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Henry Rollins at East Stroudsburg Univ.

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The Pocono Mountain Region, long known as the Honeymoon Capitol of the world, is not what the brochures promise. The only culture we have here is a Wal-Mart and we’re more known for our bar scene and champagne glass bathtubs than for our artistic integrity.

Thankfully about 10 years ago a punk band came onto the scene (Feeble, anyone remember them?), a club opened up that welcomed bands like Snapcase, Earth Crisis, and Shift, and a whole slew of kids migrated from power ballads and mullets to independent record labels and all-ages shows.

Now 10 years later Henry Rollins comes to the areas big college campus. About 900 people braved the early evening drizzle and enjoyed over two hours of Henry Rollins complaining, mocking, and basically telling it like it is.

I’m not saying Henry Rollins is angry – he said it. I’m not putting any words into his mouth. No way. A few minutes after he started speaking a girl was standing to his left, taking his picture. Without warning his story telling stops and it begins,

“Okay, you’re done.”

This girl, since he started talking, was clicking away and it irked him. There was no debate. His voice didn’t rise and there was no fire breathing. This was just Henry Rollins letting someone know how he felt.

“She’s been taking my picture from a bad angle,” he continues. The crowd had a good laugh but I couldn’t help feel for that girl.

A few minutes later and the auditorium staff are raising some sound baffle. Then they lowered it again. It was loud and I noticed it. People across the aisle noticed it, and God no – Mr. Rollins noticed it.

“Whoever the fuck that is you better stop.”

I wasn’t even doing anything and I wanted to pee my pants. The thing is Henry Rollins is 42, and he’s tired of playing nice. If you’re going to be disruptive at one of his performances you’re going to endure the wrath.

He went on to tell us how we don’t need mediocre people around us. He told a mostly college campus crowd how he thought cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana were poison. He poked fun at President Bush’s speaking ability and most of his cabinet. He’s proud of America and loves living here, but dislikes that our troops are defending our freedom to eat Big Macs till our hearts explode.

When telling his story of how he first heard the Ramones and finally got to see them play live, the description felt so real I could smell that stench of sweat. He spoke of their “full album encore” and I felt his pain – when your favorite band plays too long, no one goes home happy. He told of how he felt when Joe Strummer died, and Layne Staley, and Dee Dee Ramone passed away. Each remark and expression was sincere. You just wanted to hear more of his experience with each influential person in his life, hoping in some way it could inspire you.

Sure, the guy is pretty angry. As a public figure who makes a living at it, well, it’s hard not to be I guess. While I might not agree with every word he spoke you still have to respect the effort he puts into his performance each night. He’s honest, he’s bold, and he knows what he wants. For me it was inspiring two hours that only made me want to put more effort into the most important things in my life.

Written by Seth Werkheiser of Buzzgrinder.com

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About Seth Werkheiser

  • I’ve seen his spoken word shows tons of times. I just caught him in Boston a few weeks back (unfortunately, I missed his Providence show…).

    He is an inspiring speaker and can be funny as hell. I’ve found that he’s been rather heavy (topic-wise) lately, but he even pulls that off well.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the show!

  • foolio

    i really enjoy listening to henry rollins too. i don’t even agree with everything he says or believes but the ferocity with which he believes is inspiring.

    in one clip he remarks that should we bomb baghdad we ought to broadcast the days intended targets and give the humanshields time to clear out. then let the bombs fall. his premise is that if people stay voluntarily they are taking their life in their own hands and if the Iraqi government forces them to stay the deaths will essentially be at the hands of saddam hussein. any comments on this?