Without knowing what shape, nor time, nor place it would happen, I’d been anticipating this night for four years. “I won’t let you down,” Trent Reznor assured everyone during Nine Inch Nails’ final show of the Wave Goodbye Tour, on September 10, 2009.
True to his word, Reznor has not disappointed. During the Nine Inch Nails “hiatus”, Reznor brilliantly scored 2 soundtracks, one of which landed him an Oscar. He also co-created How To Destroy Angels with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, which included one of the most visually impressive productions I’ve witnessed. Rather than continuously churning out albums and tours as Nine Inch Nails, Reznor recognized he needed a break, focusing on other creative and personal endeavors. The creative freedom and perspective gained from his Nine Inch Nails “break” (arguably one of the most productive “breaks” on record), was evident during Tuesday night’s show.
For all in attendance, the Nine Inch Nails show at The Troubadour was a story of miracles.
Listening to the crowd prior to the show, provided hours of “how I got in” stories. One woman was determined to win tickets for her boyfriend, so he could see his favorite band on his birthday. Another woman described her meticulous strategy for winning tickets from radio stations, including the theory that land lines provide a better chance of winning than mobile phones. People described how they enlisted co-workers, friends, and relatives to help them pound the phones each time a KROQ DJ announced “one lucky caller” would win a pair of tickets.
Prior to the show, a man worked the line, offering people $800 a ticket. Perhaps he did eventually make his way in, but from what I saw, observing the first 100 people in line, he was met with one consistent response: silence and a definitive shake of the head, “no.” Money can buy a lot of things, but it can’t replace a once-in-a-lifetime Nine Inch Nails experience.
Everybody in attendance recognized and deeply appreciated the fact that they were seeing Nine Inch Nails at The Troubadour, an intimate venue, with rich history. The atmosphere prior to the show was gracious, celebratory, and invigorating. People didn’t wait until the show began to enjoy the experience. They’d been enjoying this night since the moment they knew they would be among a mere couple hundred people who would see Nine Inch Nails play The Troubadour.
A few minutes prior to 8:30pm, the energy inside the venue shifted. There was a collective understanding that this was the time to take care of any last minute needs or desires. People worked together, taking turns buying t-shirts, drinks, and making their final bathroom run of the evening.
When Nine Inch Nails hit the stage, it was explosive. Kicking the set off with “Somewhat Damaged”, the band and the crowd took the energy to otherworldly levels. The sound – despite its high volume – was crystal clear. There was no unintended distortion. The sound being as perfect as it was, I neglected to wear earplugs.
Yep, there were lights.
I wish I could describe what it felt like to be at The Troubadour when Nine Inch Nails played. We may have been inside a small venue, but from a production standpoint, this was no little show. One third of the balcony appeared to be taken over by the band’s equipment. When the show began, the neon “Troubadour” light behind the stage was dimmed. The audience was transported to a place they’d never been, even if they’d previously seen Nine Inch Nails a hundred times before.
That is among the reasons Nine Inch Nails is widely lauded as one of the best (if not the best) live bands in the world. No matter how many times you see them, every experience is unique, and the definition of “perfection” evolves.
For me, what stands out most is how much Trent Reznor cares and how apparent that is in everything he does. This is his life, his art, his passion. He cares about the experience as a whole, that people continually walk away, as I do, drenched in sweat and nearly speechless. Every show is unique, surprising, and absolutely mind, spirit, and energy altering.
Prior to the show, people speculated about the set list. The majority of fans suspected the band would play the new album, Hesitation Marks, straight through. Some elaborated that, following the new songs, Nine Inch Nails would certainly play some of their older material. This is what happens to music fans’ expectations when Nine Inch Nails leaves the scene. We become accustomed to, and expect that, every show is about pushing a new album or promoting something else entirely. That is how most bands would do it. That is how nearly every band I’ve seen this year has done it. That is the format we’ve grown accustomed to and accept.
