made me so sad that I'd never see this legendary act perform live in my lifetime. It's tough being cultured and living in a mid-sized city that cares more about bringing acts like Motley Crue or Garth Brooks to town. To be fair, last year's Sounds of the Underground
was a welcome, yet unprecedented show in "these here parts." However, upon not
seeing my city listed in Entertainment Weekly for the concert of a lifetime, Bauhaus and Nine Inch Nails, a road trip was in order. Tickets were bought, a hotel booked, and an historical summer began "With Teeth" in Dallas, TX.
Tornado alley storm activity a few days prior to departure ushered in fairly moderate weather [i.e. mid-'80s to low-'90s, rather than mid-'90s to low 100s... that whole "South rising again" stuff I am quite certain is weather-related]. As my band/life mate "G" drove us through the abyss that is OK-TX interstate, the conversational flow landed upon our own band's future like a black butterfly atop a crimson poppy. Listening to the Gothic metal soundscapes of our alter-ego, CORVO, we sketched out our forthcoming debut's thirteen demo tracks, sorting out potential song order, taking notes on needed improvements, feeling pride in writing not only our own music, but music that we genuinely liked. Dreams, aspirations and goals for our creative future quickly turned lifeless miles of concrete slab into visions of sumptuous, velvet curtains, spectacular stage show sketches, and rows of occupied theatre seats. Someday, we mused, we would be the lucky ones like TV on the Radio, warming up crowds for pairings as perfect as Bauhaus and NIN. The ho-hum drive soon became a journey not unlike the most sacred pilgrimage to Mecca or Mount Fuji. This wasn't just a happy-go-lucky summer drive to a concert; this was creative research. And without conversations of sometimes seemingly lofty dreams, tomorrow's artistic pioneers die in the womb.
The surprisingly affordable concert tickets allowed us to plan an over-nighter at the venue's nearest Best Western, which had a neighboring, deliciously artsy 24-hour cafe called Buzz Brews. The menu and air conditioning of this cozy little diner/coffee shop would later become an oasis after three straight hours of windmill, pogo dancing and head banging in the Texas heat. The Best Western was boring like any other, but clean, bug-free and king-sized bed-y, five minutes away from the venue, and cheap. We weren't there to soak in the pool and do a day spa anyway; this trip was all about the music.
Once we reached the hotel and downed some raspberry iced tea from Buzz's, I pulled on a Lip Service halter dress - extremely lightweight, comfortable, and very black - and joined my Goblin t-shirt and shorts-clad rock star husband, continuing to our final destination, The Smirnoff Music Center.
Unabashedly unfashionable, we arrived ten minutes prior to gate opening, greeted by a line of Gothic pilgrims who were as excited about this show as we. G and I giggled over how "surprising" it was to see so much black clothing in one line, and further dreamt of the day "our people" would soon be waiting in line to see us. Electing to find our seats before consuming snacks and alcohol, we presented our tickets to an usher who directed us to the very front of the section above the "expensive" seats. What? The very front? Even better than front row, our seats were right by the aisle. Of course, I claimed the outermost seat because I'm the dancer [i.e. spazzz] among us, to which enigmatic artist husband didn't argue.
As we people-watched and reserved energy for the music, I couldn't help but wonder [holy crap, "Carrie Bradshaw" moment, there] how many in this crowd understood how rare it was to be witnessing these two colossal bands performing side-by-side. G was lucky, he'd seen Nine Inch Nails open for Peter Murphy back in "the day." -It seemed that their careers had now come full circle, and complementary artists knew they'd mutually benefit from each other's audiences once again. In this decade's audience, enough mullets and hair metal tees were in attendance to make me a little concerned for Bauhaus' reception, but enough Skinny Puppy tees and fetish clothing provided a comforting balance.
TV on the Radio had it tough, performing right as the sun beemed its own stage lighting directly into the band's eyes. Yeesh. [Note to self: when playing outdoor venues in the summer, be like "Jackie O'-O'-Please-Don't-Die" and wear them big sunglasses]. TV on the Radio had the whole "wall of guitar sound" thing mastered, a strong lead vocalist, and obvious talent. Although they didn't seem to fit the niche audience that a Bauhaus and NIN combination would draw, they were a decent match to NIN's "mainstream alternative" crowd. They played a tight 20-minute set, making sure to do a shout-out to Bauhaus, which won my respect.
Shortly after TV's departure, the sun mercifully allowed the stage to eclipse it and I recognized Daniel Ash immediately, clad in a white fur vest, black PVC pants, white sunglasses and ebony "Alfalfa-of-Little-Rascals-esque" ponytail. Much of the crowd went absolutely wild, mainly, the "Spiralers" in the orchestra pit [Note to self: sign up for The Spiral
]. The moment the notes to "Double Dare" brought Peter Murphy on stage, it was clear to all in my section just how huge a Bauhaus fan this girl was. It was a good thing I went for smokey-smeary eye makeup, because had sweat not done it in, the overwhelming cascade of tears most assuredly did.
I won't be able to list Bauhaus' set, but I can tell you that they played a good forty-five minutes of pretty much everything I'd wanted. Surprisingly enough, they didn't play fan-favorite "Bela Lugosi's Dead," but it didn't matter to me, I was watching Bauhaus live and in the flesh! The light show was simple, but effective - colorful, well-placed spots, strobes and fog machine smoke. Peter Murphy's elegant, sexy posturing reminded me of a young, androgynous David Bowie gene-spliced with Mikhail Baryshnikov. I swooned and I screamed and I absolutely marveled at Murphy's grace, stature and sumptuous voice that made Ville Valo seem Emo. Peter Murphy is sex on a stage - plain and simple. All that I could think over and over again was, "Pushin' 50 and hotter than 20-somethings I've seen live. Unbelievable." The musicianship of Bauhaus has grown leaps and bounds, as has their stake in being one of the most important bands in the Gothic genre. It is absolutely right that they've decided to reunite and make new material - the underworld still needs them, and I'm ready to see them headline a tour of their own.
