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Rollins Band Review
by: Mr B and W
by A Guest Author
Goddamn, there are few things finer than being psyched for a show and having it kick ass... I've been to way too many shows, but there have only been a few that solidly rocked my ass.... MrBandW knows exactly where I'm coming from...
Before this epic begins, I'd like to just say congratulations again to Michele and Turtle. Hope you guys had a good week!!
I drove to The T (more commonly known as 'a subway') station just outside of Boston and made my way up the ramp, past all the dejected Red Sox fans on their way out of the city, fresh from the latest loss to the NY Yankees. I was heading in, they were heading out. I stopped at the change machine to get the $3.00 fare and found that all of the machines were out of order, most likely out of money from the throngs that had passed through earlier in the day on their way to see the Red Sox / Yankees game.
Unsure what to do, I walked over to a bench near the train boarding area, sat down and waited. I had the money for the train, just not the exact change. I figured one way or another, things would work out. Eventually a man in a T uniform walked by. I told him how I had tried to get correct change but the machines were not working, showing him my $5.00 bill for emphasis.
'Don't worry about it, my train is the next one out, I'll let you on'
Nice. Things were working out already.
I had dreaded taking the T into the city simply because of the duration of time it took to get through all the stops, but the traffic was light at this time of day, around 5:30 PM, and most of the people were coming out of the city not going in.
I arrived at the Fenway T stop a little past 6:30 PM and made my way a few blocks down the street towards Lansdowne Street, which happens to be located directly across the street from Fenway Park and is the address of The Avalon, the place where I would be seeing The Riverboat Gamblers, Rollins Band and X later that night. I could see the brick facade and the dimmed lights of Fenway reaching up into the sky ahead.
The main reason for my little solo outing into the City of Boston tonight was to see Rollins Band.
A few months back I had received an e-mail from Rollins' mailing list with the news that Rollins Band was going out on tour. Moments after getting that e-mail, I was checking the dates and buying a ticket for the Boston show. It was not until later that I found out Rollins was actually the middle band in a three band set.
No matter, I was there to see Rollins. That's what I cared about. The rest would be gravy.
I arrived at the Avalon shortly after 6:30 and was surprised to hear the muffled noise of drums and guitars that signaled that The Riverboat Gamblers had already started their set. Usually, the time on the ticket is when the doors are open, not when the show actually starts, dammit.
I was annoyed at myself for getting there late because I was looking forward to to seeing The Riverboat Gamblers. Usually the 1st band out in a three band performance is some up and coming band that most people have never heard of, but since I knew I'd be going to see them, I had downloaded the Riverboat Gamblers album, 'Something to Crow About' a few weeks ago. The album kicked ass and I had kept in on heavy rotation on my iPod ever since, so I was pretty excited to see these guys open for Rollins and X.
I got into the club just as The 'Gamblers were finishing up a song. I was not sure how many I had missed. I was not that late so it could not have been more than one or two songs. As I was walking in, they started up with the song, 'Ice Water'. Cool.
The Avalon is your pretty typical rock club. Its all black inside and dimly lit. There is an elevated area two or three steps up from the floor for people who don't want to get up close and personal with the other patrons to hang back and watch the bands and there are bars serving expensive drinks on either side of the stage.
As I walked in, the place was not that full. There was plenty of room to walk around and most people were pretty much just standing around, half paying attention to the band and bobbing their heads to the music.
I made my way over to the right hand side of the stage, right up near the stage barrier and, as I would regret later, I immediately remembered that I had forgotten my ear plugs (I'm old). I was standing pretty much right next to the front of the stage speakers. (My right hand side ear is still ringing a little as I write this two days later.)
The Riverboat Gamblers put on a great show, even though their set was relatively short. They did a couple songs from 'Something to Crow About' which was cool, since that was the record that I was familiar with. The band consisted of bass, drums, vocals, and two guitars. One of the guitarists played a Les Paul, the other was playing a Telecaster. As a guitar player myself, these are the things I tend to notice when I watch a band. I also like to watch the different styles of play as well, just out of technical interest. Is the guitar slung low or up high. Do they play up on the fret board or down near the pickups, that sort of guitar nerdery.
The singer for The Riverboat Gamblers, Mike Wiebe, is a wild-man. He is all over the place on stage, jumping up and down, twirling his mic around like Roger Daltrey and leaping from speakers. At one point he climbed over the barrier to walk around in the crowd while doing a couple songs. That was pretty entertaining. He would walk right up to people and get in their faces, dancing around and singing, while the people he was doing this in front of just kind of stood there grinning, not knowing what to do and looking frightened or embarrassed.
I could not help but think, if someone is going to come up to you like that, why not jump around with him or yell, or.. something! Don't just stand there with a silly grin on your face looking like you are afraid of what somebody might think. Anyway. I was kind of hoping he would come over near me because I would have told him to play the song, 'Cut-Cut-Cut-Cut,' but it didn't happen.
The Gamblers finished up their set with 'Last to Know,' another song off 'Something to Crow About' and then headed off the stage. I was pretty glad I got to see those guys. They had a really good set.
Now it was time to wait for Rollins. I headed over to the bar, ordered a Jack shooter and a Sam Adams. I downed the shot and put a $10 on the bar, figuring that would cover it.
