There are moments in life that you don’t fully understand and appreciate until after they occur, when you gain perspective.
And then there are moments where you can feel the significance right then and there.
Both happened to me last night.
It was a unique day, spent recovering from Friday night’s show basking in the SoCal sunshine with my friends and an awesome English Bulldog. I’m trading texts, tweets, emails, and phone calls with my bizarre collection of virtual LA friends, who my rushed LA trips and their chaotic lifestyles never allow me to meet in person. I am constantly evaluating if I should move to LA, and wonder what it would be like, but it just hasn’t been in the cards yet.
An interesting sighting earlier in the day:
On the way to the show, the sun was setting, and we passed an oil refinery where one of the towers was spewing this enormous flame. It was ominous, immediately reminding me of the backdrop for ‘In This Twilight’ from the NIN LITS tour.
Due to traffic, we were running a bit later than anticipated. As we were pulling off the freeway onto Sunset Blvd., I received a text from a friend letting me know that the venue I’m about to step into is where the Almost Famous scene where Penny Lane skates across the garbage strewn floor to Cat Steven’s ‘The Wind’ was filmed. The very scene I referenced at the end of this review. ‘May the spirit of music be generous tonight!’, it said. It put me into an interesting frame of mind.
We parked in the lot next to the venue and were shocked by the guy selling bootleg shirts for the show, who personally attacked us when we weren’t interested in buying- ‘Come on, we have small sizes. Oh, look at you with your university license plate, you’re SO SMART’. Like that’s going to get us to buy a shirt.
When we reached the line, we were actually ahead of where we ended up for the Halloween Rob Zombie show there. But my friend Mel was on a mission. I know the look on her face- we are cut from the same cloth. She wants a rail spot. Her significant other was with us, and he knows the guy who works the VIP door, and long story short, he got us in. We didn’t even care about being in VIP, we just wanted to bypass the line. It’s funny how our priorities work.
So that was sigh of relief number one- but we were sent to a special bar area and not allowed into the venue yet. Mel stationed herself at the door, ready to bolt, and we grabbed some drinks and waited impatiently until we were let in. We were still a little nervous to see if this was going to all work out. As soon as that door opened she bolted for the rail, as I trailed right behind her- like old times for NIN- and it worked. We got a spot at the right corner of the stage, which is actually pretty small for the size of the venue.
If you’ve never done this before, it’s hard to describe the thrill of being in the best spots in the house, exactly where you wanted. It makes or breaks a show for me. Mel photographs and films, so having that rail there really helps her out. I just care about the view. So we were having a moment of celebration that it all worked out, and the adrenaline turned into excitement for what we were about to witness for the next few hours.
Mel had to school a young kid who was trying to sneak up to the rail- learn your rail manners now, kiddo! Other than that, it was a very mellow crowd- we never got crushed and barely were bumped into.
Creature with the Atom Brain played another solid set. Mel is a big QOTSA fan, so she was into the similarities. The bassist didn’t pull any of his antics this time, though. It’s funny that I just listened to all their voices over and over again as I transcribed my interview with them the other day.
As we were waiting for AiC, Mel spied Robin Finck off to the side near us. Once again, we always run into NIN related people. I watched Cantrell’s guitars being prepped, thinking about how different those two guitarists are.
I could see behind the curtain a bit this time, so I saw DuVall come out as the heart on the curtain started beating and ‘All Secrets Known’ began. I thought I preferred ‘Them Bones’ as an opener…..but this works pretty well.
A new beginning
Time to start living
Like just before we died
I got kind of lost at this time, thinking about all the things that have to fall in line to get to this spot at this moment with these people. First would be my lifelong love for AiC. Second would be when I met Mel in line at a NIN show in Chula Vista. Then we both wanted to go to this show, the VIP thing worked out, and here we are standing at the rail rocking out.
‘It Ain’t Like That’. I’m thinking about that club scene where AiC is playing in Singles (which, coincidentally, is from the same director as Almost Famous). I pretend that Mel and I are the two girls. ‘We will AWAYS go out dancing!’
A photographer in the pit walks past me, and I see that the back of his shirt says ‘Tribute to the Legendary Layne Staley, Seattle 2004’. Damn. Somehow on Thursday night I had essentially avoided thinking about the Layne void. It ain’t like that anymore.
I quickly turned around to check out the crowd when they introduced ‘Check My Brain’ with ‘this song is especially for you’. The place was absolutely packed. It’s great to see that so many people are passionate about this band. And I’d have to say that you don’t feel a pull back in enthusiasm for the new tracks like you would for many other bands with this much material. The new album is that good- it just slots in well with everything.
A few people down from us, there were some women with a handmade sign with ‘Sean, we want your stick’ on one side and ‘Jerry will you marry me’ on another, in rainbow colors, no less. The guys were laughing at it- and Jerry actually went and grabbed the sign to show the crowd the Sean side of it, and then threw it back at them. It was kind of funny. And yes, they got Sean’s stick later.
