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[June, 1995] Radiohead. Ah, Radiohead.

Actual t-shirt I got at the concert. 18+ years later, it's still one of my favorites.

Actual t-shirt I got at the concert. 18+ years later, it’s still one of my favorites.

6/2/95

Radiohead. Ah Radiohead.

Wearing the t-shirt as I write this. We got to Tramps fairly early (20-30 minutes). There were already people lined up against the partition (that metal thing between the stage and us with a gap to catch crowd surfers and such) so I was at least going to be in the second row. Then a guy in front of me left and there I was, holding on to the metal bar with an unblocked view of the stage.

David Gray (the opener) wasn’t too bad; played a little too long, though.

They made announcements of upcoming shows at Tramps and when they said Afghan Whigs I positively freaked out.

Radiohead came out later, started out w/”The Bends.” I was between [facing] Thom and gorgeous guitarist Jonny Greenwood. They were great. I didn’t even notice the absence of “Stop Whispering” until Anita mentioned it on the way home. “Anyone Can Play Guitar” was wonderful.   

Radiohead Tramps 1995 Set List

I’ve still kept the set list, too.

I asked a roadie walking around onstage if they gave out drumsticks and he said only if they’re broken. Then he went looking for one w/a flashlight around the drum kit. He came back, trying to hold the drumstick by his side so as to hide it and said, “sh…” as he handed it over to me. This guy next to me (not the set list guy) asked if he could touch it and I let him.

Then Anita and I just walked around Tramps a little until I spotted an Afghan Whigs poster. I ran over and started spazzing about how much I had to go. This really stoned blond guy who was standing there jumped up and took the poster down, handing it to me. I thanked him profusely for it and then he started saying how he wanted it. No matter, it’s mine, I’m going to hang it up along with my set list which was autographed but I’m getting to that.

As we kept walking (still inside) I spotted a roadie who had hit his head earlier while setting up for Radiohead. I started talking to him and he was really nice (had a very cool accent), pretty cute too. He let it slip that the band would be coming back here in about 8 weeks. Then Anita saw Jonny on stage and I rushed over calling his name.

He came down to the gap between the gate and the stage and shook our hands. He’s quite beautiful, amazing bone structure. He signed my set list. Then I spotted the bassist, his brother Colin, all the way on the other side. He signed my set list too.

It was a glorious night, a most amazing concert experience. Hope I have this much luck at the Whigs show (please oh please let Greg be very social and hang out afterwards).

I’m going to put the drumstick (not broken at all but sort of gnawed-at looking) near Trent’s guitar pick. The set list will be hung up near the autographed Sponge flat. I’ll be able to open up my own museum w/all this stuff soon!

What can I possibly add to this thorough account?

I have to admit, I still hold it as a point of pride that I got to see Radiohead so early on in their career, at such a small venue. Total capacity for Tramps was around 1,000 people but it felt even smaller that that, like you were watching a show in somebody’s basement. But then to be in the first row of people, too, was just incredible. I don’t think I ever saw a band perform at a better venue in the ’90s, at least in terms of intimacy.

And it was definitely memorable show in terms of getting not only a great piece of memorabilia but having two members of the band sign it, too. And it’s awesome to be able to have an account of the songs they performed that night. The letters at the bottom stood for the four songs they performed as the encore: “You”, “Bulletproof..I Wish I Was”*, and “Street Spirit.”

I don’t think I ever could have predicted Radiohead would have become as big as they were. I would have guessed they’d go the way of Belly or Catherine Wheel, moderately successful for a time, a decent amount of MTV and radio play for a couple of years and then a fade into obscurity. I certainly wouldn’t have expected their music to take such an odd and esoteric turn after that concert and yet still continue to grow their fan base.    

In any event, if I could have created a blueprint for the perfect concert when I was 17-years-old, seeing Radiohead at Tramps would be the closest thing to matching it.  

* I only just noticed that the song title is missing an extra period in the ellipsis and I’m trying not to let that drive me crazy.

[January, 1995] Little Fonzies

Trent Reznor and Adam Ant

[arrows all over the place because I couldn’t remember exact order of set list]

“pinion” (maybe)
“mr self destruct”
“sin”
“march of the pigs”
“piggy”
“gave up”
“down in it”
“reptile”
“eraser”
“hurt”
“the downward spiral”
“wish”
“suck”
“head like a whole”
“closer”
“dead souls”
“something i can never have”
“physical” (w/Adam Ant)
“red skeleton” (w/Adam Ant)
“beat my guest” (?) (w/Adam Ant)

1/7/95

“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 Fonzies; 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

The alter I at which I worshiped.

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.

[December, 1994] The Story of Trent Reznor’s Guitar Pick

12/8/94

[Taped into notebook]

My actual concert ticket from the Nine Inch Nails show.

NIN (set lists)
pinion
mr. self-destruct
march of the pigs
piggy
reptile
gave up
happiness in slavery
eraser
hurt
the downward spiral
wish
suck
the only time
down in it
head like a hole
closer
dead souls
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.

Trent Reznor performing during the Self Destruct tour (not sure which city).

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.

 

[December, 1994] The Concert That Changed My Life

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.

The Limelight

12/7/94

“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.

[October, 1994] Countdown: 41 Days

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

Ah, 1994.

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.

[April 18, 1994] Pearl Jam and the 90’s vs the 80’s

December 6, 2010 2 comments

how grungy it is...

Monday, April 18, 1994

Dear Journal,

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 clothesthe 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, 1990] Madonna = MINT

...

June 14, 1990

Dear Journal,

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.