It was worth traversing multiple freeways and enduring the incessant glare of brake lights ahead of us throughout the long drive to Pomona. It’s worth going to Coachella, solely to see How To Destroy Angels. It’s well worth the price of tickets, at any cost.
Anybody who’s in any industry that revolves around connecting with, making an impression on, and moving people – artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, executives in technology, advertising, gaming, sales, theme parks, theater – should be required to experience this show. Anyone who wants to experience being moved and touched in a way that will inspire them, spark passion and new ideas, should figure out a way to see HTDA.
We had considerable time to reflect and talk during the drive to Pomona. At one point, I began reminiscing about amazing shows I’ve seen in years past, which I’ve yet to write about. “Maybe I’ll start writing about all the outstanding concerts I used to see,” I said, noting that those shows are even fewer and farther between now.
I arrived at the Fox Theater, with no idea what to expect. I hadn’t watched the “teaser” video for the tour, seen the rehearsal photos, nor checked in on any social media site to see what the band or anyone else was saying pre-show. I’ve been to enough Nine Inch Nails shows to know that Trent Reznor – and everyone working with him – takes the experience of live music to new heights, every time he tours. “That’s what’s been missing from live music. . . ” I thought, rememberingReznor’s speech during the final Nine Inch Nails show in 2009.
From the flicker of the first light and the vibration of the first sound, How To Destroy Angels made an immense impact when they took the stage. It’s likely you haven’t experienced anything like this. The show was immersive, high-vibrational, other-worldly, and evolutionary. Eyes wide, considering the spectacular production surrounding me, I reached for my camera. By the time I got the camera out of its pouch I had missed 3 seconds of the show; those lost 3 seconds can’t be regained.
There’s no need to try to capture the show. You cannot do it. You cannot accurately capture How To Destroy Angels in a 2 nor 3 dimensional medium. The show encompasses at least 8 dimensions. Feelings, ideas, and music was delivered uniquely, with consistent intention and care. The experience expands your perspective, as new possibilities are constantly put in front of you. There’s no time between performances to recover from the state of awe felt during each song. When HTDA begin the next song, your eyes get wider, your smile gets larger, your vision and dreams expand — you cannot believe what you’re feeling.
Don’t worry about capturing How To Destroy Angels. Put away your devices. Experience the gift they’re sharing with you and all in attendance. I’d recommend you don’t watch the teaser video, don’t watch people’s shaky videos with blown-out audio on YouTube, don’t worry about how you’ll get to a How To Destroy Angels show – just make sure you get to one: http://tour.destroyangels.com/.
Two-thirds of the way through the show, I had tears in my eyes. They were tears of gratitude for the inspiration, the expansion, the art, the reminder to continually create at the highest level, with absolute integrity. HTDA provided an experience that moved me completely, on every level – visually, aurally, intellectually, and spiritually.
I remember the last time I saw Trent Reznor on stage – he made a vow to all of us, “I won’t let you down.” He is a man of his word. How To Destroy Angels is not some “fun side project”. Or maybe it is, but every second was created, delivered, and shared beyond the most artistic, creative, professional standards. Nothing was compromised. Everybody involved in creating this experience should be celebrated. There should be an awards ceremony where there’s only one award – and it goes to How To Destroy Angels. ”This is our first show. Thank you for being here,” Mariqueen said, further highlighting all that I was feeling. HTDA is something profoundly unique.
$27. The ticket was only $27. Thankfully, every now and then, Trent Reznor reincarnates to challenge our standards and our expectations. How To Destroy Angels isn’t giving their fans a run for their money, but they sure are giving everyone else one.
Disclaimer: This Means Nothing to The Dillinger Escape Plan
The first time I saw The Dillinger Escape Plan play live was during Nine Inch Nails‘ set at Bonnaroo, June 2009. If you’re going to share the stage with Nine Inch Nails, you need to know how to make people lose their shit. That doesn’t mean jumping around maniacally and screaming, merely to put on a show. While they do tear around the stage violently, The Dillinger Escape Plan knows that in order to make people “lose their shit,” you need to genuinely connect with them. It doesn’t matter how much the band moves if they can’t move the crowd.
