Coachella 2009 30/30 Initiative: Henry Rollins

Posted by Amoebite, March 17, 2009 07:53pm | Post a Comment
30 Coachella Bands Featured in 30 Days

127 Bands, 5 Stages, 3 Days and 1 Mean Sunburn.

"Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - April 17-19th, 2009 or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Find 30 Reasons To Love a Weekend in the Desert."

-By Scott Butterworth

Day #1 - Artist #1 - Henry Rollins:

“I know that I know him, but I don’t know how I know him.” This is the response I got a couple weeks ago while I was rattling off a whole list of bands/artists, trying to convince my roommate to skip a weekend of his usual non-stop studying for medical school (I mean, where is that going to get you in life anyway?) and join me for the weekend at the Coachella Festival in Indio this April. He made the above statement when I emphasized how excited I was to see Henry Rollins. In the past, I’ve found myself saying the same thing about a number of artists, before my phase of being a self-proclaimed/admitted complete music nerd (which I make no apologies about currently being at the height of). There were many artists that I knew that I was supposed to know…but I just didn’t know why. Some might even say that there were many artists "that wanted me to want them…that needed me to need them," and in fact, I passed up going to many years of Coachella festivals because I simply didn’t have the age, the life experience, a job at a record store, or an older brother to steal records from, to realize the musical, cultural and historical significance of the many artists that have graced the stages of Coachella since 1999.

But even though I spent the good first half of my high school years (’98-’00) listening to Korn albums while hanging out with what I thought was the “badass” crowd (yep, I just admitted that, and again, I make no apologies), my next door neighbor and good buddy, Jed, was pushing Black Flag and Henry Rollins on me.

Going back to my roommate’s statement, as I was about to respond to how he would know Henry Rollins (and why this should be one of many reasons he can’t miss going to Coachella), I had to pause for a second. “What the hell is Henry Rollins?”, I thought to myself. For as much as I thought I knew about Rollins, I had no idea how to translate to my roommate in a sentence or two the extent of what Henry Rollins really is. And yes, “what” is the proper interrogative pronoun to inquire about Rollins. The word “who” would imply that he is a mere individual, but to many, Henry Rollins is a cultural institution. So, “to get by…with a little help…from my friends” (AKA Youtube), I’m going to try to give a crash course audio/visual lesson of the institution that is Henry Rollins.

I don't really know quite how to describe Henry's first significant contribution to music, so I'm going to let him do it ten seconds or less:

Fronting the band Black Flag, Henry practically bulldozed the streets of Regan-era suburbia and took the youth of America along for the ride (along with every coming of age generation since), in arguably one the first significant hardcore/punk bands on the West Coast scene in the 80’s:


This next video is one of my all-time favorites of Henry Rollins, but I think the title is a little misleading. To me, there is nothing malicious or mean spirited about this. He’s willing to take what life is sending his way, but you better believe…he’s giving some back. Ah, I would give a million dollars to be born about 15 years earlier and at the front row of a Black Flag Concert getting punched in the face by Rollins!!:


When Black Flag disbanded at the end of 1986, Henry formed the Rollins Band, which released 7 albums between 1987-2001, with the height of their popularity peaking in the mid-1990’s (including a few shoutouts from Beavis and Butthead):

His most recent performing endeavor has been touring his spoken word/comedy show in theatre-type venues:

Throughout the significant projects mentioned above, his career has been a near thirty year blitzkrieg of artistic and cultural impact in every medium imaginable, including: 20+ spoken word CD/DVD's, 30+ books published, numerous appearances and/or hosting in radio, television, film and video games. Most recently, he's been hosting the phenomenal talk show The Henry Rollins Show on the Independent Film Channel. Don't believe me? Check out the "Works of Henry Rollins." It made my head hurt.

After losing his critically acclaimed radio show “Harmony in My Head” when Los Angeles’ Indie 103.1 flipped formats this past January, he resurfaced on LA radio less than two months later a little bit further “left on the dial,” literally (and hopefully, figuratively), on NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9. But Angelenos shalt not fear. If his first show on March 7th was any indication, the harmony in his head has not missed even an eighth-note and he’s as passionate about the music (and in your face) as ever.

Well, how does all of this add up to his Coachella performance? Having never seen him live, I had no clue what to write for this blog about which incarnation of Rollins would be taking the stage on Saturday night of the festival. So I asked! And within two hours of emailing Henry Rollins, I was pleasantly Henry Rollins Coachella 2009 surprised (and borderline giddy like a little school boy) to see a reply in my inbox! He was very kind to answer a few questions and give us a little taste of what to expect April 18 at the Indio Empire Polo Grounds: 

Scott: Can you share a little info as to what type of set you are performing at Coachella? Spoken word, Rollins Band, any Black Flag, etc?

Henry Rollins: I will be on my own. I will be talking about where I've been lately, which is all over the world. That's about it, really. I just got back from Mali, Africa and will talk about that as well as other places. I will try and tie it all into where we are now. That's it, basically. 

Scott: On KCRW you mentioned that in the past your manager wanted you to do Coachella, but you didn't decide to do it until this year. Was there any specific (or general) reason for not performing at Coachella in the past? Or was there a specific (or general) reason you decided to perform this year?

Henry Rollins: Having worked with Golden Voice productions before, I was always worried about production value and production integrity. Management convinced me that things would be ok, so I said I would do it.

Scott: What do you want your audience to take away from your performance (if anything other than simple entertainment)?

Henry Rollins: Well, I hope they get something from what I have to say but all I hope to achieve onstage anywhere is clarity, impact and perspective. Basically, I hope (to) hold someone's interest for the time on onstage.

Scott: What three performances are you most looking forward to at this year's Coachella?

Henry Rollins: Tinariwen is the band I really want to see. They canceled at a festival I went to a few months ago, so I hope to see them this time around.

Ahhh, I'm exhausted just WRITING about Henry Rollins...I can't begin to imagine what it's like BEING him! 

Well, we're one artist down with this Coachella preview, and twenty-nine to go! I'll be back here tomorrow.

Relevant Tags

Rollins Band (1), Black Flag (28), Henry Rollins At Coachella 2009 (1), Henry Rollins (9), Harmony In My Head (1), Coachella 2009 (26), Kcrw (20), Goldenvoice (4)