[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.]
Hours ago, I walked off the stage in Montreal, marking the 100th show of the year so far. It was a quiet and brief celebration — a slight nod and exhalation of air. There was nothing special about it, but it made me think of the first show this year, in Manchester, England, and how far down the road this tour has gone and how far it still has to go.
I have been in Canada for weeks now, a good way into the longest run of shows I have ever done up here. So far, it's been great. During almost all the interviews I did for these dates, I was asked my opinion on the student protests in Eastern Canada over rising college tuition rates. I told them that in my opinion, it wasn't for me, a foreigner, to tell them about what is happening with their country. That takes a bit more temerity and chutzpah than I possess.
I did say that I admired these young people for pushing back against school costs if they are becoming so steep that it will make their shot at higher education even more challenging and saddle them with even more student loan debt.
I also noted that if one wanted to see what a dumbed-down mass population looks like, how it votes, metes out its foreign policy, moves its wealth and takes care of its citizens, just look to the south in America. I said that if that's what they wanted for their country, all they have to do is devalue education and it won't be long before they are enjoying an upward spike in gun homicides and an overflowing prison system.
One journalist told me that he thought the students were nothing more than whiners who should just shut up, pay the cost and get on with it. A more than slightly drunk woman at one of my recent shows here told me the same thing, and went on to tell me that her father was really smart and would conclude that I am merely a “fucking idiot.” Ah well.
In my bright, utopian future world, they will hand out college educations like cups of water at the end of the L.A. Marathon. Smart people make good choices. They dig science and say no to the invasion of sovereign nations for the pleasure of corporations. You can say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one …
Meanwhile, the music has been great. We have a portable turntable on the bus and have been checking out some excellent records. There have been more Anthony Braxton/Richard Teitelbaum excursions, Noah Howard's Live at the Unity Temple, Anima-Sound's Stürmischer Himmel and the self-titled George Lewis album on the Black Saint label.
The sun takes a long time to set up here, and it has been making me think of Scandinavian summers. I have been digging a lot of Scando-jams in the preshow hours in the small backstage areas I live in. Uton, Kobi, Sort Sol and Family Underground have been working for me. I have been checking a lot of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees as well. Easily my No. 1 listen for this week is the new Dinosaur Jr. album, I Bet on Sky. It will be released Sept. 18. We are going to get into that one in a big way closer to the drop date.
Canada — in my experience of it, anyway — is a good place. The people at my shows are extremely friendly and polite, and even the drunks calm down when asked during a show.
It is interesting to be in a country that shares a border with mine yet has so many different values. Reading news from America while in Canada only makes these differences more stark.
America is a very crazy place. I don't think I could live anywhere else.
It has been a very interesting bit of parallel-universe space trucking as the tour moves slowly east. For the last few days, we have been in the more French-speaking part of Canada. It feels like being in Belgium. This is the area where the student protests have been happening. Whenever I mention it onstage, people cheer loudly.
A couple of years ago, I was doing a show in Ottawa, Canada's capital city. Across town from me, at the university, Ann Coulter was set to speak. I told my audience that Ann and I were spending the night together, kilometers apart but together nonetheless. My show was a blast, a great night.
I would rather have been at Ann's bullshit fest because those pesky students — thousands of them — stood outside the building she was set to speak in and protested. Her show was canceled. Damn whiners.
You can say what you want, I believe it's great when students hit the streets and protest. France, Israel, Burma, Canada, America — young voices will be heard.
I think it's fantastic when the young enrage their elders. I really do believe that if it's too loud, you are indeed too old, and that if it has been standing for too long, it needs a thorough inspection. I like music that turns lights on and shakes things up.
Being on the other side of 50, I see music as the best thing to keep my mind open. Music will allow you to go as far as you want, or hit your comfort level and stop.
One of our readers told me that he has gone back to listening to “the classics,” as he called them. I told him he had closed his mind.
One person's roar is another's whine, just as one person's music is another's unendurable noise. In that, it's all protest of some kind, and if that's the case, then we are all raging against something. Good. It keeps the blood thin.