The next time I saw The Dillinger Escape Plan was during Nine Inch Nails’ final show, September 10, 2009, at The Wiltern. Here’s the brilliance of The Dillinger Escape Plan: I remember them from those two shows and made it a priority to see them again. I hadn’t experienced the band previously, I had no vested interest in them, I wasn’t a “fan”. They more than held their own on stage with NIN. The Dillinger Escape Plan added something to those shows. Nine Inch Nails is arguably one of the best live bands ever. It takes a lot to be additive to a Nine Inch Nails show, especially the final Nine Inch Nails shows.
2 years and hundreds of live show experiences later, I found myself at The Wiltern, once again seeing The Dillinger Escape Plan. This time, it was their set; they were playing their songs. They didn’t have to win over potentially skeptical NIN fans. They were playing to their fans and those of Mastodon, the band they were opening for.
The Dillinger Escape Plan gives you more than your money’s worth. You feel rewarded for buying the ticket, paying the exorbitant 60% service fees per ticket, standing in line, paying $5 for a 50-cent bottle of water. Even if you don’t like their music, what The Dillinger Escape Plan does from start to finish is make people lose their shit. There’s no ramp up to the show. They come out full force and do not stop until they leave the stage. Their entire set is performed at the energetic level of an encore. At the end of the show, feeling like the band “paid” me, I bought a sweatshirt. That’s what you want – as an artist and a fan. The money, sure, but getting people to give a shit and therefore getting them to DO something – that’s the real pay off.
The Dillinger Escape Plan is raw. Real. Authentic. In the moment. Rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking on the edge of cliffs – all things I’ve done – force you to be present. When you’re truly experiencing life on the edge, anything other than what’s right in front of you disappears. You are fully immersed in what’s happening, to the point where “beginning” and “end” dissipate. The only remaining setting is “ON!” That’s how The Dillinger Escape Plan plays.
Access to the pit at The Wiltern is generally GA, first-come, first-serve. You exchange your ticket for a wristband and you’re in. Once the pit hits capacity, you can stand on any one of several tiered levels (assuming you have a floor ticket). The first tier crowd, above the pit, was going insane. ”How come you guys aren’t down here?” Greg Puciato asked them. ”Because of the tickets you have?? That’s ok, I’ll come to you.”
The Dillinger Escape Plan knows how to express their appreciation to their fans. Yes, it includes jumping over walls, walking on heads, and screaming in the faces of fans, but that’s what they came for. And when the fans couldn’t get close enough, the band came to them. ”I would stay out there the whole time – I just can’t do it,” Puciato added as he jumped off the hands and shoulders of fans, over the wheelchair access ramp and wall dividing the pit, returning to the stage. When you see the videos below, you’ll understand why it’s not sustainable to play the entire show, balancing on a ledge, crowd surfing, and head walking.
That said, if they weren’t climbing in the crowd, they were scaling the amps or somehow levitating above it all. As ticket sales across the board continue to decline, it’s bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan who will endure. They know how to connect with their fans. They know how to make people lose their shit.
April 11, 2010
This One Is On Us
The Echoplex, Los Angeles
Nine Inch Nails: Another Version Of The Truth
On Sunday night fans inside The Echoplex went off. The energy in the room was higher than what you’d see at many live concerts. But there was no concert at The Echoplex Sunday night. Instead, there was a screening of a live, fan-created, Nine Inch Nails DVD project: Another Version of The Truth. This is among the most energetic live concert DVDs ever produced, which is not hurt by the fact that it features one of the (if not the) best live bands in the world, Nine Inch Nails.
