Thirty-One (20 of 31)

I was getting my Dresden Dolls fix on Tuesday night, checking out the videos section of their website, in particular their back-to-back covers of “I Got You Babe” and “...Baby One More Time”, when I began to feel that strange combination of sadness, envy, and inspiration that I get whenever I partake of the artistic endeavors of a person or persons close to my own age. I had just been read and realized that one member of the duo is just about a year older than me and that the other is just about two years younger. And here they are, having created this remarkably unique band, with talent to spare, and where am I? That’s what I was asking myself: where am I?

I had a similar reaction the first time I saw Garden State, thinking afterward about what an accomplishment that film was for Zach Braff, who is only two years older than me. Look what he had done and, again, look where I was.

Can a happily married guy, with a kid on the way, ever really be an artist? Is there enough pain or experience in my life to draw upon, or did I find a happy, secure situation too soon? Will that happy, secure situation keep me from every creating anything compelling? Even if my book is someday finished, will it ever be seen or read by anyone other than those closest to me? The questions plagued me, and plague me still.

But I must, as Stephanie suggested, stop comparing myself to others. It does me no good. And it does me no good to focus on things that are out of my control. Chances are, my book won’t ever be published; very few of the many, many books written in this world ever are. And chances are that if it does get published it will be published by a small, regional press who will give it a tiny run and promote it nowhere outside of their small, insular market. Writing isn’t where you go to get famous, or to make art that will be popular. People don’t read, for the most part. If you wanted popularity, I tell myself, if you wanted your art to be “noticed”, you should have stuck with music. People still listen to music. After all, that doesn’t require as much effort as turning a page.

Alas, I’ve babbled and whined for long enough. Here are two throwback entries featuring the previously mentioned Dresden Dolls.

So You Don’t Want To Hear About My Good Day

Every once in a while an album just gets to me the first time I listen to it. When Andy suggested picking up some music by the Dresden Dolls this past weekend, I figured I would like it—He’s always had a good idea of my tastes—but I had no idea how much I would like it. Today, after a failed adventure trying to download their tunes from the very uncooperative site they use, I drove to Newbury Comics and picked up a copy of the actual CD. When I got home and put it into the computer to play/rip it, I was mesmerized.

There really isn’t a bad moment here. Maybe that’s because I’m sick and because I am always teetering on a low melodramatic mood that this music could be the perfect soundtrack to. I don’t know. I just fell in love with it right away. The rest of the day, the finding nothing in the Boston Globe Big Help section, the still feeling sick—none of it mattered. I had, as Andy suggested I might, "[fallen] in love with music all over again."

So, kudos to Andy for making the suggestion. This a disc that I’ll be attached to for a long, long time.

Nine Inch Nails at the Orpheum

I was destroyed or, as the kids say, I was owned. The Nine Inch Nails show tonight was perhaps the best concert I have ever been to, and that’s including three previous NIN performances which were all quite brilliant. Rarely have I been to a show where I came home sore and was happy for the pain. This was the kind of evening that simply defies description. And yet, I am a writer, which means that I must write about it. I can’t possibly do it justice, but I will try.

The setlist looked like this [ED: Image now lost]. Since my writing is fairly illegible and several abbreviations were used, I’ll do you the favor of spelling it out:

00. Beside You in Time (pre-recorded clip from the bridge)
01. The Frail
02. The Wretched
03. You Know What You Are?
04. The Line Begins to Blur
05. March of the Pigs
06. Piggy
07. Terrible Lie
08. Burn
09. Closer (The Only Time bridge)
10. Reptile
11. The Big Come Down
12. Gave Up
13. The Day the World Went Away
14. Suck
15. Getting Smaller
16. Even Deeper
17. Wish
18. Hurt
19. The Hand That Feeds
20. Starfuckers, Inc.
21. Head Like a Hole

If you’re a fan of NIN, you might already be able to garner an image of this show from the list. It was fucking intense from the get-go and rarely let up. Trent seemed really into it, as if the flow of the set was doing as much for him emotionally as it was doing for us. Within the first few songs, sweat was glistening on his bare arms. Within the next few songs, his shirt collar was wide open. He was singing his ass off and the band behind him was playing with a more cohesive sound than I’ve ever heard from NIN live.

What impressed me most about the show was how finely orchestrated each of the songs was. There were the main instrumental lines of each song, but then there were little bits and pieces, either added in or made more plain, that just made each song that much better. And the mix, at least from where I was sitting, as absolutely perfect. I’m sure the guys next to me would have liked it a bit louder, so as not to have to hear me singing along, but whatever.

The musical highlight of the show for me was the way in which they slipped the beat of “Down In It” into the bridge of “Closer”. I’d heard about them doing it, but actually hearing them do it just blew my mind. They simply have to release a live cut of that version. It’s that good.

I was elated to hear them play from across the NIN canon, not focusing too much on any one album. Sure, there were songs off of With Teeth I would have loved to have heard, but they played “Reptile”, man. They played “The Big Come Down”. And they fucking opened with “The Frail,” which was just about the most hauntingly gorgeous way to open a NIN show.

All of this gushing, and I have yet to even mention The Dresden Dolls, who opened. I’d not seen them live and, honestly, seeing them perform almost put me over the top before NIN even came on. They were so phenomenal. Amanda is the most original and dynamic female voice I’ve heard in years and Brian plays the drums with such fury that it seems like there just has to be more than two people in the band. There was, in fact, a third member, a guest, for one song—Mr. Jerome Dillon, drummer for NIN—who came on to play drums on the Dolls’ cover of “Karma Police.” Aside from a broken guitar string, their set, at least to me, was flawless.

I’m still working on the setlist for that. If anyone wants to help a brother out, drop a comment below. I know everything except for the second, fifth, and sixth songs.

My one regret: that I didn’t get to spend more time hanging out with Beth and Kathleen, who I caught up with right before the show. I hadn’t seen either of them in ages, but I was so obsessed with getting in to see the Dresden Dolls that I think I cut our visit a bit short. Anyway, I ended up getting to my seat far too early and realizing I could have shot the proverbial shit with them for quite a while longer.

But, all in all, it was a great show. I did a couple of other really important and interesting things before the show as well, but I suppose that’ll have to be for another entry.