with Circle Jerks and US Bombs
The House of Blues, Orlando, FL • August 16, 2001
There comes a time in a young punk’s life when he or she finally earns the right to wear the coveted over-21 wristband and enjoy alcoholic beverages. The wristbands were in the majority at the Rollins Band show, for a change. The Black Flag shirt and tattoo crowd piled in to see tough guy demigod Henry Rollins, one of the most respected figures in the world of punk. Maybe he’s too tough for the kids. Anyway, big guys showed enthusiasm worthy of TRL to see Rollins, and the show turned out to be quite the macho spectacle.
Unfortunately, I missed most of opening act US Bombs due to a mix-up at the House of Blues box office. I did manage to hear their tribute to Joey Ramone. Playing “Blitzkrieg Bop” seems to be the choice tribute of the moment for many bands. I heard one more song, then their set was over. However, US Bombs appeared very engaging and energetic. Lord knows their singer has enough tattoos.
The Circle Jerks followed US Bombs. My companion felt more excited to see them than I, but I managed to enjoy the performance. The dreadlocked lead singer talked a lot about the days past in Black Flag. The set was all about the old school style, aggressive, power punk. My complaint? I thought all the songs sounded exactly the same: fast and loud with little or no change in structure or vocal style. Whatever, I’m in the minority. The big guys joyfully beat up on each other.
Then, the big act. Henry Rollins exists on an entirely different plane than the rest of us schmucks. At least, that was the opinion I held to myself until I saw him live, and then the show only confirmed that view for me. He literally exploded onto the stage like some kind of heathen on the warpath, in bare feet and shorts. I fully expected brutal, tough, in-your-face madness, but Henry Rollins had a trick up his sleeve (or lack thereof). The first few songs were bluesy and soulful rock. Rollins performed them like a lounge singer gone evil. Simply amazing. At some points, it seemed almost like he took lyrics from his books or spoken word performances and muttered them over the noise. The other (and very long-haired) members of his band displayed exceptional talent, as almost every song included long guitar solos with some very crazy effects. I heard high-pitched squeals and pops and scratches, yet somehow it all fit to make an eclectic, seductive blend of blues, rock, and funk.
After the first few bluesy type songs, the set ventured into more familiar territory with harder songs. Henry Rollins is definitely not someone I would want to meet in a dark alley somewhere. Starting out a few songs with, “Can you handle this?,” some sort of force not of this world possessed him. He twists and gyrates and spits water all over the place and his eyes light up with maniacal intentions. I seriously felt like he would just leap off the stage at any time. When he sang “Animal,” the man as Henry Rollins turned into a beast, growling and straining his voice to all ranges. My friend and I puzzled over the carpet placed on the stage (perhaps because he was barefoot?), but then we finally figured out that it was there so Rollins didn’t electrocute himself during his wild antics. Whoa.
Rollins Band performed quite a long set, and the intensity didn’t drop one bit. Rollins admitted that much of it was new material, but I definitely didn’t mind that, because I dug the new stuff a lot more than the old. It may not appease the tough guys as much as older material, but I think it’s too brilliant to pass up. Rollins Band was an unforgettable experience, and I am looking forward to seeing what Henry Rollins has in store for us next.