Here’s some background on the project as posted on the official website, ThisOneIsOnUs.org: On 5th May, 2008, Nine Inch Nails released “The Slip” for free via their website, as a gift to their fans. Or as Trent Reznor put it: “This one’s on me”.
On December 13th, 2008, dozens of Nine Inch Nails fans recorded the last show ofthe Lights In The Sky tour at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas.
On January 7th, 2009, over 400Gb of video from the Victoria, Portland and Sacramento shows from the same tour were unofficially released by the band.
By working together, the Nine Inch Nails fan community have created “Another Version of the Truth” – a 3 disc release bringing together numerous editors, designers, and web programmers to create a professional digital film, followed by a physical release created by fans for fans.
For the past twenty plus years Nine Inch Nails has consistently pushed the boundaries, done things their way, maintained their integrity and the art of what they do, and in the process, have built a trusting and enduring relationship with their fans. Another Version of The Truth is one result of this relationship and should be an inspiration to bands and fans — this is how good it can get. This is what happens when you do it “right.”
March Of The Pigs
Every artist should strive for a fanbase as loyal and supportive as Nine Inch Nails fans. Every music fan should be so moved by their favorite band that they will invest not only their money, but more important, their energy, their creativity, and their undying passion, in a long-term relationship with the band. Every record label should pay attention. . . because this is what it’s about. However, until labels figure out how to authentically build an enduring relationship between Artist and Fan (as opposed to getting in the way of it), thankfully there are bands like Nine Inch Nails and fan groups like This One Is On Us who know what they’re doing.
Head Like A Hole
This One Is On Us did an amazing job with Another Version of The Truth. It may be fan-created, but it is professional quality and absolutely brilliant. They took hundreds of gigabytes of footage and created a piece that actually makes you feel like you’re at the show. I am a live music junkie and I’ll be among the first to tell you that there’s no substitute for being there. That said, I felt the drive, enthusiasm, and impact of the Nine Inch Nails Lights In The Sky tour – it felt like we were there. The audience sang along, screamed along, cheered and clapped. When I felt it was nearing the end, I actually got sad – I didn’t want it to end. When it was over, I had that post Nine Inch Nails concert rush and “All That Could Have Been” was my soundtrack for the drive home. If they truly don’t play live again and you never saw Nine Inch Nails, Another Version of The Truth will make you hate yourself for missing it. For those of you who have seen NIN live, Another Version of The Truth will help you relive it. I recommend watching it at least once a day.
The This One Is On Us organizers did an amazing job hosting this event. The sound was great, the screen was placed at a perfect height so that the audience at the screening was watching from the same perspective as the audience at the concert. When there were crowd shots, you were among them. When the audience at the screening put their hands in the air, they were among the hands on the screen. In fact, when I posted videos from the event on YouTube (see below), people emailed me asking if it was 3D. The organizers secured The Echoplex for the screening which added to the energy of the event. Nine Inch Nails played one of their final Wave Goodbye shows at The Echoplex last year. You could still feel the energy of the band in the venue which added to Sunday’s event.
Finck, Cortini, Sheridan, Freese
As it turns out, several members of the band from the Lights In The Sky tour were in the venue and participated in a surprise Q&A following the screening. Josh Freese, Robin Finck, and Alessandro Cortini sat on a panel and graciously answered audience questions about the tour, rehearsals, and the possibility of a reunion. Rob Sheridan, Nine Inch Nails’ creative director, was also in the house to answer questions. Sheridan shared a great deal of amazing information about the technology used on the tour, decisions that needed to be made based on budgets, what happened when things didn’t work, along with funny anecdotes about how Reznor and Freese worked with the technology.
Below are some videos of the screening itself. Yes, that’s the audience at the screening singing, cheering and clapping along with the band and audience on screen. Screenings of Another Version of The Truth are taking place around the world – check listings here. And, since chances are Sheridan and the band may not show up at other screenings, I’ve also posted some clips from the Q&A.
