Thursday, August 27, 2009

If You Are A Nine Inch Nails Fan You Will Love This Post - Part One

The other day a reader Robin The Mad Photographer e-mailed me and said she went to one of the Nine Inch Nails shows in New York over the weekend and would I want a review and some pictures? Of course. It is NIN and allegedly their last tour ever so of course I want words and pictures. Well, I got plenty of both. Enough so that this will be broken into two very long posts. If you are a fan you will savor every word.

This past weekend, my friend/partner-in-crime Julia and I hopped BoltBus from Boston to NYC to see Nine Inch Nails at the Bowery Ballroom on what Trent Reznor swears is NIN's Final Tour Ever (that's his story, and he's sticking to it, although we're all hoping he gets bored in a few years...). We finally got into town around 2 PM and raced to our hotel (the Wyndham Garden Hotel Manhattan Chelsea West--damn, what a mouthful) in hopes of being able to check in a wee bit early to freshen up and head down to the Bowery, but alas, all the rooms were still being cleaned. We ended up checking our bags with the front desk and went across the street to a very good Thai restaurant to get a late lunch/early dinner, knowing we wouldn't get to eat again until after the show; I think I can safely say I had the best pad Thai of my life there. (Sorry, don't remember the restaurant name, but it's right across the street from the hotel, which is at 37 W. 24th St.)

Went back to the hotel, and were finally able to check in, but were now running seriously late for a planned baked goods delivery...yes, really. You see, in addition to taking pictures of bands, I have this nasty little tendency to feed them as well, and have been providing baked goods to starving and not-so-starving musicians for over 20 years now, going back to 1986 and hauling a sheetcake on a Greyhound bus to Providence for Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes (BTW, one of my all-time favorite people). It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it, so why not yours truly, the altmusic Mama Hen? ;-) Anyway, I'd arranged with bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen (who used to play w/Beck, if that rings any bells) to drop off a load of goodies and a couple of custom t-shirts for him at soundcheck, which was supposed to kick off around 4 p.m.

(Perhaps I shouldn't say this, but officially the guys aren't accepting gifts, food, etc. this time out; however, when Julia was Down Under for that leg of the tour earlier this year, she spent a fair amount of time talking up me and my amazing baked goods to Justin, so when I met him at the meet & greet in Mansfield, MA in June, I introduced myself as Julia's cookiebaking friend who, alas, couldn't bring anything for him due to rules, etc. "Don't worry," he said, taking my hand, "just the idea that you wanted to do it really means a lot to me!" Awwwww....yes, he is a total sweetheart, and I swore to myself at that moment that, one way or another, he WOULD be getting some baked goods, so...we'll, let's just say contact was made online and a fiendish little plan set in motion, eh? Besides, having provided similar services for pretty much every other touring incarnation of the band since 1995, the idea that the last two newbies--that would be Justin and drummer Ilan Rubin--might not get to partake of my pastry prowess was, well, Simply Intolerable! :D )

Julia and I hauled ass getting ready and then raced out the door and to the subway to get down there as quickly as we could, (Julia stopping to pose in this particular subway station in front of a tiara mural) but didn't make it until about 4:30, by which time soundcheck was well underway. While we tried to figure out Plan B for Operation Cookie Drop, we hung out and caught up with various of our longtime Ninnie acquaintances who'd been waiting in line to get in, some of them since 9 p.m. on Friday night. (Seriously--if you want photographic proof, go to Brooklyn Vegan and look for the NIN posts. People started trying to line up for Webster Hall's Sunday night show right after Saturday's show let out, but IIRC kept getting chased off by Webster security; I don't know at what point the latter finally gave up and let everyone stay, but at some point, they did.) Lining up hours, if not days, before a NIN show to score a spot up front on the barricade is a time-honored traditional for Ninnies; some of the usual suspects attend nearly every show, and woe betide anyone who dares interfere with the sacred lineup order...can you say "line drama", kids? Knew you could. (Sometimes I think the main difference between Ninnies & Deadheads is the absence of tie-dye and prevalence of black with the former; there's definitely a shared sense of community and camaraderie, and attending shows is not unlike a high school reunion, but a hell of a lot more fun and with a much better soundtrack. Can you imagine the stories we'll all have to tell years from now when we're old geezers? Sagging tattoos, stretched-out piercings, and mosh pit war stories--welcome to Gen X in the nursing home!)
Fortunately for me, soundcheck eventually ended, and band members began drifting out to head off to dinner, etc. before the show, and I managed to catch Justin on his way out the door and hand over the loot, to the cheers and applause of my friends at the front of the line. He was very happy to see me, and even happier to get the goods, so after a friendly hug, he went off to wherever he was off to, and I went back to my spot in the line, practically skipping in my glee. Mission Accomplished, woohoo! (Yeah, yeah, it's all very silly, but I am the Mama Hen, and I do have a reputation to uphold...)

