[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 was just in Texas for a show. Since 1981 I've done a lot of shows in Texas.
Whenever I am there, many memories of previous shows and visits come back to me. It is one hell of a place.
Back in the early 1980s, on one of my first visits to the great state, I learned a lesson that has stuck with me all these years later: Texas is a hotbed of insanely good bands and musicians.
Back then, I didn't know that Texas was the birthplace of Lightnin' Hopkins, Ornette Coleman and Roy Orbison, to name but a diverse few. In those days, I could have told you that ZZ Top was from there and that's about it. My first up-close dose was the Big Boys, the Dicks and the Butthole Surfers. They were all original and quite great onstage. If a band can't play well live, its records are no longer all that interesting to me. These bands could play.
We're talking about Austin, Texas, though. This is a relatively unique section of this state, which became part of America in 1845. (Not all of the other 27 states were exactly jumping for joy about this; Abraham Lincoln wasn't, either.)
The rest of Texas is wide open, extremely beautiful and contains millions of people. Many of them have some intense ideas about how things should go. It was from some of these people that I learned some of my early lessons in Americana 101.
One event that says a lot happened to me in 1982, I believe. Black Flag had just finished a show in Houston at the Lawndale Art Annex. That was always a tough show. Oven-hot inside, the air never seemed to contain enough oxygen, and getting through the set was always a grim proposition.
We had finished the show in front of 300 people (or less) and I was walking alone across the venue. I heard a voice behind me. "Fag." I kept walking. I heard the voice again. "Fag." There was no heat behind this utterance, just a monosyllable, flatly stated. I turned and saw a guy about my age, perhaps a little older, following me. It was almost an absurdist episode. I asked him, almost politely, "Did you call me a fag?" He said matter-of-factly, "Yeah."