[arrows all over the place because I couldn't remember exact order of set list]
“mr self destruct”
“march of the pigs”
“down in it”
“the downward spiral”
“head like a whole”
“something i can never have”
“physical” (w/Adam Ant)
“red skeleton” (w/Adam Ant)
“beat my guest” (?) (w/Adam Ant)
“Into the sea of waking dreams I follow without pride…” – Sarah McLachlan
Neck’s a little sore (more than a little). Still thinking about the last concert. It was so fun, I had a time. It was raining afterwards. Walking along the grassy hill, a memory was built. This one wasn’t emotional, just great. I was in a fantastic mood, Mr. Reznor seemed to be as well. That’s it, I have enough to sustain me until Lollapalooza.
Little things: we actually chanted; we did the “help me’s”; we were 10,000 little Fonzi’s; he switched “i wanna know everything” and “i wanna be everywhere”; he hugged A. Ant. Maise died.
I haven’t been able to write, maybe I can only do it when depressed or angry. Titles come to me more easily than the stories do.
“I know the depths I reach are limitless.” – NIN
First of all, I do see the irony of starting a diary entry about a Nine Inch Nails concert with a quote from Lilith-Fair-darling, TV-Felicity-favorite mellow-chick-crooner Sarah McLachlan. Really, I do. To explain, the song being quoted, “Possession” is about obsessed fandom, so it’s appropriate. Plus, I thought Fumbling Towards Ecstasy was a good album (though McLachlan lost me on subsequent albums, and to this day I cringe whenever a sentimental TV or movie scene in which characters are parting is punctuated by, “I Will Remember You.”). Not that I need to defend my music tastes or anything… (except that I do)…
If being a Nine Inch Nails nerd is humanly possible, that’s exactly what I was. Despite attending not one but two NIN concerts the previous month, I couldn’t resist buying a ticket when a third show was added. The problem was, I couldn’t find anyone to go to the show with me. Luckily, Claudia offered to let me stay over her place (having a friend who lived in an Upper West Side brownstone and whose parents were never home was the best). So I told my parents I’d be sleeping over there, conveniently leaving out the fact that it would be after I trekked out to Long Island alone at night to see a band whose fans routinely demolished concert seats in their fervor.
Years later, I told my mom the truth. Mom (who has some serious psychic tendencies) told me she knew what I was up to and spent the night worrying about me. I was a little worried about me too, heading into an unfamiliar part of New York solo, having to take a subway, commuter rail and shuttle, and then later finding my way to Claudia’s house close to midnight (late considering it was a school night and I was an underage kid out on the town solo).
Whatever memory was built on that grassy hill, I don’t remember it now. I remember feeling nervous about not getting lost or mugged.
Chanting was of the band’s name. “Help me” was a refrain from the alterna-hit “closer,” which the audience sang that night. “Little Fonzie” was a reference from Pulp Fiction, which meant being cool, which is not a term I would use in reference to my Trent Reznor fanaticism. Maise was his dog. Adam Ant was little more than an 80′s one hit wonder for me at the time (my deep foray into new wave was still years away), so his guest appearance at the concert was lost on me.
Being able to write more and better under angsty conditions was something I struggled with for many years. Still do. There’s a reason why some of the world’s best creative work has come out of mental/emotional turmoil. In my mind, writing good poetry/prose meant creating conflict and for me real life conflict usually bred inspiration for my own best work. But after years of captivity at the hands of my well-intentioned but overprotective parents, I was finally getting to explore and experience New York, I was in the midst of a thrilling personal musical enlightenment, and my life was finally expanding beyond classes and pining over boys. It was an inspiring time, but sometimes I was too busy enjoying it to find a way to channel it into fiction or verse. Sometimes it was enough for me to finally be out there in the world, having moments where I could believe I was a little Fonzie, even for a little while.
12/10/94“And I have no compass And I have no map And I have no reason No reason to get back” – U2
Last night was amazing. Stacey (Claudia’s friend) and I were even worse than I was the first time after “something i can never have.” A song was added to the set “I do not want this.” Almost psychic on that one.
