Back in my roadie days I worked a show at the Milk Bar headlined by iconic punk rockers Fugazi. It was a particularly memorable gig for me (after soundcheck an impromptu jam broke out featuring me on guitar while the other band members switched instruments and goofed around, and this was all before I was charged with finding the guys in the band a suitable vegan restaurant at the Landing to have dinner at -- which, if you've ever been to the Jacksonville Landing you know isn't the easiest thing to find) -- but the reason I bring this up is because in addition to helping unload their gear and setting up the stage, I was the guy who ran lights for the show that night.
We had a fairly standard stage setup for lights at that club -- Footlights and spots so you could see the performers faces flanked on each side by a couple of banks of par cans that we filtered through colored gels for effect. Unless the performers requested something special we usually stuck to red, blue, and green. The spotlights were fitted with amber gels so they weren't so harsh on the eyes of the people on stage -- and everything fed back to a tiny little control board in the back with faders on it that we used to flash between "scenes."
Nothing really special at all when you think about it.Anyways, I forget who opened for Fugazi that night (probably some local act) but during their set their lighting guy started flashing the lights, blinking the reds and fading back and forth between the greens and the blues. Pretty standard stuff, the kind of thing most people hardly notice at a small club concert like this.
But almost the minute the lights started flashing -- Fugazi's front of house engineer ran over to us and began freaking out about the gels. "What's with all these glam rock light effects, didn't you get the rider?"
All they want is plain white spotlights on the stage that turned on and off. No flashing, no blinking, none of that at all.Turns out, Fugazi wouldn't play stages with colored lights.
Somehow this message hadn't gotten to the promoter, so during the next stage changeover we spent what seemed an inordinate amount of time removing gels from all the lights around the stage.
Anyways, the reason I bring all this up is that although Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins come across as very different guys in person -- it's this same bare bones spirit that seems to infect both of them when it comes to creating.
Henry Rollins tends to just throw stuff out as it is. If you listen to his albums close, his voice rarely has any reverb, delay, or compression added to it. He's never claimed to be the worlds greatest singer by any means -- but for a guy who seems so focused and driven about details and disciplined thinking -- his music has always contained more than it's fair share of flubs and shaky transitions in the vocal lines.
But with the Rollins Band -- especially this iteration of it featuring guitarist Chris Haskett (who would go on to tour with David Bowie) and bassist Melvin Gibbs (a frequent collaborator with Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid) -- Henry Rollins "it is what it is" approach to his singing always seemed a little out of place to me.When he was the frontman for Black Flag, a certain amount of sloppiness as a result of intensity was
an appropriate middle finger to all the perfectly produced pop records that were coming out a the time.
Rollins has always been more of a free-form singer, preferring to adapt his spoken word cadence to the rhythms of the band while weaving his ideas over the top of whatever foundation the music sets up for him. It doesn't always work (at least for me) -- but when it clicks the right way it creates the kind of groove that sort of gets into your head and stays there in a good way -- like marching music for getting through days that aren't always easy or clear to navigate.And yet, that's kinda what I like about it.
It's almost as if the contrast of the imperfections of his vocal styles versus the tightness of the band makes the whole thing feel more personal somehow. Like you're privy to some internal monologue. Getting a look behind the eyes of someone who's focus is wound so tight that you don't know if it's a good thing or not.
Kinda like the way most people seem to view Rollins himselfBut more than that -- Come in and Burn is one of those CD's I'll put on and play along with on guitar cover to cover. I can only imagine how much fun some of these tunes are to play on stage, especially with someone as intense as Hank leading the charge.
See what you think -- Here's Starve
[Listening to: Helmet - "Like I Care" ]