This is how Nine Inch Nails did it at The Troubadour:
1. Somewhat Damaged
2. The Beginning of the End
3. Terrible Lie
4. March of the Pigs
6. The Line Begins to Blur
7. The Frail/ The Wretched
8. I’m Afraid of Americans (David Bowie cover)
9. Gave Up
12. The Warning
13. Find My Way
14. Came Back Haunted
18. The Hand That Feeds
19. Head Like a Hole
20. La Mer
For those who are less familiar with Nine Inch Nails’ discography, that’s a 21-song set list, including a mere three songs from the new album.
It almost seems as if Trent Reznor takes it as a personal responsibility to make people question – and raise – their expectations. Every time I see Nine Inch Nails I’m surprised, even though I shouldn’t be. They are my favorite band to see live. I know how good they are. I know what they’re capable of. Then, they remind me: no matter how much I think I know, no matter how high my expectations, Nine Inch Nails leaves me at a loss for words with their sheer brilliance and dedication.
Their energy never wanes. Likewise, there’s no ramp-up time. When the band first burst onto stage, I felt like I had been blown back twenty feet. There was a simultaneous sound and light explosion that removed the audience from whatever day it was, whatever they had been thinking about, wherever they were – physically and mentally – and transported them to another world.
Similarly, for Nine Inch Nails, the encore isn’t when they play their “biggest hits” or “fan favorites.” NIN takes the word “encore” literally – “another.” They return to the stage for more of what they’ve done – a mind-blowing level of making people lose their shit.
In addition to his integrity and dedication, Reznor exudes gratitude. With everything they do, Nine Inch Nails’ recognition of their fans is expressed. I walk away from each Nine Inch Nails show with an overwhelming feeling that the band truly appreciates each of us; not because Reznor says “thank you” numerous times, but because of the show itself.
Nine Inch Nails kicks off their U.S. tour later this month. See them if you’re able: http://tour.nin.com/
While you’re busy trying to figure out how to save your business, doing things like launching apps and having rooftop concerts, you’re losing sight of the basics. You are often your (and your artists’) own worst enemy.
Many examples of this have been documented over the years. I’m not here to give you shit or tell you that you suck. I love music. I love musicians. I want to help you.
Within 5 minutes of trying to get more familiar with an artist – including purchasing tickets to an upcoming show – I ran into several obstacles. Here’s what happened:
I’ve been hearing about The Weeknd for a while, so:
1. I went to Facebook
It’s important for you to understand how music fans are looking for music and information about artists. They are not going to your artist’s website as a first stop, and they’re probably not going to Google first either. They are going to sites like Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Soundtracking. That means you need to make sure your artist’s presence on those sites is easy to find and comprehensive.
Facebook recently launched Graph Search. For the record, I hate it, but unfortunately 1.1 billion people on Facebook are stuck with it, including your artists.
When looking at search, you need to think about how people will search. Account for user error. The conversation goes:
“Have you heard of The Weekend?” or “I love The Weekend!” or “Are you going to see The Weekend at The Greek Theatre?”
Or, a radio DJ or blogger on Sirius XM’s Blog Radio will say something like, “That was the latest from The Weekend.”
What are people going to search for? Will they know it’s spelled “The Weeknd”? This is about artist discovery and during the discovery phase, fans will be less likely to know the unusual spelling of your band’s name. If you have an artist with a name like The Weeknd or CHVRCHES, then you need to look at how people will actually search for them. Do search optimization for the incorrect spelling as well, so people can easily find your artist. Have a way to direct people from the incorrect spelling to the correct spelling.
Here’s what happens now when you search for “The Weekend” (as someone just discovering the artist would search) on Facebook:
This is a new development. Before Graph Search launched, a first-time search for “The Weekend” on Facebook went like this: the artist’s official page is the FIRST result, after typing in only the first few letters (before the potential spelling error would ever take place).
You may say this is a Facebook problem – a flaw with their search. I agree. There are numerous flaws with Facebook – here’s one more we can add to the list. Unfortunately, as evidenced above, this is your problem as well.
Solution: Facebook and numerous media outlets issue alerts about new product developments and features well in advance of their launch. When this happens, your “digital person” should get on the phone with Facebook or fly to one of their offices and explore how this will impact your business.
