My NIN Story

Beth, who has posted on this site once or twice, wrote a brilliant entry on Nine Inch Nails yesterday, that I’ve been dying to comment on since I read it last night.

The story of my introduction to Nine Inch Nails shares some common ground with the story Beth tells. Principally a fan of pop bubblegum trash (hence the name of my one-man bad in the late 90s/early 00s, which one friend once called Depeche Mode on Prozac), Nine Inch Nails was the first moderately “artistic” band I was ever enamored with. In August of 1994, when they played Woodstock, I was amazed at the energy of their show, at the chaos of it. My brother had been listening to them for months, but I’m slow. I had maybe heard “Closer” by that point, but nothing more. The Woodstock show opened my eyes. And I know Trent has said in the past that he loved that show at the time and hated it later, I still think it’s one of the most brilliant shows they ever did. The way that the music fell apart, especially towards the end, on songs like “Happiness in Slavery”, represented the whole aesthetic of the Self-Destruct tour.

The last time I saw my grandfather alive was the day after that Saturday night Woodstock performance. He died that September.

And the music of Nine Inch Nails, the anger of it, the passion, became a venting tool for me as I coped with his passing and with my growing up. For years, when I had trouble with girls, with friends, with life in general, I would go to my room and blast “That’s What I Get” from Pretty Hate Machine or “Last” from Broken. I became an afficiando, never embarrased to bring out odd bits of trivia on my radio show in college, whenever we played NIN, telling the audience how Trent had appeared in the Michael J. Fox movie, The Light of Day or other things like that.

In January of 1995, I attended the NIN concert at the Worcester Centrum that Beth mentions in her piece. Jon had asked me to go that fall, when tickets went on sale. In the interim, I had begun to date Tracy, who went with us, and Jon and I had begun our falling out. By the time of the concert, everything was falling apart around me. I was losing my best friend. I was losing the first real girlfriend I’d had. The concert, and the chaos were the perfect antidote, if only for a couple of hours.

I quote Beth here:

Stories abound of the weapons, injuries and assorted sick behaviors that occurred at some of the more legendary shows, including one at the Worcester Centrum in 1995 that friends of mine went to—where Trent became infuriated with the crowd and walked off the stage, only to return before a nearly uncontrolled riot that remained through the rest of the gig.

I don’t remember Trent walking off, but I do remember the uncontrolled riot. We had seats in the front row of the bleacher section, and when the crowds started to rush the floor to join the pit there were people leaping over our heads and down the fifteen feet or so to the floor. In front of us, the railings on the stairs that led to the floor collapsed, several of our frailer friends at the bottom of the pile. It was nuts

I saw NIN twice more after that: Once, later in 1995, at Great Woods, on a double-bill with David Bowie; and again in 2000, at the Centrum, on the Fragility tour.

The band has even worked its way into my novel, which references the 95 Centrum show in two chapters. And, the dynamic between Michael and Ashley, the siblings who are two of my four primary characters, is based heavily upon the dynamic between my brother and I, and the way in which he, even being the younger sibling, was always the one introducing me to things. On the way to their grandfather’s funeral, Ashley slips in a copy of The Downward Spiral, thinking Michael will hate it, and instead, they blast the thing, “The Becoming” roaring through the speakers of a Ford Tempo not unlike the one I drove around the streets of Chelmsford for years and years.

Anyway, the main point is that I, like Beth, was elated to get that message about NIN playing in Boston, and even more elated that The Dresden Dolls would be opening up. I was not, however, elated by the fact that presale tickets were sold out in a matter of minutes, and I have very little hope that I’ll be able to land the lone ticket I am after once tickets go on sale for real on Friday.

But, there’s always hope, right? I did finish my thesis draft, after all. And I never thought that was going to happen either.