There is another fan-created project to be on the lookout for as well: Nine Inch Nails: After All Is Said and Done, produced by A Tiny Little Dot. After All Is Said and Done will document Nine Inch Nails last show ever that took place at The Wiltern on September 10, 2009. I was at that show (review, pics, set list and videos are posted here) and met the organizer of A Tiny Little Dot, “Synthetikz”. He’s a really good guy who obtained some amazing footage. I posted the trailer below so you can see for yourself.
Although I attended each of the Nine Inch Nails club shows during the Los Angeles leg of the “Wave Goodbye” tour, I did not go to their show at Webster Hall in New York. Nine Inch Nails’ performance at Webster Hall was unique because they played The Downward Spiral in its entirety, start to finish. Thankfully, I was able to experience The Downward Spiral when NIN repeated that set during their show at the Hollywood Palladium the following week.
However, as every live music fan knows, even if the set list is the same night to night, each show takes on a life of its own. That’s, in part, why fans follow tours around the world. It’s why people read message boards, blogs and reviews as a tour progresses – to get a sense of what happened differently that night; to find out what they missed or to relive the show again.
One of the many reasons I admire Nine Inch Nails is that they allow their fans to truly engage with their music. They maintain an open camera and recording policy, as well as provide raw footage and audio tracks so fans can create and share their own remixes.
This One Is On Us, a project headed up by a Nine Inch Nails fan, recently compiled and released a DVD of Nine Inch Nails’ performance of The Downward Spiral at Webster Hall. So what? Well, the DVD is comprised entirely of fan recorded footage from the show, shot from multiple angles and it’s available (in several formats) free of charge. Several sources were used in the making of this DVD which gives viewers the ability to experience the show from various perspectives.
The last time I was at the Henry Fonda Theater it was to see Nine Inch Nails’s second-to-last concert (theoretically) ever. NIN absolutely destroyed the place! Not cosmetically, but existentially. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever experienced. They took all my previously fond memories of past concerts at that venue, crumpled them up, and made them seem like insignificant moments in time. A reader posted the following comment on my review of the Nine Inch Nails show at Henry Fonda Theater:
September 11, 2009 at 6:37pm
They should just burn down the Fonda, because there will never be a better show there again.
If they leave it standing they should no longer be allowed to have any more concerts there. b-ill-one
I’m not condoning arson, but I couldn’t have agreed more. Something so outstanding took place that night that the Henry Fonda could have closed its doors forever and nobody would question it.
Fever Ray at Henry Fonda Theater
Well, it’s a good thing they stayed open because, tonight, Fever Ray resurrected the Fonda ghosts and turned that venue upside-down. . . again. Does that make it right-side up now? If so, then the Henry Fonda is back in business.
I will admit that between opening acts I looked up at the stage and nostalgically felt that Nine Inch Nails show all over again.
But the instant Fever Ray hit the stage, all thoughts dissipated as the characters (aka the band) – led by Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson (formerly, The Knife) – transformed the Henry Fonda Theater once again. Fever Ray’s full, layered sound filled the room, complemented by the pulsing laser show. There were costumes and face paint, and fans swayed in reverence.
I don’t believe a word was spoken on stage between songs and if so, I was too entranced to notice. You didn’t just hear the music, watch the lights, see the smoke – you felt the music, felt the lights, felt the smoke (some more than others).
This has been one of the most anticipated shows in LA since the tour was announced on May 12, 2009. It may remain among the most talked-about until May 12, 2010. . . or whenever Fever Ray returns.
By the way, speaking of Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor was at the show tonight, but nobody seemed to care. Every now and then somebody returning from the bar or restroom would say, “Hey – Trent Reznor’s here!” And without turning their head, without shifting their eyes, the friend would respond, “yeah. . . ”
So this is what it’s like to go to a Fever Ray show: your friend can tell you that your hero just walked in the room, and as if you were talking about the color of the carpet, you’d say, “yeah. . . cool.”