The product is Search. That’s pretty important to your business and how people will find your artists on Facebook. You should have these conversations early and do everything you can to help avoid what’s happened in the case of The Weeknd.
As a larger business lesson: make sure you have strong relationships at every key social media site. Maintain these relationships. Have dinners and regular meetings. Don’t just call when you need something. Look to these businesses as partners and work with them consistently.
Since I couldn’t find The Weeknd on Facebook by doing a simple Facebook search, I went to a company that actually knows how to do search, Google. As expected, Google (even with an incorrect spelling) directed me to The Weeknd’s Facebook page. Once I got there, I saw they had a “Video” tab, so:
2. I tried to watch The Weeknd’s videos posted on Facebook
Here’s what happened:
Solution #1: If you aren’t actually going to make the videos available for viewing on Facebook, then don’t include a YouTube tab on your Facebook page.
Solution #2: Pull your head out of your ass.
Ok, as it turns out now – I am giving you shit. Few things piss me off as much as this. This is your artist, right? And these have been deemed as official videos/streams? I’m assuming so because they’re on your artist’s Facebook page (even though that’s fucking useless) and YouTube channel.
Why on earth would you make it so difficult for people who actually want to hear your artist’s music to listen to it through the official, LEGAL, channels? Stop bitching about file sharing sites until you stop doing shit like this.
3. I went to YouTube:
No problems here. A Google company, YouTube has efficient, easy, and effective search.
Why am I showing you a good example? So that you can maximize it. Understanding that you want people to be able to find your artists, put your money where search is most effective. Run ads on Google and YouTube, as Atlantic Records is doing for Portugal. The Man in the example above.
In the case of artists who have unique names, like The Weeknd or CHVRCHES, you should probably run ads on Facebook as well. This will help get your artists in front of fans who couldn’t find them through a simple search.
4. After YouTube, I went to Ticketmaster:
After all this, I was considering going to the show.
Ticketmaster has similar search issues to Facebook:
As it turns out, Ticketmaster’s search is better than Facebook’s though. If a user types in “The Week”, the appropriate artist will come up. Nonetheless, there is an even better solution.
Solution: On Ticketmaster, whether I search for “NIN” or “Nine Inch Nails”, I get the correct results for that artist. This leads me to believe it’s possible to optimize search for artists like The Weeknd and CHVRCHES on Ticketmaster as well.
Call Ticketmaster. Explore the option of having the correct results show up, whether somebody types “The Weeknd” or “The Weekend”; “CHVRCHES” or “Churches”.
In closing:Please pay attention – you CAN fix things like this, which will ultimately help you reach your objectives:
Increase an artist’s fan base
Generate advertising revenue (your YouTube video views will increase if you allow video embedding)
Perhaps even, sell music
I apologize for coming across angry, but this is important to me too. I’m tired of hearing about how the music business is failing. I want musicians to succeed and if you’re doing a good job supporting them, I want you to succeed as well.
Don’t lose sight of the basics:
Make sure people can quickly and easily find your artists on the sites that matter most.
Make your artist’s official content (videos, music) accessible. It’s a bit unfair to be going after fans on file sharing sites when you’re not allowing them to access the music legally, through your artist’s official channels.
Furthermore, be happy people are interested in your artists at all. We’re not on opposite sides of this. The people listening to your artist’s music – whether they’re paying for it or not – are the people you want on your team. Stop punishing people for caring about your bands. If you make music accessible, you will win.
July 8, 2013
Red Bull Sound Space
KROQ, Los Angeles
What better way to kick off the Monday following a long holiday weekend than with a free show by an amazing band.
Having been to several “radio shows” before, I was a bit skeptical – not of Portugal. The Man‘s performance (I have complete confidence in that), but of the venue and format of the show. Any concerns I had were eliminated instantly upon arriving at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ. Representatives from KROQ, as well as Red Bull, were friendly, inviting, and engaging. Rather than emitting the vibe “You’re so lucky to be here,” the team’s message to all who were there was: “We’re so happy you came. Thank you.”