At 7 p.m., they finally let us all in, and Julia and I snagged a spot on the balcony (stage right/audience left), with an excellent view of the stage. I went down to the merch table in the hopes of getting one of the limited Bowery t-shirts, but, alas, they were already sold out in my size, and I ended up with one of the general tour shirts instead. (Pssst...Trent...send out a mass e-mail to everyone at the show, find out who wants a show-specific shirt, and get some more printed, damn it!, pretty please with cinnamon sugar on top?) The Bowery Ballroom is a small enough venue that the sightlines from pretty much anywhere are good; the only problem is whether or not you're tall enough to see over other people/willing to deal with the crush of the mosh pit. Being both 5'3" on a good day and an old lady, I decided to stick with the balcony. :-)

During The Horrors' opening set (which was perfectly decent IMHO, although some of those on the floor complained that the bass was WAY too powerful), I noticed the girl next to me pointing over at something or someone in the middle balcony soundbooth...sure enough, there was Trent, with his fiancee Mariqueen on his lap, both of them snuggled up and looking adorable without excessive PDA--other celebrities, please take note! You can be sweet and affectionate without making outside observers gag or mutter "get a room!". (In the interests of being a good CDANer, I must report that those photos we all saw of the two of them at the Star Trek premiere didn't do either of them any justice, but Mariqueen in particular--she's much prettier in person, not to mention much younger looking. Mazel tov, you crazy kids! ;-) )

FINALLY, after much anticipation and many trips back and forth to the ladies' room on my part (why, yes, I DO have a bladder the size of a pea when I'm nervous...), the room began filling with stage smoke...and suddenly, without the usual introductory music, there was Trent & Co.!


lionsden said...

Awesome story. Saw NIN at Lolla last year but couldn't get tickets to these shows. Congrats and good job!

A Pimp Named DaveR said...

I naturally assumed that "baked goods" was a euphemism.... but it appears you actually provide baked goods.

Now I am hungry, dammit.

Jill said...

I can't wait to read the rest of this. I saw NIN for the first time in St. Louis last year - hopefully it won't be my last!

Unknown said...

the thai restaurant was Planet Thailand 212. and the food and service are as good as the decor (which is really quite impressive).

MTA line R/W @ 23rd street.
Keith Godard, Memories of Twenty-Third Street, 2002

more detailed pix of the hats can be found at:

also, if anyone reading this has an extra ticket for the "last" show at Echoplex on 9/6, come find me! I'll likely be in line anyway (hoping for an unclaimed ticket), and probably wearing the same dress (sans tiara).

jw12 said...

I use to live across from Webster Hall and it sucked. It was so loud and a lot of B&T hanging out all night. The good part was that the security let us in for free if we didn't call the cops.

Glad you had fun and got to drop off your baked goods. I want you to know I am craving a cookie now.

Maja With a J said...

I saw NIN at the Calgary Saddledome a couple of years back and it was one of the most pretentious shit shows I have ever seen. Good article though.

Hilary said...

ugh- I tried so hard to get tickets for either show in Chicago (I am in the "fan club", and I had another presale opportunity) I got shut out and so did my boyfriend (also a member). I was really upset but felt better knowing I saw them last year. Kudos to you Robin- and your recap is killing it!

MnGddess said...

Thank you for the report - always great to get a spectator's point of view. BTW, how did you get such great photos? Usuaually the lighting is horrible for a regular camera..

Robin the Mad Photographer said...

DaveR--Nope,"baked goods" are baked goods, nothing more and nothing less, although your comment reminds me of how, on the Boston Globe website advice column, "grilled cheese sandwich" is the euphemism of choice for oral sex. (Some poor bastard wrote in to explain that his GF would never give him head--IIRC, he was willing to go down on her, so it wasn't a matter of him being selfish--and to keep it all more-or-less suitable for a newspaper of record, the columnist substituted "grilling cheese sandwiches" for "giving head". So yes, I've baked a lot of things for musicians over the years, but I've never "grilled" anything for/with them! ;-)

mngddess--Thanks for the compliment! I wasn't convinced they were all that great myself, as so many people with better cameras have been getting great shots ever since Trent instituted the "bring in damn near any kind of photographic equipment you like" policy on these last tours. For the last few years, the policy was generally that small point-and-shoot cameras & cell phones were OK, but not SLRs; however, once Interscope yanked funding for what would have been a DVD of the Lights in the Sky tour last year (which had a truly mindblowing lighting setup & would have been one HELL of a DVD, whether or not you like NIN), as far as Trent was concerned, it was basically open season for photographers to grab whatever they could with whatever they had. (I know a bunch of fans were trying to put together their own DVD of the tour both for documentation of it & as a "thank you" to Trent, but I haven't kept up w/the progress on it.) I don't have a long enough lens for my digital SLR to use for concerts, and I don't want to risk it anyway, so I used my little Panasonic Lumix TZ4, which is a perfectly good little point & shoot. It's all available light; it's not as if the flash would work at that distance anyway, and the usual problem wasn't that there wasn't enough light, but rather that there was WAY too much. Mix in plenty of chemical smoke, and you've got that lovely hazy effect that I couldn't get past at that distance, plus shutter lag + musicians jumping around = more blur than I like, but hey, at least you get the sense of movement, right? ;-)

Robin the Mad Photographer said...

One more concert photography anecdote: I was lucky enough to meet my photographic idol, Annie Leibovitz, at a book signing at the late lamented WordsWorth in Cambridge, MA back in early 2001. When I got up to Annie, I handed over my copy of her latest book at that time (Women, IIRC), and told her that I did a certain amount of concert photography. She gave me a very conspiratorial grin, and then said, sotto voce, "Doesn't the lighting suck?"

I love Annie... :-)

__-__=__ said...

OMG! You met Annie!??!?!!?! How wonderful! And a great NIN story too!! Thanks!


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