Henry Rollins: Christmacidal
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
A few nights ago, I finished the last show of a tour that started in January. I have done 188 shows in 19 countries this year. I should be tired of being onstage, tired of the hustle, etc., but I am not. Quite the opposite, actually. The fact that it's all behind me now is the hardest part to deal with.
I was able to buffer my re-entry into our fair city with several sold-out nights at Largo, one of my favorite places to perform anywhere. The last show was a bummer, only because it was the last show.
Los Angeles can be a strange place to come back to, because no matter how many days or even months at a time I am gone, the familiarity of seeing places is too familiar, like I never left. This is why the Largo shows were such a great experience. To be able to connect with real people and not merely the L.A. sprawl was very helpful.
I came back to my office to columns of mailers leaning against the wall. It will take days to free the LPs therein, weeks to catalog them, months and years to get them all listened to. For me, there can never be enough music.
Now that the election is in the past, Americans are tasked with gearing up for Christmas. No matter what meaning this occasion holds for you or what your opinion is about it, you will be dealing with this often grotesque hybridization of religion and breathless consumerism for weeks to come. As the first signs of decorations make themselves noticeable on our streets, the stores are beyond ready. Fox News clowns are polishing their War on Christmas raps for their ever-diminishing audience as Americans brace for the annual barrage of peace on earth, good cheer and, of course, the savings.
Perhaps the first dehumanizing shot across the bow is Black Friday; the phrase alone says a lot about what you're potentially in for, and a lot about America. Consumerism is at once the engine of America and simultaneously one of the most revealing indicators of our collective shallowness. Right after you are done with your Thanksgiving meal, you are, if you choose to partake, given the opportunity to line up in front of retail outlets for hours and, when the time is right, go running through a store to aggressively grab what could soon be yours, that is if you are strong enough to take it and hold on.
Some people see Black Friday as a much-needed break for their wallet. I see it as retail outlets showing the customers the full weight of their contempt. The frenzy to buy cheap crap from China, the human downgrade of people fighting with each other over items they can probably live without, to me, is an insult. By manipulating supply, they pervert the meaning of demand and turn shoppers into pathetic assholes, grabbing and hip-checking all the way to point of purchase. You're going to save some money, but it's going to leave a mark and it's not going to be fun. Everything must go, and one day, so shall you.
Of course, it's an elective -- no one makes you go. For myself, I will not stand in line to buy anything beyond my basket of groceries.
It is ironic to think of images of the Stalin-era Soviet Union and the long lines for rationed bread and compare it to the throngs of Americans who will stand for hours to buy until exhaustion.
It could very well be that Black Friday is a primer for the America that is to be. When a wage is no longer a livable one, people will become more and more desperate, angry and aggressive. Consumerist opportunities can become reality television shows like all those ridiculous series on A&E. Full-contact shopping with helmets and mouth guards.
Again, this kind of shopping is not compulsory and, while not always a pretty picture, it's part of what makes America thrive. Hopefully people don't lose too much of their humanity along the way.
In the taxi I took from the airport days ago, I heard Dean Martin phoning in a version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Brutal. It reminded me of just how awful those songs can be, like music throwing up in its mouth. I must admit a soft spot for the Christmas Is 4 Ever album by Bootsy Collins -- that's a little slice of genius I can live with.
I have always found the Christmacidal aspects of December to be the few treating the many like rubes. It's alienating. And so, for the most part, I just ignore it all and am thankful that it never meant much to me.
I am in a cold-weather music phase in front of my speakers and I am decking the halls with Bowie, Kraftwerk, Kluster, American Tapes and Gods of Tundra ear bleed, brain-damaging Nadja and Khanate albums and probably unsafe amounts of Finnish strangeness from Kemialliset Ystävät to Kuupuu. Rocking a lot of Fursaxa, Family Underground and, when the hour gets late, off to space with My Cat Is An Alien records.
If I can't have a stage to report to every night, I will drown my sorrows in a sea of music! Music is the counterweight against mankind's less enviable moments. Listening to John Boehner whine Ryanesque about the fiscal cliff as he refuses to acknowledge his thoroughly kicked ass, or reading about certain states to wanting secede because their feckless douche of a candidate lost in a landslide, can really make you want to turn your back on humanity. However, the fact that music is made by people always reminds me that they aren't all that bad.
Beyond that, the audience who shows up to see me all over the world every year keeps me grounded and unable to burn out.
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