Henry Rollins rolls into the capital
WANT TO GO?
Henry Rollins - Capitalism
WHERE: Culture Center Theater
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23
TICKETS: Advance $20, at the door $25.
INFO: 1-800-838-3006 or wvrockscene.blogspot.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Henry Rollins has been everywhere it seems. The former Black Flag front man turned writer, actor, journalist and spoken-word artist has been a relentless touring presence for more than 30 years.
He's performed all over the world, but his latest, the "Capitalism" tour takes him to 50 state capitals in 50 days during the height of the very polarized presidential election season.
Rollins brings his brand of commentary -- a mix of stories, rants, insights and the occasional funny anecdote -- to the Culture Center in Charleston Tuesday night, a first for the 51-year-old resident of the road and occasional inhabitant of California.
"I've been to Morgantown a lot," the hardcore icon said. "That always seemed to be the West Virginia stop, but if you ever ask the performers about where they stop, they don't know. I don't know."
Rollins maintains an intimidating tour schedule. This year alone he'll have 186 shows finished by the first week of December and most years are similar. However, he supposed some states were less conducive to what he does, pointing out that this tour would take him to Delaware, which will make his second performance in "The Diamond" state in the past 31 years.
The fact that he's only played Delaware once before was baffling to him.
"I don't say no to gigs," Rollins emphasized, then added, "I don't know. Maybe Bachman Turner Overdrive holds court in these places."
One of the reasons for this tour is for Rollins to get answers to a few questions he has about America. Over the past several weeks, Rollins has spoken to a reporter covering the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., visited with residents of Oklahoma City who remember the bombing of the federal building and talked with a Mormon senatorial candidate in Salt Lake City about faith and politics.
So far, however, he doesn't have a specific question in mind about West Virginia.
"We haven't thought of it yet," he said. "We really only work three to five days in advance, but as far as West Virginia, I don't know what direction we're going yet."
Still, Rollins seemed confident that some question would emerge.
"We're trying to take advantage of the fact that you're in the capital city of a state. We want to get something that's very local."
That's where the real knowledge is.
Rollins said, "In Pierre, South Dakota, what a lot of people don't know is they had a massive flood last year. A lot of the city was hip deep in water for about a hundred days. Thankfully, no one died, but the whole city got hit really hard and they're rebuilding, they're planting trees, but the flood escaped national news."
Still, while he's picking up new information, Rollins said the tour hasn't provided a new understanding about America as a whole.
"I've been touring America for 31 years," he said. "I rarely stay in a hotel. I live on a tour bus. Before that, I lived in a van and that puts you very, very low to the ground when it comes to America."
After all that time, he thought he had a pretty good idea of what there is to know. However, Rollins explained that just because he already knows the lesson, doesn't mean he isn't taught it over and over again. The way he's shown it is presented differently from time to time, but the end result is the same.
"And that is: Americans are a good people," he said. "And we're put through our paces very hard."
After his shows, Rollins hangs out by the tour bus with fans and people who just want to talk or connect. He signs autographs, poses for pictures and listens. Often, the people who come out to the shows tell him stories.
He's heard a lot about hardship: the aftermath of two wars, health problems, frustration with the government.
"They tell these incredible stories. These are people who've lost a brother or a husband in Afghanistan. They tell their stories and it's just impossible for me to be prejudiced."
Rollins said, "The more Americans I meet, as the years go on, the more deeply I feel about America. I don't see it so much as a land mass or a set of rules and laws, but as an idea.
"I love the idea of America and love it more every year."
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.