There’s not much to say. Last night marked the final performance for Nine Inch Nails for the foreseeable future and I was standing 5 feet from the stage. It doesn’t get much better than that. In fact, it might not get any better than that. Unless, of course, NIN says “just kidding” and start touring again next year.
The thing is – it didn’t seem to matter where you were standing for this show – everybody who was there was just happy to be there. I saw a post from a woman who was in the furthest seat back in the balcony and she sounds as moved and excited as me.
It hasn’t really hit me yet that this is the last time we’ll be seeing this band perform live, especially since I got used to seeing them almost every-other day during these final four shows. I even ran out of black t-shirts to wear. I’ll post some videos, pictures, and the setlist below, but let’s start at the beginning.
Any Nine Inch Nails show is an experience, but the experience of this show began with fans trying to get tickets during the original on-sale and people traveling in from around the world to be at what was actually supposed to be the second-to-last show ever. As evidenced on the tour posters and shirts, the schedule changed last-minute when Trent became too sick to perform following the initial show at The Palladium. This meant the Henry Fonda (2nd) and Wiltern (3rd) shows had to be rescheduled. The Echoplex show, which was originally billed as the final show, went on as scheduled last Sunday, making it the 2nd show instead of the last show. Confused? Imagine how the bosses, family members, spouses and friends of all the people who took time off work, traveled across the country (or from other countries), and camped outside days before each show felt! I met people who couldn’t tell their family they were in town from Chicago because they surely wouldn’t understand why they popped over to LA for a day to see Nine Inch Nails, but haven’t visited the family in a year. But in the end it all worked out. Trent was well enough to perform the shows the way Nine Inch Nails is known and will be remembered for, and some fans who couldn’t previously get tickets were able to get into the rescheduled shows (although others who originally planned to be there had to return home to their jobs and families).
Speaking of family – Nine Inch Nails fans are family in a way that I haven’t experienced with any other band. There are definitely communities of fans that become friends through their shared love of a band. And jam band fans in particular run into each other while following their favorite band around the country. But Nine Inch Nails fans might as well be blood relatives. They look out for each other and NIN in a way that only a protective family member would. And the band does the same for their fans. In a fairly successful attempt to eliminate the scalping of tickets for these shows, Nine Inch Nails controlled all ticket sales, limited 2 tickets per person, printed the buyer’s name on the tickets, required ID of the buyer for ticket pick up, both the buyer and the buyer’s guest had to be present to pick up the tickets and then a wristband was placed on both people for entrance into the show. When the band found out that somebody was purchasing large quantities of event shirts and selling them on eBay (causing shirts to sell out at the venue before the fans who were there could purchase one), they limited people to one t-shirt per customer. And although they announced their Summer tour would be their last, Nine Inch Nails realized the impact this would have on their fans and added these final intimate club dates as a proper send-off. And then they played their souls out.
A small section of the line that spanned for blocks
Driving up to The Wiltern was quite a sight. I passed by the venue Wednesday at midnight and there were already a good 15 – 20 people camping outside. Dave Navarro also stopped by, brought water and snacks for the fans, and hung out for a bit. Then, by 2:00pm Thursday, the line wrapped around the block so that you could look through the alley and wave to the people waiting on the next street over.