When we were leaving we saw a section of about 8 seats which were completely crushed. It was so inspiring. I’m not going to focus on how it’s over, I was lucky enough to go twice. And if those Lollapalooza rumors are true… I don’t know we’ll see what happens.
My mind is turning to academics now, there’s so much to do it paralyzes me. It’s alright, I’ll deal. Not too many options on that one. I really need to start my next story. No quotes for this one. Possible title: Eyeliner and Pandemonium. I don’t know if I could possibly transcribe the experience on to paper. Not that I’ve actually tried or anything productive like that.
I want so much for winter break to come. Anita and I will go and pay our respects to Bleecker Bob’s. I just need some vinyl and good vibes to re…something me (resurrect? rejuvenate? reenergize?). I need some more halos.
“echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears” – NIN
After three consecutive nights of mind-blowing concerts (Killing Joke, AKA “The Concert That Changed My Life,” and two Nine Inch Nails concerts), it was inevitable that I’d have some short stories brewing. Back then, other than boys, nothing inspired me more than music and I wore my inspiration on my sleeve, whether male or musical (or both, as in the case of my Trent Reznor obsession). Most of my short stories had some sort of song lyric quoted, and I was drawn to dark themes. A friend from high school once jokingly (but accurately) described my fiction as a showcase for various fucked up characters. And it would only be a matter of time until I wrote about emotional turmoil set to some sort of gloomy, gory concert.
Thankfully, when I finally did write the story, I ditched the title “Eyeliner and Pandemonium” (an overly obvious tribute to the Killing Joke album and the single make-up product I abused in those days). Instead, I called it “How The Heathen Dance,” which was still a Killing Joke lyric, but seemed more literary to me back then, when I was unknowingly pushing all sorts of pretentiousness boundaries. The story was about a girl who goes to a Killing Joke concert at a club not unlike The Limelight and decides at that moment that she no longer believes in God. The great thing about it is that I got to relive a moment that happened to me, and provide the witty comeback I lacked at the time. Here it is:
As we squeezed past the endless wave of people I heard a guy call out:
“How come you have those lines on your face? Is it, like, some symbolic statement that you’re a prisoner inside yourself?”
“You know, I’m a prisoner inside my pants.” He flipped his brown hair from his face and nodded for emphasis.
“Really. Well I hope it’s a life sentence.” I poked Billie through her army jacket. “Keep moving,” I muttered.
I know, just a matter of time before the Pulitzer board comes knocking on my door, right?
As for all the blather about record stores and halos, I don’t know why I was so gung ho about getting records when I hardly ever listened to them, but they seemed to have a longevity that cassettes didn’t and they looked cool taped to my bedroom wall. And for the non-NIN fans, every single and album that Reznor released had a halo number on it, so Pretty Hate Machine was “halo one,” etc. There was a rumor that there was a “halo zero” but I never found it.
Bleecker Bob’s is one of the few record stores that’s still around today and the odd thing is, while Anita and I went there frequently, we hardly ever bought anything. It was more about “paying our respects” to what we thought of as a musical landmark and the hope that we would one day run into Joey Ramone browsing inside, since he was rumored to be a frequent patron. Sadly, we never saw him.
[Taped into notebook]
NIN (set lists)
march of the pigs
happiness in slavery
the downward spiral
the only time
down in it
head like a hole
i do not want this (12/9)
something I can never have
There are no words or phrases that could even begin to vaguely describe the feelings tonight. That’s why there are no quotes here. I’ll say one thing then I’ll talk about the concert. I have Trent Reznor’s guitar pick (one of them). It is now my prized possession but the story how I got it is really stupid so I won’t even bother. It’s red.
“pinion” began it but he opened with “mr. self-destruct” after it. I was so utterly impressed by the amount of non-typical-concert songs he did (“eraser,” “gave up” and “hurt.” “hurt”!!!). More importantly (sort of) they didn’t close with “head like a hole,” but “something I can never have.” All that I’m going to say is that seeing U2 (whenever they tour again) will really leave me emotional. That’s all goodnight.
