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Henry Rollins: The Column! Living All Over Me

[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.]

I am writing to you from sunny Honolulu, Hawaii. I am not on vacation. I have a show here. The day after, I will be moving on to Alaska for another show and, hopefully, to get a glimpse of Russia.

I wonder what it's like to be from a state that is spread across a few islands way out in the Pacific Ocean, only added to the United States in 1959. Not only that but to be the birthplace of America's first black president? Pretty cool, I bet.

To have a bunch of psychotics attempt to dampen what should be a nonpartisan "look how far we have come" moment by claiming that the president is from Kenya? Not cool.

I got here last night and hit the streets in search of food. I walked a long way around perhaps the largest perimeter of vomit I have ever seen. Four Japanese tourist youths almost crossed the street to avoid it. I don't know why I just saw an image of Clint Eastwood talking to it. You're seeing it now, too, aren't you? Brutal!

I wanted to tell you about a show at an altogether fantastic annual occurrence in downtown Los Angeles. I had been waiting for Dinosaur Jr. at FYF Fest 2012. (One of the only shows I will be able to see this year due to my tour schedule. I saw The Stooges in Poland, and if all goes according to plan, I will see them at Staples Center in November.)

Dinosaur Jr. in their live capacity are a band that put me in a state of such overwhelming rock that it often takes quite a while to come down. I saw them play 15 times last year. Thirty would have been 15 better. I am that much of a fan because they are the real damn deal.

There had been quite the drum roll leading up to the FYF Fest date. Dinosaur Jr.'s new album, I Bet on Sky, will hit the racks Sept. 18. I was lucky to have received a copy several weeks ago and have lost count of how many times I have played it. Like all of the band's albums, I find it very much to my liking. Get ready for "Watch the Corners" and "Almost Fare," two great tracks on it.

Dinosaur Jr. are a band that have exceeded expectations, defied stereotypes and broken some general rules for bands that "put the old lineup back together again" and take their show on the road. The Dinosaur Jr. that many people first heard were J Mascis on guitar, Murph on drums and Lou Barlow on bass. They are the ones on the Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me and Bug albums from the 1980s.

 

After Bug, the band split up, and J kept on making Dinosaur Jr. albums, sometimes with Murph on drums, sometimes not. After several of those albums and some excellent solo efforts (check J Mascis and the Fog's More Light and Free So Free), J, Lou and Murph got back together again in 2005 and started playing shows.

Reunions aren't supposed to be that good. You go to the show and you feel insulted, depressed, old and foolish. You don't buy the T-shirt. And then when the re-formed band has the temerity to make an album, you expect it to be a tepid collection of glued-together riffs, despite the band's enthusiastic claims: "This is the best album we have ever done! We went back to our roots!"

Yet Dinosaur Jr. have made jaws hit the floor. Their first of three albums since rebooting, 2007's Beyond, is excellent. I saw them four times on that tour. Totally crushing, brain-damage awesomeness. Since then it's been strength to strength; Farm is even better.

Between the Dinosaur Jr. albums and his recent solo albums, Several Shades of Why and Heavy Blanket, J Mascis is emerging as one of the last men from all that '80s indie madness, still writing songs that you want to listen to over and over. If anything, the band is better than ever. The Lou/Murph rhythm section is now a fully integrated fist of fury, allowing J to floor it toward Saturn. Their albums are great, but live the band fully delivers the goods.

 

So at FYF, when the band hit the stage at 1840 hrs. in time for a beautiful sunset, we audience members were stoked. I was on J's side of the stage so I could get the marrow-liquefying overload.

The way the band goes from zero to sky-is-falling is amazing. Within a few minutes, you are engulfed. Great versions of "Out There" and "Feel the Pain!" The band rip through a version of "Training Ground" from J and Lou's old band, Deep Wound, and later smash it all to pieces with a great version of "Freak Scene."

As soon as the band left the stage, I realized that I was, again, going to be spending hours listening to their albums. I don't know if it's in an effort to detox, retox or break even, but after seeing them play I always put on their first album and go from there into a multiday Dinothon.

If you find yourself interested, you can tune in to my KCRW show on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m. and hear "I Bet on Sky" in hour two. Hour one will be Hendrix's Axis album in mono. It's going to be a great night of guitarocity.

Another Thing to Look Forward to Dept.: I spoke to Marnie Stern's publicist at FYF and she said Marnie's new album is almost done and will be out this year. We will be playing that one for sure.

Listen to as much music as you can.

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