The funniest thing to see were these huge straw patio umbrellas that several people seemed to have. It was HOT outside and once people discovered that Ralph’s sold patio furniture, they cleaned them out. Straw patio umbrellas were only $8 and they sold out in a flash. This was also one of the few places where the line for the men’s restroom was longer than the women’s. At one point, a guy drove by, blasting Lady GaGa. If you drive by hundreds of Nine Inch Nails fans, with Lady GaGa as your soundtrack, you deserve the ridicule you receive. There was a fan who walked up and down the line, giving everybody candy. “I’ve stood in this line 3 times (for the previous shows). I know how it is,” she said. Somebody asked me, “is there a show happening here?” I answered, “no” – you’ve got to be at least one step ahead of that for me to respond to you seriously. Somebody asked a guy next to me “who’s playing?” and the guy, who had been answering that question since he arrived at 7:30am said, “Michael Jackson.” Now, you might not think that’s funny. But the person’s response was, “oh – cool!” and that’s either funny or scary. Then, there’s the “t-shirt douche” – the guy who bought NIN event shirts en mass and tried to sell them on eBay for more than $200 each. As soon as fans figured out who this guy was they took a picture of him and posted it online (along with some additional descriptive graphics added in Photoshop). They shared it on Twitter and in the NIN forums and told everybody to be on the lookout for the “t-shirt douche.” But what was even better than that is that people passed out fliers with the guy’s picture on it while everybody was waiting in line. So now you have a line of several hundred people, holding these fliers that look like an R-rated version of an “America’s Most Wanted” poster and what happens? The “douche” walks by, head down, as fans call him out and require him to leave. Do not f*ck with Nine Inch Nails fans.
Once inside, there were the celebrity sightings: Tony Hawk, Ron Jeremy (for whom the crowd chanted and cheered), Rick Rubin, Tony Kanal (No Doubt), and Penn Jillette. But mostly there was the anticipation, excitement, and a bit of sadness that loomed in the air as everybody waited for Nine Inch Nails to take the stage for the last time. The show was amazing. All of these shows have been. I’m actually afraid to see live music for a little while because it’s going to take a lot to move me after this.
There are Artists, Musicians, Singers, Composers, Performers, and Songwriters. Some people are only one of those; Trent Reznor is all of them. He writes some of the most beautifully composed music you’ll hear. His music constricts and expands, extremely intense at times and then giving you space to breathe and expand with the notes. He has the ability to take all those sounds he hears in his head, and to articulate and translate them into something I can hear, process, and that moves my soul. His voice is exquisite – speaking and singing – I could listen to him for days. He’s honest and raw and 100% who he is – whether you (or he) like it or not – which makes his performances as real and authentic as they get. He’s given us 20 years of exceptional music and outstanding live performances. Even if you don’t like him, you gotta love him.
Numan and Reznor
The set list was 3-4 pages in length and they played for over 3 hours. Dave Navarro joined for a couple songs, as did The Dillinger Escape Plan, Mike Garson (Bowie), and Gary Numan. When they came out for the second encore Trent asked the crowd, “Are you guys tired?” Of course the crowd screamed “no!” and cheered. “No? Ok, I’m gonna test you.”
Although I don’t typically post set lists, I’m doing it for these shows because they’re the last shows and you can tell that a lot went into constructing a set in-line with such an event. So here it is:
2. Somewhat Damaged
3. The Collector
5. March of the Pigs
6. Something I Can Never Have
7. The Frail
8. The Wretched
10. Head Down
12. Just Like You Imagined (with Mike Garson)
13. La Mer (with Mike Garson)
14. Eraser (with Mike Garson)
15. The Becoming (with Mike Garson)
16. Down In The Park (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
17. Metal (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
18. I Die: You Die (Gary Numan cover) (with Gary Numan)
20. Letting You
22. Suck (Pigface cover)
23. Down In It
24. The Hand That Feeds
25. Head Like a Hole
26. Me, I’m Not (with Atticus Ross)
27. The Warning
29. Gave Up
30. Mr. Self Destruct
32. Atmosphere (Joy Division cover)
33. Dead Souls (Joy Division cover)
34. The Good Soldier
35. The Day The World Went Away
37. In This Twilight
Here are some videos and photos from last night’s show, including Trent’s final speech to the audience. But first, a thank you to Nine Inch Nails for the past 20 years, the music, the shows, the love, the heartbreak, and the friends met along the way. Look forward to hearing what you guys do next.