Although Claudia and I didn’t get to sneak our way into the General Admission area and get trampled in the mosh pit, we did try. Since our tickets were torn from the previous night but still being honored due to the rescheduled show, they were punched with two holes at the entrance. Except for the General Admission tickets, which were punched with four holes. When Claudia and I noticed this, we tried to make two additional holes in our tickets in the hopes that a less-than-vigilant security guy would wave us through. No such luck. We wandered around a downstairs area of Madison Square Garden we had no business being in, and were finally shooed away, returning to our seats in defeat.
Not that it mattered. After Marilyn Manson opened up for them (barely known at the time and booed a lot during their set) I barely sat down during the entire show. I thrashed my way through every song, a most pit of one, except for the ballads, which made me cry (espeically “something i can never have”). I like to think the tears mixed artfully with the eyeliner, adding to the false trails I drew on my face, but I probably looked more like The Crow after getting caught in a monsoon.
As for the story of how I got that guitar pick, it’s not the story that’s stupid as much as the girl who paid a guy $30 for a tiny piece of plastic he claimed Trent Reznor threw out into the crowd. Mind you, I had no way of proving it was really Trent’s, and the pick didn’t even have an NIN logo on it, but I believed the guy. He initially tried to sell Claudia and me backstage passes for $30 each, but we only had money for one, and even though Claudia suggested I get one and go in alone, I was too intimidated. But the backstage passes were real (they were identical to patch-like stickers worn by other folks being waved through by security), so I figured the guitar pick must be as well. I took the guy at his word and paid what was a lot of money for me back then to own what I believed had been used to make music by one of my musical idols.
I think I still have that guitar pick; I know I must still have it. I quickly searched the file cabinet where I found the concert ticket pictured above, and while I didn’t see it in there, I know somewhere is a piece of paper with a red guitar pick taped to it, with block letters beneath it saying,
TRENT REZNOR’S GUITAR PICK.
It’s here, somewhere.
After all the waiting and obsessing, it was finally time for the Nine Inch Nails concert. I expected an intense, thrilling show that would blow me away and that night I got one… only not from Nine Inch Nails.
“Nothing quite like the feel of something new” – NIN
NIN COUNTDOWN: 1 DAY
Robin sprained his finger. It bloody figures. My face got comments. Claudia and I were one of the first ones to find out (“don’t say ‘cancelled’ POSTPONED” I heard through the walkie-talkie).
The Limelight was fantastic, my ears are still ringing with Killing Joke (more likely feedback). Maybe I’ll write a story about that. Hmm… I’ve gotten over my fear of mosh pits. If we don’t find a way to get floor seats tomorrow—no we will find a way. We have to.
“Uncertainty can be a guiding light” – U2
Claudia and I got to Madison Square Garden early and lined up outside the arena. The reason my “face got comments” was because I drew three black spikes under each eye with eyeliner (inspired in part by The Crow without copying it straight out). We stood near a security guard and when I heard the words “cancelled” and “postponed” I thought I was in for one of the biggest disappointments of my teenage life. All that anticipation, only to have Robin Finck, the guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, sprain his finger and unable to play that night. However, there were two saving graces. The first was the fact that the NIN show would only be delayed by one day, with all existing tickets being honored the next night.
The second was a group of guys handing out free passes to a different show that night at The Limelight: Killing Joke. I heard of the band but was only familiar with a song or two of theirs from their latest album, Pandemonium, which were played on MTV’s alternative shows late at night. Seeing as my parents gave me a free pass to stay out late and sleep over Claudia’s house that night, I didn’t want the evening to go to waste and hoped we could still get an adventure out of it.
The Limelight was a converted church that played a prominent part in New York’s club scene in the 1990’s (the movie Party Monster was based on the gruesome true events surrounding the club kids and this venue, which was central to their partying). I had never been in a nightclub of any kind before and could sense the dark and debauched vibe when I walked in. Much of the church décor still remained, the pews and filigreed arches mixing with disco lights, dry ice, and metal catwalks to create a dim, disorienting, multi-leveled maze of a club.
I don’t know if it was an all-ages show, but I was just shy of 17 then and too intimidated to do much exploring, so I kept to the stage area, hoping the live show would live up to the surreal surroundings.
