- - Sunday, October 23, 2016


Henry Rollins is hyper focused whenever he delivers spoken word. When the punk iconoclast rendered a two-hour-plus set at the sold-out Baltimore Soundstage Friday night, his mouth was like a machine gun.

“I’ve been waiting around all day to talk to you, and I’m like a shaken-up can of Coke waiting to spew,” the vocal Mr. Rollins said at the outset.

Mr. Rollins covered politics, music and his salad days as a young man growing up in the nation’s capital. However, the 55-year-old punk pioneer and actor used the bulk of the evening to discuss rubbing elbows with musical legends and seminal musical moments growing up in the District.

Mr. Rollins gushed recalling his lone brush with David Bowie when The Rollins Band and the late rock chameleon shared a bill at a festival in Europe in the late 1990s.

“My band and I called him ‘The Bow,’” Mr. Rollins said. “We were afraid to get too close or, like a bird, he would just fly away.

“Then the Bow stops, turns and looks right at me and says, ‘Rollins.’”

The unlikely pair went to lunch, with Bowie quoting from Mr. Rollins‘ various magazine interviews — much to the latter’s surprise.

And while the author of the punk bible “Get in the Van,” can be funny, his performances are not like stand-up comedy. The graying Mr. Rollins is deep without being preachy, charming while also self-deprecating — joking about the quality of The Rollins Band videos — particularly when offering stories of his life as a fanboy.

The performer said that music was his life preserver while coming of age during the late ‘60s in the District.

“I loved listening to The Beatles when I was a kid. And when Ringo [Starr] sang ‘Yellow Submarine,’ it gave you hope that you too could sing as well,” Mr. Rollins cracked.

After spending some time detailing how he was abused by his peers in elementary school, Mr. Rollins related how he and childhood friend and Fugazi leader Ian MacKaye became concert addicts, detailing trips to Landover, Maryland’s Capital Centre to see Aerosmith, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin.

“We saw Ted Nugent, who was really great back then since that was before he talked between songs,” Mr. Rollins said of the Michigan rocker, notorious for proselytizing his political views on stage.

“I’ll never forget going to see The Ramones at Louie’s Rock City, which is a Chinese Buffet right now,” Mr. Rollins recalled of the venue in Falls Church, Virginia. “That show changed everything for me.”

Mr. Rollins painted a vivid picture of his youthful days in the District, crammed into clubs with hundreds of other punk fans in smoke-filled rooms — oftentimes in violation of fire codes.

Such an insatiable music fan, Mr. Rollins said he would often catch a band, such as D.O.A., in Washington and then travel to Baltimore’s Marble Room to catch the same set a night later.

Mr. Rollins, who has visited over 100 countries, has journeyed to places Americans are warned not to visit, such as Iran and North Korea. He related downloading music for the pop culture-starved youth in Iran and also spoke of seeing penguins, fighting seasickness and seeing first-hand the effects of global warming during a recent sojourn to Antarctica.

There was a brief nod to the presidential election, and perhaps, given his stance on global warming, it’s no surprise Mr. Rollins is supporting Hillary Clinton.

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