As part of his Knowledge Without Mileage Equals Bullshit tour, the inimitable Henry Rollins electrified the Music Farm with an incendiary spoken word performance on Friday night. The seminal author/actor/publisher/activist/punk rock icon waxed philosophically and insightfully for nearly two and a half hours to a respectful and tuned-in full house.
The Farm had general admission seats set in front of the stage, and standing room for the back half of the house. The crowd was unsurprisingly mostly Gen X-er men, but it was refreshing to see a healthy amount young people and ladies.
Hitting the stage a little after 8 p.m., a buff and focused Rollins — clad in standard issue black T and black Dickie’s work pants — had a lot on his mind, and he was eager to share. Without ever taking the slightest pause or a sip of water, he spoke with rapid-fire intensity on heartfelt subjects — freedom of speech, politics, the last presidential election and it’s colorful cast of characters, religion, Thanksgiving, friendship with William Shatner, education, acting in Hollywood, judging a transvestite contest, masturbation, performance etiquette, Iggy Pop, Sri Lankan death metal, traveling the world, et al.
The enlightening show was a well-rounded cross between Spalding Gray, Frank Zappa, Bill Maher, and a touch of Mike Watt. It was equal parts comedy, history lesson (American, world, and punk rock), journalism, personal anecdotes, and motivation. His stories covered a lot of ground and never lost their way or became tedious.
Rollins’ knowledge of politics and history was impressive (replete with a recitation of the Declaration of Independence early in the set). But it was his take on humanity that seemed to be the most connecting. It’s clear that deep within Rollins burns a very serious fire, fueled by ambition, constructive anger, and unrest. But through all of that shined a bright light of hope and positivity. This was most evident when he talked about his interactions with the youth. This point was significant; What good is anger without hope and solutions?
Rollins was at ease on stage. Though confident and adept, he was open, honest, affable, and humble (much less guarded and terse than off-stage post-show, or at Gold’s Gym earlier in the afternoon). He was very much of, with, and for the people. His sincere vibe made his words all the more effective.
Rollins is a heavy cat with a lot to say. He takes himself and his work very seriously. A point he made when talking about seeing punk band Bad Brains in 2008 was that, when on stage, you need to blow away your audience. “You either deliver the goods 110 percent every time, or not at all.” And that’s exactly what he did. He lit the place up and we left completely inspired. I wanted to burn everything I owned and start a revolution … I bought some cereal and did some Facebooking, but it’s the thought that counts, yes?
Love Best of Charleston?
Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.