The opening act involved an array of sideshow performers eating glass, laying on a bed of nails, and spewing fire. The finale was particularly disturbing and featured a young woman cutting her arm, filling a cup with her own blood and then drinking it. At one point, her knees buckled a little and it looked like she would faint. This may have been part of the act, but I believed it all and was utterly riveted. It was the type of act The Jim Rose Circus, who found pop culture fame as a notorious part of the early Lollapalooza festivals, took on the road, but seeing it up close like that shook me up, in a good way. I was equally fascinated and repulsed.
Finally Killing Joke took the stage, and their metal/industrial-edged music quickly inspired a mosh pit (my first up close experience with one). I remained at the edge of it, avoided the kicking, thrashing whirlpool of bodies and felt like I was absorbing the music with all my senses. The songs were surprisingly melodic despite the aggressive guitars and Jaz Coleman’s vocals, which altered between singing and shrieking.
I had never experienced music on such a visceral level before. Between the setting, the gory opening act, and the mosh pit, there was this sense of barely-controlled chaos to the evening. And as dramatic as it may sound, there was something almost transcendent about it. I knew music was a powerful force, but that I night I experienced a whole other level to it, and even though I can’t exactly say how, I know it changed me.
10/24/94“We danced in graveyards with vampires til dawn
We laughed in the faces of kings never afraid to burn” – Tori Amos
Claudia had a very lucky morning, she met a girl with a bracelet. I got the best wake-up call of my life today. We have the option of getting trampled. The “Phantom of the Opera” T.V. movie sucks. Veruca Salt has the Shriek of the Week. If I see “All I Wanna Do” one more time I’m going to scream. Being cryptic is no fun. No I’m not going to be cryptic.
I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS!
I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS!
One more time: I’M GOING TO SEE NINE INCH NAILS! Ah, that felt good. Countdown: 41 days.“And I hate
And I hate
And I hate
And I hate
Elevator music” – Tori Amos
Before the days when the Internet made buying concert tickets easy, the two main ways to get them were over the phone or in person at the box office or affiliated record stores. To ensure crowd control and give the diehard fans a chance to get tickets before scalpers (not that this stopped them) plastic bracelets were given out before the sale date. Fans would sometimes camp outside a box office the night before just to get a bracelet that would ensure an early spot on the ticket line. The record stores like HMV and Tower Records were often a better bet, especially the ones uptown that were less crowded. This is how Claudia was able to get a bracelet to see one of the most popular bands that year in what was arguably their career heyday.
Nine Inch Nails were playing Madison Square Garden, a venue with a 19,500 capacity. Getting a bracelet meant we had the option of getting into the General Admission area, which would undoubtedly become a giant mosh pitt (hence the option of getting trampled). I’d seen the kind of mayhem Trent Reznor was able to stir up in his fans, so part of me considered the stands a safer option.
As for other 90’s music, anyone else remember Veruca Salt and their alterna-hit “Seether?” I wasn’t a fan, but WDRE, a Long Island radio station known for playing good left-of-center music disagreed and chose it for their Shriek (or song) of the Week, which meant heavy rotation. It was still better than hearing Sheryl Crow’s ode to fun, which was inescapable in 1994. I didn’t want to hear songs about fun, I preferred Trent Reznor singing about lust, destruction, despair, anger, and general angst and gloom.
Monday, April 18, 1994
Last night Anita and I went to a Pearl Jam concert. It was great! It was announced Friday at 6:00 and the only way to get tickets (if you weren’t in the fanclub) was through a radio station. Anita called one for 2 ½ hours and actually got through.
Mudhoney opened up for them and they were okay. Then Pearl Jam came on and for the first couple of songs I was real stiff (I almost felt like I didn’t belong there. I mean my favorite band is U2 and Smashing Pumpkins are way down the line at second favorite). Then I loosened up and just got real into it. I danced, screamed, it was wonderful. I hadn’t been to a concert in such a long time (about 4 years) and it was incredible. I want to go to so many more now.
(Also I should mention the fact that there was an extremely high number of cute guys there).
–“Just Say Maybe” (the back of a cool Smashing Pumpkins shirt this really cute guy was wearing at the concert.