'12 bucks,' said the bartender, who I could not help but notice was a very attractive blonde woman. 'Hmm. Ok,' I thought, reaching for my wallet to pull out another fiver. 'Pricey,' but I am a cheap bastard, so I think everything is pricey.
I walked around and drank my expensive beer waiting for Rollins to come out. I checked out the t-shirts, etc. Eventually I got tired of that and found my way back to my spot near the front of the stage. I stood on the elevated area, just three steps up from the floor, and watched the techs set up the stage.
I had just finished my last swig of beer when Rollins Band drummer Sim Cain casually walked onto the stage and got behind the drums. At first I thought he was just another drum tech, but moments later, out walked Henry Rollins.
I threw down my beer cup and jumped down to the floor.
Yes! Here is the man!
Henry strode out on stage, short cropped hair, no shirt, black shorts, black Vans sneakers, oh and did I mention Rollins is 45 years old and is totally fucking ripped? Well he is. Other than the gray in his hair, and the fact that he happened to be wearing sneaks instead of going barefoot, he looked just like the the pics on the back of the 'End of Silence' album. Impressive.
I should probably mention that I have always wanted to see Rollins Band perform but I have never gotten the chance, so I was pretty primed up for this.
As I got down onto the floor of the club, I was fully expecting a pit to form up so I got into the position: left leg forward, bent at the knee, right leg back a little, slightly flexed and ready to push off, left arm out in front, bent at the elbow, fist clenched. I was ready to absorb a blow, then shove back and we'd be on our way.
Rollins stood in the middle of the stage, which was all black, with no banners, signs, or decoration of any kind. Just a barren black stage, covered with cables and monitors with guitarist Chris Haskett to the right, drummer Sim Cain behind, in the center, and Melvin Gibbs on bass to the left .
Rollins stood for a moment with his back to the crowd, giving a full view of the sun tattoo on his back with the words 'Search and Destroy' tattooed across his shoulders.
Not wasting any time, the band started right in with the song, 'On My Way To The Cage'. I was very close to the stage, only a step back from the barrier and I waited in anticipation for the shoving to start, but it never did. I have to say I was quite surprised by this, but even though the floor was full of people, there was no pit. 'Ok. That's odd,' I thought. I could not believe there was not a pit during this show, and although people were pretty close together, there was none of the usual shoving or trampling that I had come to expect.
I had a great view of Rollins and the entire band from my spot on the floor. As Chris Haskett was knocking out some killer riffs on his red EPS guitar, Rollins was like pure energy in the center of the stage. He stood right on the edge, as close as he could get to the crowd, alternating between a half crouch while leaning over the end of stage towards to the crowd, to a fully coiled crouch, bending his back down low while he put everything he had into every word of each song. It's hard to put into words but you could literally feel the intensity emanating from Rollins as he performed. Fucking cool.
I've seen quite a few bands but I've never seen anyone put so much focus and pure, all-out energy into each and every song like Rollins did. After only a few songs, he was sweating profusely and he had wrapped the microphone cable around his fingers several times to help him keep it in a tight grip in his hand. Melvin Gibbs' bass lines laid down an incredible, driving groove as the foundation for each song and Sim Cain's drum work was sharp and presice. The band members played extremely well together. These guys were tight, and the songs took on an energy of their own that is simply not captured on the studio recordings.
In the quick, seconds long breaks that took place between every few songs, Rollins would stride a few steps back to the drum kit stand, where several bottles of water stood, along with a couple of towels. The towels were used to wipe down the microphone, which was saturated with the moisture from Rollins' body. Henry would then take a swig of water and then emit a stream of mist from his mouth as he headed back to the edge of the stage to start in on the next song.
Rollins set included a several songs from the End of Silence, Weight and Come In and Burn albums including, Low Self Opinion, You Didn't Need, and Divine (Object of Hatred). The bantering with the crowd was minimal. The band stopped playing briefly to allow Henry to introduce the musicians and at one point in the show, Rollins also had a short monolouge:
'You know there's a lot of wars going on today. The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on stubborn belly fat...' That got a laugh.
Rollins got serious for a moment for his introduction to the song, 'Civilized,' saying, 'it's pretty fucked up that an American would shoot another American in a 7-11 for looking at his girlfriend a little bit to long.' That was his introduction to the song 'Civilized'.
Most of the songs had no introduction. As a song ended, Henry would return to a balled-up, crouched position in the middle of the stage as if he was trying to pull together as much of his power and energy as he could before releasing it during the next song. Other songs included, Disconnect, Volume 4, and after the quick introduction that consisted of the simple statement, 'Here is a song:' Liar.
That one was pretty cool to see live, with Rollins grinning and playing up the act, '...and now you're desperate and in need of human contact, and then, you meet me...' The best part of course is the end, as he launches into the climax of the song, yelling, 'SUCKER! SUCKER!'
Rollins played for about an hour and I was wishing he was the headliner of the show so that he could continue a little longer, but he and his band packed a lot of wallop into their short time on stage.
Rollins Band put on an incredibly good show and it was a great experience to finally get to see them live. That's going to be a fond memory some day.