to topic. He recounted his thwarted attempts to see Ann Coulter speak in Canada last month, as well as extolling his love of the U.S. Constitution. Rollins walked the audience through how he spent Election Day 2008 in Washington, D.C., which included taking in an afternoon Bad Brains show in the hometown he shares with them.
Rollins spoke of Hollywood (his run on Sons of Anarchy and a guest-judging stint on RuPaul’s Drag Race TV show) and about his commencement speech at Sonoma College in northern California. But more than anything else, Rollins represented himself as a lonely man who lives to tour. It was kind of sad – but that was all me projecting because he certainly didn’t portray it in any feel-sorry-for-the-guy kind of way.
It was an amazing, thought-provoking show. Rollins inspires the audience to be more involved, to be better citizens of the world, to travel as much as possible, to respect each other – even celebrate our differences. The bulk of the audience was probably college-aged and probably firmly already in his camp, but it’s still good for young people to hear what Rollins is preaching (though he’d certainly never characterize what he does in that way).
On a related side note: We had dinner at the Wine Bar at Solaire before the show, and when our waiter found out we were going to the Rollins show, he told us he had wanted to go but knew he would have to work that night. Tracy and I chuckled at having such hip waiters two nights in a row.