Henry Rollins

Wacken - 2013

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Henry Rollins was back at Wacken for the second year in a row. We had already seen him once this year, at the Roskilde festival, but we were curious as to whether he would do a copy of that show or have some new stories to share with the German metal festival.

“I’m older than you, I’m even older than this tent!”
- Henry Rollins (entertainer)

Well, considering how new the Bullhead City Circus is, that’s not necessarily something to brag about, but it doesn’t matter as Rollins had plenty of other material to use as well. You see, even though this was only a bit later on the same tour, I was glad to hear that not only had he changed his repertoire (always nice when seeing someone several times on the same tour), but he also had the good manners of adapting his choice of stories according to his audience!
Thus it was that Rollins started out by saying that he loved Germany, and moving through the point that he knew this was something everyone said when visiting and that the audience was probably calling bullshit in their thoughts, he then went on to substantiate what he meant by it. The story was that his first gig abroad, this was back in the Black Flag days, had been in Bremen, Germany, and not only had they been well-received by the fans, but this was also the first gig they had ever played where catering had been involved. The fact that Germany had fed them would forever stand as a beacon of light in his memory!

After this there was a short walk down memory lane with the Black Flag days, but as he had covered this pretty well at last year’s show he didn’t stay there for too long. Instead, he spoke a bit about how fond his memories from the festival had been, and how happy he was to have been asked back; he described himself after getting the call from his agent as an excited puppy, jumping up and down and wagging his tail (metaphorically speaking, mind you).
It was no surprise that this went down well with the audience, who cheered the big American on without end.
Something that also went down very well with the Wacken crowd was his next point about not judging someone on which shirt they wore or what kind of haircut they had. Rollins illustrated this by telling a story about how he had been sitting working at a diner when a huge gearhead (muscular car-nerd with lots of tattoo’s in case you were wondering) approached him, and instead of beating Rollins up, which he had feared would be the outcome of the meeting, the guy instead broke down in tears and professed to love the film Jack Frost (the 1998 drama/comedy, not the 1997 horror as one might have thought) that Rollins had acted in, and in memory of his departed wife, whom had also loved the film, he watched it every Christmas. After the man had walked away with his friends, a middle-aged housewife like woman called out that he was the best white supremacist she knew, without further explanation referring to Rollins’ part in Sons Of Anarchy. Apart from the fact that being called a white supremacist in a room full of strangers had made him quite uncomfortable, understandably so, the story worked well to prove his point.

Rollins did touch on one of the stories that he had used at Roskilde, the one about his friend, the artist with the drug problem that he had gone to take care of on one of his few days off, but the story was much shortened and more straight to the point, a point that felt a bit rushed as well and not delivered quite as well as it had been the previous time we heard it.
Rollins quickly got back to standards again though, as he spoke of his two near-death experiences.
The first had occurred once when he was walking back to his home with a friend and they had been jumped by armed thugs. His friend had been killed but Rollins had been miraculously missed by the bullets.
The second time was when ad been bitten by a rattlesnake in his backyard. Despite being nearly killed by the venomous snakebite, the worst part of the story (and all the guys reading this can surely relate) was when he told us about having to have a catheter inserted in his privates, and later of course ripped out again.
The point he was going for here, and personally I think it was a good one, was that no matter how you look at it, life is always better than near death.

That Rollins wasn’t completely bound by a script was at this point obvious, as he had not only come with some other stories than the last time we saw him, but that he had also rearranged the ones we recognized.
Still, it was never more obvious that he was open for improvisation than in his “don’t judge” story. You see, very shortly after he told of the housewife woman, the sound was cut for unknown reasons from his microphone – as soon as it came back on, Rollins thought aloud that this was maybe Wacken’s way of censoring him when he mentioned white supremacy! Not likely, but it did pull some laughs from the crowd.

“Stick with the music and stay courageous. The cowards will lose and we will all get along.”
- Rollins (entertainer)

I love the fact that Henry Rollins so freely adapts his show according to his audience, and there is no doubt that the stories told at Wacken speak more to me than the stories he concentrated his Roskilde on.
That being said, the overall performance seemed a little less lively here; whether it was the scorching hot tent which had us all bathing in sweat that did it, or the relatively early hour for his first performance (he had three in total, one more than last year, and this made him very happy as it must mean that his work was appreciated) or maybe some third, unknown reason, I do not know.
Regardless, it was still highly entertaining, and I wish to imprint on you that my own measly attempts at recounting what was said has nothing on the real deal, and I urge you to go see a show if you get the chance!

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