BETWEEN SET JITTERS
After the dark reverie that was Bauhaus, we waited for quite a while, but it didn't matter because let's face it, people watching at a show like this is pretty fun. Not only that, the hustle and bustle of the stage crew fashioning a light show of epic proportions was a sight to behold. As the stadium grew darker and more frantic with a now capacity-full crowd, the electricity in the air "couldn't be cut with a fucking light saber." [Just needed to borrow that, Patton]. Pre-show screams of anticipation soon became blinding, thundering anthems of recognition as Jeordie, Josh, Aaron, Allesandro and... what's that guy... oh yeah, Trent took the stage.
NINE INCH NAILS
First of all, a set list will not be present here, because I was too overwhelmed and in the moment to take notes. What matters is that I won't need to masturbate for months. I'll just break this experience down into key moments that I do remember.
The Lights. An enormous backdrop of larger lights towered on screens upstage, while smaller, more detailed lights took their place downstage in front of the band on what looked like a massive cage. Every so often, the downstage "light cage" would descend from the rafters, blow our minds, then disappear long enough for guitarist Aaron North to stage-dive into the audience or for Trent to throw his microphone into the first few rows. [Note to self: Join The Spiral]. The best way I can describe the light show is as light sculptures, because the lights looked 3D, almost like cartoon animations weaving their way in and around the band like additional members. This was cutting edge technology like I'd never seen, but used sparingly and effectively. My two favorite "sculptures" were red lava-like bubbles that cascaded and dripped down and around the band, as well as silver-white "talons" that wove themselves from up top and below, much like cave stalagmites and stalactites turned serpents. The lighting's piece de resistance was a final descent of TV-static sparkling around the signature NIN logo at show's end. [If I worked with this tour's lighting crew, I'd be damn thankful of how this show would look on my reel].
The Lineup. Trent may not be a band member monogamist, but he doesn't choose his musical partners flippantly. With established talent like Jeordie White [Marilyn Manson, A Perfect Circle], Josh Freese [Devo, A Perfect Circle] and raw talent like wild-child Aaron North, and key-master Alessandro Cortini, I experienced sounds from this group that cast slightly different, but fully rewarding hues on some of the older NIN favorites. The newer "With Teeth" tracks came to light with all-out virtuosity and musically throughout, the band followed Trent's lead with ease, while simultaneously making each part their own with full, eloquent authority.
The Family. There is just nothing like thousands of people singing together in unison to the favorite songs that bind all walks of life together as one. It's intense, it's the only world that exists at that moment, it's heated, it's passionate and it's connected. At a time of such dischord in society, it was so refreshing to find common ground with so many people. I've experienced this at many great concerts, but I have to say, it seemed even more intense with NIN fans. Currently, this is the most passionate crowd I've been a part of to date - yes, even more so than Metallica, Master of Puppets, 1985.
The Tribute. It only took the first song for me to feel implicitly that Trent was "on." Being an intuitive sort and vocalist myself, I tend to pick up on performances in ways that the average audience member may not. It didn't take long to see something coming from Trent that was above and beyond what I'd witnessed on NIN concert DVDs. Well, quite a ways into the show, he finally spoke to the audience, and I realized that my intuition was also "on." Words about Dallas and feeling "bittersweet" and memories of Dimebag Darrell poured out of Trent in a very honest and respectful way. As he dedicated "La Mer" to Dimebag, it was evident that Trent was performing for the spirit of a brilliant light this night, and I looked around the audience, halfway expecting to see Dime appear amid the flickering flames of loving fans. And I knew that the crackle in Trent's voice during "Hurt" had more to do with memories than of pain. It cast a beautiful, melancholy, yet powerful glow upon the experience and I'll never forget it. As a performer, I know what it's like to perform "to" somebody who's not with you in the audience physically, but surely in spirit, and it drives a performer in often unprecedented ways. It was an intimate experience to be there on a night when Reznor's vulnerability transcended beyond his own life and took on a deeper meaning that perhaps even surprised him.
The Truth. While immersed in this honesty, I understood the deeper undercurrent to what makes a Nine Inch Nails concert flow so differently. How everyone present isn't just an observer, but an active participant in every beautiful breakdown, every unabashed chorus, every ounce of raw emotion present in Reznor's work... his feelings are our own, and not only do we all know it, we feel it... and it's so good to feel, even if it's a huge "fuck you;" even when you don't want to admit it, it's so fucking good to feel again.
The Circle. Trent's honesty is still present and tangible in his art to this day, and I don't think it's going anywhere soon. Even after making it huge as a mainstream artist, he finds a way to strip down bare and make his people feel something with him, performing like there's nobody there, yet like he wants everybody there. To speak of this concert as inspiring is a gross understatement; so let me say that this journey hasn't stopped since these two musicians got back home. Both G and I have taken this into us as another seed to take root inside our creative selves. We've both only further realized how much we want to be better musicians; to transcend personal experience and to make people not only feel, but believe in something again. This will surely go on... and on... and on... and on... and on... and on... and on...
[Official Photos Dallas, 06.03.06]