Henry Rollins: Music Keeps You Young
[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 Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
See also: Lives Life, or It Lives You
It is late August. I am in the Starbucks at Colorado and Rockland in Eagle Rock, across from the Center for the Arts. It's 2005 hrs. The doors should be opening soon. Electric Flower Group, Endless Bummer and Ty Segall are playing tonight.
I was told that Ty will be concentrating on songs from his new album on the very excellent Drag City label, Sleeper. The CD of this album sounds good, but the LP version is exquisite.
There is not one Ty record that I don't like. In all his different incarnations from Epsilons, Reverse Shark Attack, his work with Tim Presley (White Fence), the band he drums and sings with, Fuzz, and his solo stuff, it's all pretty rockin' to me. I think Sleeper might be his best yet.
Wrapped around the corner of the center is a line of a few dozen young people. They remind me of scenes from my youth. The summer is ending, perhaps this is one of the last shows these people have to go to -- besides FYF Fest, which happens in two days -- before school or other liquid time annihilators make their presence known.
I am glad they are here. Just my opinion but this is what young people should be doing all the time: going to see great bands in the summer months.
Several days ago, when I found out about this show, I became immediately happy. I was going to a gig! The same excitement that has filled me for decades when I know I am going to see bands play live was with me once again, as strong as ever.
I try to refer to my age only when I can make self-deprecating jokes. Beyond that, I am not all that hung up on it. There is not one thing I can do about it. That being said, sitting here, at this moment, I feel completely ageless. Looking at the young people across the street, most if not all of whom were not even born when I started going to club shows, I feel no separation or difference between them and myself. We are here for the same reason.
This could be why some musicians can be at times so frustratingly immature. Music keeps you young. Having music in your life keeps you open to things.
Many years ago, I recall, I would be at a show, self-absorbed and insecurely self-aware. I would occasionally see some gray-haired man, wide-eyed like he had never seen a band in his life. While many people around him would be busy admiring themselves, engaged with the music to a certain degree, the older guy would be going off. I am not exaggerating. I would see older "out-of-place" types at shows all the time in the 1980s, totally digging the music. They very well could have had no idea who was onstage -- they were just into what was happening up there.
I always dug it when I would run into Sky Saxon of The Seeds at a show in L.A. We would have these great conversations. His mind was an adventure and he always had really far-out things to say. He looked really cool with his sunglasses in a darkened club. He was like a visitor from another planet. He made everyone look like a phony. He was the real thing, and the music kept him ageless and barely tethered to the ground until he died in 2009.
So, I reckon, I am now officially "that guy" at the show. I have been going to shows like tonight's since I was a teenager and, I must say, I am more into it than ever.
Live music is such a fantastic use of time. For me, live music is like pizza. Even when it's not great, it's still pretty damn good. I think I'll head over to the venue and see what's happening.
Next night: I can't help it. Whenever I am around young people at a show, I get all hopey-changey. I reckon they are the ones who aren't going to fall for the bullshit that the past generations did. Perhaps that is giving them too much credit, but I think I am right about this. I also can't help but compare them to audiences I used to perform in front of and wonder if I had been in front of this lot, would I have all the suture scars in my head, the chipped teeth and cigarette burns on my legs. Ah, youth.
I had a great time. I utilized earplugs to minimize sibilance and bring out the vocals; also, it helps to eliminate chatter. It's amazing that people go to shows and talk while the band is playing. Ty and his band played the Sleeper album all the way through. The songs sounded great live, the true test.
I tend to gravitate to the darkest or most obscure part of any venue in an effort to have my own space to experience the music on my own, free from unwanted conversations and other distractions. Last night, I found a wall, shrouded in almost total darkness, to lean against and dig the show.
Somehow a few people found me. That tap on the shoulder always startles me, as I am usually totally absorbed in the music. It is the last damn thing I would ever do to someone at a show. What could you say to someone that is better than what is happening on the stage?
For the last three songs, two people fell in on my left. One guy started talking loud and steadily until Ty said goodnight. Without pause, the man turns his conversation hose on me. Nice enough guy but damn, what a vibe-killing lightweight.
This is also part of the live music experience -- everyone else. Sartre said something once said something about that.
Moments later, I was back in my car and on the 134, still high on the joy-ride jam session I had just experienced. Great show, totally worth it. Live music is the cure for what ails ya.
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