[The one and only Henry Rollins contributes a weekly column and far-reaching reportage to the music section of the LA Weekly. Look for your weekly Henry Rollins fix right here on West Coast Sound every week and make sure to tune in to Henry's KCRW radio show every Saturday evening, or online, or as a podcast, or however else you decided to listen to the most eclectic DJ on LA's airwaves.
The Brutality, the Humanity, the Tour
I am in the middle of this Dinosaur Jr. juggernaut. Every night a show in a different city. So far, it's been great. The band has played really well and the audiences have been into it.
The reason for my being part of the tour, a pre-show interview conducted from the stage, is going fairly well. While quite affable, the Dino menJ, Lou and Murphare not the most forthcoming in spouting information. They tend to speak in short, declarative sentences. I am hanging out onstage with three Hemingways every night. We are getting by.
After last night's show in Northampton, a benefit for the great organization Whole Children, I was backstage gathering my gear from the production office. A girl with a short black dress and several tattoos swerved up to me and told me, somewhat unsteadily, that we needed to have a conversation.
I busied myself putting away my computer, trying to be as boring as I could in order to foster a rapid growth of non-interest in me.
She told me that this was important, closed the door and stood in front of it. This wasn't good. I started looking for ways I could get around her and out.
“Do you know about the bees?” she asked. I immediately thought she was talking about a British band called The Beez who released a couple of 7″ records on the Edible label in the late '70s. Those are really rare and the only originals I have ever seen are mine. Even the limited edition re-issues in editions of one hundred pressed in Japan a few years ago command a high price. What a gal! What a conversation we're having!
“The band?” I replied hopefully.
“The bees are dying.” She said. “The bees are dying and three years after the bees die, we die.”
This was bad news. I don't mind bees and think we are all the better for having them around. I like the taste of honey. I have plans that extend fairly far into the future.
At that moment, a Dinosaur Jr. crew person mercifully opened the door and walked in, and I made my exit.
She followed me out and resumed her bee plea. I told her that I thought I had heard something about a potential honey shortage (or was it maple syrup?) on NPR recently. In an attempt to end the conversation, I asked if there was a website I could go to and learn more. This is one of the great conversation enders of the modern age. She couldn't think of one but asked if I could keep the bees in my thoughts. Of course.
I bee-lined up the stairs, out the door and into the night. I weaved my way through people hanging out in the parking lot and waited for a slightly inebriated man to remember something I had said onstage that he wanted to tell me he liked. After a few swigs from his Pabst can, he remembered what it was, told me and I was free to go. I was walking across the street to the hotel, looking forward to some sleep when out of the darkness, the bee girl materialized again. She said that she was moving to Hawaii the next day and asked where I was going. I pointed to the hotel and before she could bring up a new topic or expand upon the bee theory further, I said goodnight with as much elder statesman finality as I could muster. She said goodnight and left.
This is the road. Full of characters you encounter briefly and quite often only once in your life time. It is an environment of rapidly changing situations and landscapes, of plans that no matter how well set, go awry as spontaneity becomes the main ingredient for keeping things running relatively smoothly.
For the last few nights, I have been hearing accounts from the Dino men of the brutality of the band's early tours. They played in front of small and sometimes abusive audiences. I can remember having similar experiences and thought it was par for the course with the kind of music I was associated with. I never thought a swell bunch of talented guys like Dinosaur Jr. would have to deal with such adversity. Apparently, they did.
Keith Morris and his great band Off! have joined the tour. They are presently doing a soundcheck several feet away from me, and they sound great. Keith, like Dinosaur Jr. and myself, knows all too well how challenging things can be out here. The road tosses many of the strongest and bravest to the side. For many, it's a summer they will remember for the rest of their lives and nothing more. I don't know what it is that one needs to survive out here. I have it, that's for sure. I am in year thirty of making the rounds.
At this point, I am very used to breathing dead air and living for months at a time in these sticky settings. This is what we do. This life will provide you with no end of stories. You might lose some brain cells along the way.
Show at capacity. Doors open in eleven minutes. Here we go.