Few things encapsulate the 1990’s as much as grunge. I’ll be honest, I had Doc Marten boots and a few plaid shirts, but for the most part, I hated the sloppy, unwashed grunge aesthetic. In terms of decade trends, I felt completely and utterly cheated coming of age in the 90′s after experiencing the 80′s as a child. The 1980′s were full of so many things I adored: the clothes, the movies, the TV shows, the hairstyles, the music… pretty much all of it.
The grunge that typified the 1990′s didn’t move me as much as the new wave and pop of the 1980′s. Nirvana, Hole, and most of the other bands associated with the scene did nothing for me, as evidenced by my lukewarm response to Mudhoney. There were exceptions music-wise, Pearl Jam being one for a short time (Alice in Chains and Smashing Pumpkins being others). But these bands never felt like a revelation to me, more like a reluctant acceptance, because they were so ubiquitous it was easier to just give in and like them after a while.
While I knew I wasn’t truly part of the scene Pearl Jam represented and didn’t love their music, I did become more of a fan after seeing them live. They sounded infinitely better in concert than they did on their albums, their growling intensity was mesmerizing, and the show reminded me of the power of live music. I don’t listen to Pearl Jam anymore apart from a rare song here and there, but to this day, having attended ~100-200 concerts since that one, I’d still say they are one of the strongest live bands I’ve ever seen.
June 14, 1990
I went to a Madonna concert, and, well what can I say it was FABULOUS!!! TERRIFIC!!! WONDERFUL!!! EXHILARATING!!! GREAT!!! SPELLBINDING!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!! SPECTACULAR!!! BREATHTAKING!!! THRILLING!!! I hope that says enough!
Even though our seats were in the back of the Coliseum (The concert was at Nassau Coliseum.) We could see very well because there was this big screen on top of the stage that showed everything that was going on the stage.
These are the people I went to the concert with: My Mom, my cousin Anna, Tolya, his father and Tolya’s friend Peter.
When I went to the Debbie Gibson concert, I was really amazed at all the energy she had, but when I was at the Madonna concert, forget about it, I was so shocked at the LIMITLESS energy that SHE had. I will NEVER forget what a MINT concert that was!!
[This was the last Doogie Howser-style entry. After this I returned to the composition book.]
It’s quite probable that I consulted a thesaurus when writing that concert review.
Madonna was never one of my favorite singers. In terms of pure ability, even as a kid I thought Cyndi Lauper and Debbie Gibson could sing circles around her. I also found her boldness and uninhibited (if not calculated) sense of sexuality daunting, much the same way I did of Samantha Fox. Seeing Madonna live on her on her Blonde Ambition tour changed all of that. It raised my opinion of her as a performer and made me gain an enormous amount of respect for her that I have to this day. It’s a concert I’ll never forget, and not just because of how uncomfortable I was watching her writhe around on a big red bed during “Like a Virgin” with my Mom next to me. Regardless of the bawdy shenanigans, the energy, charisma and precision with which she executed that show was nothing short of phenomenal.
I saw Madonna again about six years ago for the Reinvention Tour, and even in her mid-40′s the woman was still impressive. She twisted her yoga-fied body into complex shapes, tangoed in five-inch stilettos, and showed off complex choreography– all while singing live, which puts other divas who use backing tracks (*cough*JLo and Britney Spears*cough*) to shame. Say what you will about Madonna as a singer (and we won’t discuss her “acting,” unless we’re talking Desperately Seeking Susan), but as an entertainer, few can rival her. Sure, Lady Gaga seems to be her present-day successor, but Gaga’s career is a few years old. Madonna has been evolving her persona and captivating the public for over thirty years, without a single collapse or rehab stint or breakdown or bout with “exhaustion.” Let’s check back in a decade or two and see who’s still standing.
Pop culture is fickle, with very few constants. Madonna is one of the rare survivors, and I feel lucky to have been able to see her when she was putting out some of her best music, and to enjoy a concert which shocked and dazzled me so much. Few shows since have made me want to use as many capital letters and exclamation marks.
Oh, and did I mention Technotronic opened up for her? They pumped up the jam, and wore puffy neon pants while doing it.
Like I said, pop culture has very few constants.