‘Them Bones’ is when my focus went to Cantrell. He’s such an internal guitar player, it’s like every fiber of his being is involved in the music. Watching him play is like having my feelings about the song extracted from me and physically manifested right there. I tried to write about 5 more sentences about this and none of them were good enough. As Mel would say later, “it’s like he’s playing to save his life, and if he stopped, he would die’.
I’m a riddle so strong, you can’t break me. DuVall’s performance for ‘Rain When I Die’ is one of his strongest. I’m watching the guys move around on the stage, and am noticing how they feel like a real band working together. There’s a lot of non verbal communication, and they all seem at ease with each other.
‘Your Decision’….’Last of My Kind’……’Nutshell’. So far it’s the same setlist as Thursday night, but I don’t care.
‘Sickman’ was one of the highlights for me. What the hell am I? Thousand eyes, a fly. Lucky then I’d be in one day deceased. ‘Lesson Learned’ was the one different song in the setlist from Thursday.
DuVall talked about how it’s been almost 10 years to the day since he arrived in LA from Atlanta, and how he literally met Cantrell days later. They had a nice little moment- it was interesting to hear him talk about that.
But the best moment of the evening came, once again, during ‘Love, Hate, Love’. If I could bottle the intensity of emotions that I felt during the last minutes of this song…I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad feeling. Cantrell came and stood right in front of us on the speakers for the last few minutes of the song, and it was close to the most intense live music moment I’ve ever had in my life. My brain couldn’t really process it. I just looked at his closed eyes, and then his hands moving on the guitar. How his jewelry moves when he plays, how his nails a neatly kept. How he created those very notes 20 years ago, and I heard them 18 years ago, and here we are. And then during one of the breaks before the song finished he bent his knees a little and pointed at us. Then he started playing again and my eyes just welled up with the weight of the moment, as they are now as I type this. Why do I feel this way? How can I love this piece of music and this musician so much…that it hurts? It will never love me back. Unrequited love.
I will never listen to that song the same again.
I reached my hand up when the song was done, thinking maybe he would touch our hands as he had some of the others….but he took his pick and placed it in the hand of the guy next to me. Take my hands before I kill. I’m invisible on the rail.
Lost inside my sick head, I somehow managed to get into ‘Would’ and ‘Rooster’ as they finished the show.
Cantrell tossed his guitar to his tech. Sean gave Mel a drumstick and we both got picks from DuVall.
I still have New York next month.
As I posted my final tweets for the evening (my AiC fan followers are really, really awesome), I noticed it was midnight, and everyone was starting with the Valentine’s Day wishes. Part of why I made such an action packed schedule was to distract myself from this dreadful holiday. I hate it. It’s my first time being single on this day in 12 years, and while I’m enjoying my independence, I’m starting to feel like there’s something wrong with me.
We took a pic on the near empty, trash strewn floor. I was skating across it like Penny Lane in my mind.
We met a friend of Mel’s at a bar named Saints & Sinners, a cool little place- but they were playing dreadful disco music, like ‘Love Machine’. However, Evil Dead 2 was being projected on the wall so I was down with that. And then, all of a sudden, boom-chick-boom-chick-boom….’Closer’. Mel and I looked at each other and cracked up. Of all the gin joints in all the world, amongst this disco music, how did this come on? And to top it off, a weird moment of synchronicity occurred as we looked at the movie projection and caught a scene where a piano is playing itself, just like when Reznor is dangling there at the end of the ‘Closer’ video. We looked at each other again and go ‘whoa’. There was some weird cosmic coincidence at play here.
Then they played ‘All My Exes Live in Texas’. Fuck. Last call, time to go home.
But the story doesn’t end here.
The next morning, Mel was driving me to the airport. ‘Your Decision’ comes on the radio, and since I informed her of my no driving to AiC policy, she said ‘let’s change it’. So she goes to the next station…..also AiC. She had to switch it again. Now that is some Final Destination shit right there.
At the moment I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff. There are all of these amazing things floating around me, just out of reach, and I can’t escape the feeling that I’m about to fall off into the abyss. Sometimes I wonder if I tried a little harder, that some really cool things could materialize for me. But, alas, the time and the confidence is just not there. So I just keep doing what I’m doing.
On my flight back to SF, we had to circle the city for half an hour due to fog. When we were finally able to land, the pilot stated, ‘we’ve exited the hole and we’re heading towards San Francisco once again’. Down in a Hole.
Special thanks to Mel & Jon for making this experience happen.
I listen to my words
but they fall far below
I let my music take me
where my heart wants to go
I swam upon the devil’s lake
But never, never never never
I’ll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, never
~Cat Stevens, ‘The Wind’
All Secrets Known
It Ain’t Like That
Check My Brain
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Got Me Wrong
We Die Young
Last of My Kind
Man in the Box
Love, Hate, Love