Play about rock critic Lester Bangs opens at Steppenwolf Theatre

CHICAGO (WLS) -- "How To Be A Rock Critic" is a new play about legendary music writer Lester that just opened at Steppenwolf Theater.

Bangs is still considered by many to be the greatest American rock critic. He wrote through the 1970s for Rolling Stone and Creem magazines. Erik Jensen co-wrote the play with his wife Jessica Blank, who directs the production. It's based on the critic's work. Jensen performs as Bangs.

"It's nice to be in something that's Lester's words and Lester's gift to the world, and I'm hoping it will be opening people up to not only the music he loved, but to music in general," Jensen said.

Bangs died of a drug overdose when he was just 33 years old. The play is set during the last night of his life.

"I don't think it's an accident that he died the same year that MTV and the CD came out. It used to be a ritual you'd do together; you'd get the new Rolling Stones album, or the new Beatles album, and put it on and listen to it. The ease of access to music has taken that specialness away," said Jensen.

"He would go into interviews ready to ask the most insulting question he could possibly think of, and was actually fired from Rolling Stone for disrespecting artists. What he was really doing was challenging them to defend their work and the way they approached it," Jensen added. "And the work and music meant so much to him, in almost a religious way, that meeting the real people was inevitably a disappointment because we've all got feet of clay, we're all human."

After each performance, a local band will play some of Bangs' favorite music out. In the lobby of the Steppenwolf Theatre, there is also an exhibit about Bangs and some of his favorite musicians.

"How To Be A Rock Critic" runs through July 22.
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