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Henry Rollins Speaks Up

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Henry Rollins Speaks Up

Rosemary Bystrak

Henry Rollins

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If Henry Rollins really is on Team America, you'd better hope you don’t get picked last.

The aged punk-rock icon took the stage at the San Diego Woman’s Club in Banker’s Hill on March 31 for a night of spoken word. Rollins used his soapbox as a billboard for democracy, which he cynically and lovingly described as a “small room with a lot of sharp elbows.”

Rollins summoned the ghost of Abraham Lincoln – surely the first to be picked on Rollins’ motley crew of patriots – as he dove into the first portion of his performance. While he assured the crowd he has nothing against rugged individualism, he mercilessly attacked Ron Paul and Co. and ripped to shreds any semblance of legitimacy the right wing may have possessed in the deep South of “this beautiful piece of land and this amazing government system.”

We all knew Rollins was political, but it wasn’t until the blood returned to the soles of our feet after enduring two and a half hours of his all-in-one-breath diatribe that it fully sank in just how much he loves this country and all the heinous creatures within it. He paralleled tales of his travels through North Korea, Iraq, Syria, and everywhere else you’re really not supposed to go (But hey, he’s Henry Rollins, so he’s going.) alongside his love for the kind of nationalistic brotherhood that can only be described with a memorized portion of Lincoln’s Address before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois.

Anyone who came to the show expecting Rollins to stomp, snap and spit about the stage in traditional spoken-word prose may have been disappointed. The spoken-word poetry Rollins exemplifies is one of ranting wisdom and prophetic social commentary. Without having played any actual music at all, his performance was one of the most punk-rock shows the Casbah has ever presented.

Though only 51, Rollins insisted he’s not the spring chicken of his Black Flag days. Ignore the fact that he could still probably kill you with a swipe of his pinky finger -- he sees himself as ancient and withering, breathless with a story to tell.

He recalled a Black Flag performance in which a “mad truck of a man” leapt with full gusto from the stage into a crowd of fans. In slow-motion detail, Rollins explained how the young crowd of anarchists parted like the Red Sea – all but one poor young woman. Long story short – and I say that lovingly – the girl lived to tell the tale, but with just one eye left. The weight of “Hindenburg-shaped man” atop the “mere mortal girl” was so mighty, it literally popped one of her eyeballs out of her head. Rollins imagined that man years later with age and maturity – much like the virtues Rollins himself has earned through his years of experience:

“Look before you leap,” he pictured the now-deflated post-anarchist advising his young son. “Look before you leap.”

We’re in good hands, Team America, wrinkled as they may be.

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