It’s not common for my brother and me to hang out. Last Thursday was one of the rarities, we planned on seeing Henry Rollins in Philadelphia, but the show was sold out. I bought a ticket, before speaking to Dave, since I never know his plans. Also, let’s be honest, how many times have we bought that extra ticket for whom ever and it’s a bust. Anyway, I bought two tickets for his show in Harrisburg, PA. This was the first show back in the US on a shortened spoken word tour to celebrate his 50th birthday. After close to two hours on 76 heading west we arrived in Harrisburg. We passed the Howard Johnson’s on 83, where I stayed with Ali and the girls (don’t think Joe or Bella have been there) when we visited Hershey Park all of those years ago.
Harrisburg is a neat little town, some cool bars on the Main Street that we gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a diverse town as well, since for the few hours we were in there, there was a decent mix of gay, African American, poor and rich, but most of the crowd at the venue were hipsters. I loved the fact there were a lot of young men and women, who beamed with an odd excitement for the appearance of the uncle of punk Henry Rollins.
The rapid two hour show was fantastic as Henry began with an apology; after all of these years of spoken word performances, this was his first show in the city. He described how he did not intentionally ignore Harrisburg. In fact Black Flag performed in the city a few times and he brought up some old haunts. He also described getting there the day before cause he wants to be prepared, visiting the local YMCA and coming in contact with drunks in the afternoon. ‘As if getting drunk in the afternoon is truly- taking it to the man!”
Mr. Rollins touched on the shows at Joe’s Pub in New York which started off the tour, and described walking up town in New York into a fierce headwind and coming across a man on the sidewalk hawking fur coats, “Get yar fur coats here! You know you want one!” Mr. Rollins has an incredible ability to mimic, but he is conscientious enough to know he should not mimic everyone in case he sounded xenophobic - as was his reason not to share a mimic of a North Korean performer.
And that is essentially the show, his travels to China, Beijing and the thick pollution and how he pretends to lick off the pollution off his fingers. Off to North Korea and his escapes to allude to truth to his ever present tour guards that he is a journalist. Off to Vietnam and his hysterical tour guide, Kong. “Can I call you Mr. Kong?” The man replied, “You can call me Mister, you can call me Kong, as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.” I will add, "John McCain is an angry man." See the show and you'd get the joke.
Henry’s story of his first ever visit to the local Cosco with Heidi his official office staff, is worth the ticket. He shares his disdain for our large American diet on fast food, our cells dying as they cling for life, but the best was when he came to the literature section and finding mostly conservative books, “Hannity, Palin, Bush. “ This led to reading President Bush’s Decision Points out loud. He said it was written by ghost writers, “Not the ghosts of the thousands of troops killed or innocent Iraqi citizens…” The master at mimic was at full force. He had an audience of one who laughed out loud and from another (who was offended) a stare that tried to shut him up, Rollins glared him down and recited out loud…the other eventually huffed off defeated.
**Let me add something, his story when he confronted Dennis Hopper had me on the floor**
Closing the show, he reflected on what bits of wisdom he could impart. Throughout the show he said he responds to all emails. He does. There are some young men and women who ask his ten favorite books and for his musical choices. Let me add, do yourself a favor and buy both editions of Fanatic, his books on his musical tastes, there only $5 off his website. In Harrisburg, he shared how he downloaded a large file onto a teenager’s computer while visiting his parents, and over dinner the young man said, “Thank you.”
In Philly he was proclaiming we are the generation to change the world, which he did not blare in Harrisburg. He pumped up as he bid farewell and saluted us. The lights went on and we were off into the warm night.
So this is where I will impart my wisdom, if you’ve seen one show on this tour, there is no need to spend another chuck of cash cause you’re going to get exactly the same - performance. He is a true performance artist.
On Friday I saw Mr. Rollins again, this time alone at the World Café in Philly. I heard the same jokes, same pauses as he gets “sidetracked” and back to his stories, the same reactions, and facial expressions. There were little changes, but there is no need to go to more than one show. That being said, I am a new Henry Rollins fan and look forward to next year as he launches a longer tour which will bring into a town near you. Now back to reading his book, A Dull Roar.