Nobody has to tell you that you’re lucky to be at a show like this. The moment you enter Red Bull Sound Space, you feel it. The space is intimate, accommodating approximately 150 fans. The backdrop of the stage is like a music time capsule – it’s constructed of speakers, turntables, boomboxes, receivers, and an assortment of other equipment. Rather than being covered in corporate branding or advertising, there is only one element of the backdrop that is branded, and its view is sometimes obstructed by the band. We see the branding, we know it’s Red Bull and KROQ, but when the band walks on stage, it’s about music and nothing else. This is very refreshing.
The show began with a brief, informed, and entertaining interview. It became clear that KROQ’s Nicole Alvarez is truly a fan of the band. She was very familiar with Portugal. The Man’s vast catalog, spoke about her personal connection to the music, and asked relevant questions. I know all of this seems like it should be a given, but it’s not to be taken for granted. This is not something all interviewers do well.
The band’s sense of humor and wit contributed greatly to the interview, as did the way they chose to answer – or not answer – the questions. Not to be confused with selective hearing – John Gourley has an impressive skill: selective responding. Clearly listening to each multi-part question, Gourley zeroed in on aspects where he could provide enough insight, while maintaining some mystery.
When asked about the meaning of their latest album, Evil Friends, or whether or not there’s a theme when they record, Gourley focused on the writing and recording process. He described how the band comes together to write and record in a way that makes you feel like you’re there, in the studio, with them. He left the meaning of the album up to the listeners.
Zach Carothers took on answering some of the questions, as well as chiming in during Gourley’s stories. Each time Carothers answered, he infused humor, often leading to a burst of conversation and laughter among the entire band. During these moments the dynamic personalities, quick wit, and friendship among Portugal. The Man members was undeniable.
My favorite moment during the interview came when Alvarez noted that Portugal. The Man puts out a new album nearly every year. Alvarez added that it seems as though the band is always either touring or releasing an album; they don’t stop. “That’s what we set out to do,” Gourley responded, adding that the band’s chosen goal is to make and play music as much as possible.
Portugal. The Man is a band that understands what it truly means to be musicians – just keep playing music. It’s a simple concept, but it takes constant discipline and dedication, which is what makes it hard for many to achieve. In addition to their music, it’s easy to appreciate and admire Portugal. The Man’s work ethic and commitment.
Playing songs from their latest album, Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man took us on a journey. This is the most stripped-down I’ve seen the band. Even when they played The Troubadour several years ago, Portugal. The Man brought in some of their own “lights” (in quotes because it’s nowhere near the setup they have now). The absence of lights and fog allowed me to appreciate the show on an even deeper level.
It was fun to watch the band build the songs – all the layers, the harmonies, the bass, guitar, keys, percussion, and the timing. When you hear the music, it sounds great. When you see what it takes to create the sound live – the precision of it all – it allows you to appreciate it that much more.
I feel that way each time I see Portugal. The Man. No matter the venue, the lighting, the stage, or the setlist, I take away something new at every show. Their shows are expansive and dynamic. There’s always more to discover when Portugal. The Man plays. They are one of very few bands I see every time they’re in town.
After playing Creep In A T-Shirt, Evil Friends, Modern Jesus, and Sea of Air, Portugal. The Man announced the next song would be the last of this concise radio set. The audience let out a sigh of “Noooooooo….” that was audible until the band launched into “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue.” At that moment, the sighs became cheers.
When reviewing my pictures from this show, I was surprised to find this. It appears my camera captured “Purple. Yellow, Red, and Blue” in the midst of the show. That’s one hell of a photo bomb, PtM.
Portugal. The Man is on tour now. Get tickets before they sell out.
Earlier today, a publicist friend of mine suggested I request press credentials for a forthcoming, new, music festival. “They’ll look at my site and see that I haven’t updated it in months,” I replied. It’s what I said at the outset: I’m not going to write about every show I see, but I will write about the shows I think everyone should experience.
One of the benefits of seeing Joseph Arthur play multiple times is that you simultaneously experience and witness continuous transformation. Listening to Joe play songs from his latest album, The Ballad of Boogie Christ, takes you further along the journey, while maintaining a connection to his beginnings. There’s a through-line that creates the foundation for the audience to step into the next adventure.
