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.
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.