Walking onto the stage, in a white suit that appears to have remnants of a painting which extended beyond its original canvas, Joseph Arthur epitomizes “artist.” Appearing as though he sought out the shortest route from the art studio to the stage, he is perpetually creating. The stage becomes his art studio, whether he’s literally painting while singing (as he’s done previously), or playing a new arrangement of an older song (as he did several times tonight).
This show feels and sounds vastly different from other Joseph Arthur shows. It’s clear that this is a new chapter. There are far fewer pedals and more musicians on stage. The show is upbeat, soulful, and rooted in rock. The songs build to a crescendo and you’re enveloped in sound.
When Joseph Arthur plays, it’s more than a concert – he begins with a blank canvas and takes you on a journey. There are nods to the past, the future is optimistic, and you’re grounded – with him – in the present. As with life and relationships, every show is unique. You are part of the experience.
The venue is intimate, but the sound is big. At times it felt as though we were in a stadium, witnessing an immense rock show. “I intentionally didn’t bring a harmonica or acoustic guitar this time,” Joe told me. The instruments have changed; the sound accompanies and embraces the change. The show is infused with passion, love, dedication, and a reminder of what it means to truly be alive.
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we are constantly changing. The ideas, beliefs, and ways of life that keep us happy, healthy, and fulfilled, follow suit. When we’re aware of and welcome the changes, we liberate ourselves – we allow ourselves to be the dynamic individuals that we are. We’re present in every moment, constantly creating, being as we are, without attachment.
Walking away from a show, reminded of some of life’s greatest gifts – the ability to create, continuously evolve, and express different incarnations of ourselves during the same lifetime – is definitely worth the price of admission. Not to mention, the music and experience itself is incomparable.
Keep an eye on his tour page and see Joseph Arthur live when the opportunity arises.
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.
Somebody should have recorded the sound of the crowd following the first encore. I think that would best express what happened when David Byrne, St. Vincent, and their phenomenal brass band performed at The Greek Theatre Saturday night.
In fact, if that’s all you heard about the show – the sound of the audience as it concluded – that should be enough to get you to seek out a time and a place to catch this tour. David Byrne and St. Vincent took the notion of a “concert” and created something so unique it shouldn’t be classified. It was more like a spectacular dream than anything else you’d have experienced musically.
The evening unfolded, surprising and unique, every step of the way. It’d probably serve you best not to seek out the videos captured on cell phones, the set list, nor look at photos posted on Instagram. Even if you come away thinking you know what this show is about, you won’t know until you experience it. It’s so special that I’m only going to share bits and pieces.
Even if I wanted to, I don’t have more photos to share. I couldn’t be bothered to take more than 3 pictures. It was all I could do not to spill my wine, I was so mesmerized. Here’s what I can tell you:
From the moment the audience entered the amphitheater, they were part of the experience, before the “show” began. This provided the opportunity to transition out of the day, beyond traffic, parking, the world at large, and into “the night” (as interpreted by David Byrne and St. Vincent).
The songs danced in harmony with the voices in my head. We’re not alone in this world, especially when you consider the beautiful absurdity of it all.
Outside of The Polyphonic Spree, I’ve not seen Annie Clark (“St. Vincent”) perform prior to this and I don’t know why the fuck not. It’s possibly the biggest mistake I’ve made. She’s phenomenal.
The one woman in the audience who was encouraging people to sit down was sorely outnumbered. She eventually stood up.
This is a show that’s worth paying more for, in order to have seats closer to the stage. You can always watch the video monitors, but you’re going to want to see their feet.
Byrne and Clark don’t appear to perform music. Music appears to perform them. You can see every note winding its way through each of them. The music takes form inside of them, before it’s articulated into sound externally.
There are certain tones in music that hit corresponding points in the body. You can feel the notes move through you and understand how they move through Byrne and Clark. It’s a two-way conversation, this David Byrne/St. Vincent show.
If you’ve been listening to their album, Love This Giant, this show’s arrangement will be an additional treat for you.