a night of nothing: new york

september 5, irving plaza, new york, new york

by dave parmenter

Well, let's just say that I never in a million years would have thought that I'd be attending a Nine Inch Nails club show. I had kinda resigned myself to the fact that the only times I would ever see them live again would be at some large venue with 8 bazillion people there. There were only 850 or so people at Irving Plaza on the night of September 5, 1996. I consider myself a very lucky man.

Preparing to attend this event was no easy chore. It had been known for quite some time that there would be a Nothing Records night on September 5 at Irving Plaza in New York, but it was unclear who would be playing. At some point, someone noticed on Meat Beat Manifesto's tour schedule that they would be there on the 5th, so this was considered the only "unofficially confirmed" band taking part. As far as other bands were concerned, no one could say who would be there. I was starting to think that I would not be able to attend, seeing that this show was on the second day of classes here at UMass, and I didn't know how wise it would be to up and leave when I should be getting homework done. As you can see, common sense kicked in eventually....

About a week before the show, rumors started flying everywhere about who would be playing. In those rumors, I had heard that possibly Coil, Marilyn Manson, Prick, NIN, etc., would all be there. I really didn't pay much attention until my friend Gabe was looking through a European music magazine and noted that "Nine Inch Nails will be playing a surprise show at Irving Plaza in NYC on September 5, 1996." After I heard that, I promptly started my search for a way in. Since it was in conjunction with the CMJ Music Festival, I really didn't know what our chances of getting in would be.

About a day before the show, having gone through many stages of paranoia about what classes I could miss that Thursday, I and my friends Eric Freitag, Jackie Berry, and Brian Berkovitz decided to say, "Fuck class, this is NIN." And since I had not managed to miraculously score four CMJ badges, we figured that the best way to get in would be to leave UMass early...real early.

We woke up at 3 a.m. on Thursday and got ready for the long day ahead of us. I think that was a first...I have never gotten up at 3 a.m. and stayed awake the rest of the day in my entire life. We left Amherst at approximately 5 a.m. and drove all the way down to Stamford, Connecticut, where we jumped on the commuter train that runs to Grand Central Station. After taking a few different rails on the subway, we ended up about a block from Irving Plaza at around 9 a.m. I was surprised to see that there were already people waiting in line that early...I thought that we would be the only psychos there at that time of the morning.

We quickly secured a place in line and prepared for what we thought would be one hell of a long wait for tickets. Much to my surprise, the next person to show up to get in line was my good friend Melissa Ray, a.k.a. Honeybee to all you a.m.ninnies.

We waited for about a half hour in that same spot, until management came out and moved the line from one side of the building to the other. And after about another hour, the line finally started to move. When I got to the front of the line, I was told to go up to a desk with someone handing out vouchers for tickets. After showing my ID, and signing the paper, I was handed a voucher good for one ticket to that night's show. It really was rather eerie holding that paper...knowing that all of our efforts to get there were 100 percent worth it. I was quite happy at that point.

The top of the voucher said "a night of nothing" and had three bands listed: Meat Beat Manifesto, Marilyn Manson, and nine inch nails. The voucher basically stated that this was a way to deter scalping and whatnot, so that those who really wanted to see the show could. Unfortunately, I had some good friends who definitely deserved to be in there with us, but since we could not get more than one ticket apiece, they could not get in.

Eric, Jackie, Brian, Melissa, and I walked around Greenwich Village for a while, and then went back to Irving Plaza to meet up with Jody Match, who was coming in from Pennsylvania. We had figured that all of the vouchers would be gone by the time we got back, but to our surprise, they were not. Melissa jumped in line to hold a spot for Jody, who still had not shown up. About 3 minutes later, I jumped in as well. We waited there for a long time, and still no Jody. After Melissa had to get out of line, I was only a few spots back. At the very, and I mean very, last minute, a cab showed up, and out popped Jody. We grabbed her without even telling her what was going on, and threw her in line...but that wasn't all we had to deal with. Mr. Tough Security Guy (tm) told us that she would have to go back to the end of the line. I, being an extreme bullshit artist, pleaded with one of the other guys controlling the line to let this girl go in, since she came all the way from PA, and I'm sure I added a few other reasons to get a little more sympathy. Well, he let her in, and all was good.

From then on, we just kinda talked for a bit, and ended up getting back in line to actually go in. We had fun talking to people and discovering lurkers on our newsgroup, alt.music.nin. We also were able to hang out with a few other friends who were not able to get in, such as Matt Brotman (r3ds0cKs), Risa (lupa), Dave Kitteredge, Jeff Durrico (tic-tac), and John Whalen (VIVIsect). It seemed like we waited forever and a day for the green light. Finally, the doors opened, and everyone piled in.

After checking our bags and buying T-shirts, we walked up the stairs to the stage. We sprinted right up to the front as soon as we got in. There was no way that we were not going to be front row for this show. We watched as they played some Emergency Broadcast Network on the large screen in front of the stage as the crew set up for Meat Beat Manifesto. After about another half hour, the screen finally went up.

Meat Beat was a good show, although a bit repetitive, in my opinion. A few different drum beats might have been nice, but on the whole, I was impressed. It was very good music to dance to, not want-to-break-everything-around-you music. On the clip from 120 Minutes of Nothing, we can clearly be seen bopping around to one of their songs.

Manson: well, this was a rather interesting set. First off, their appearance had changed rather dramatically. Ginger had shaven off his black-and-white dreads, Pogo had hair and one of those keyboards that you play like a guitar, Zim Zum was, well...brand new, Twiggy looked pretty similar, and Manson was covered in so much baby powder (or something closely resembling baby powder) that you couldn't even see his tattoos. No longer was there any breathing room on the floor...about 600 people were behind us trying to squeeze up to the front. They opened with "Kinderfeld" and then "Get Your Gunn," "Dogma," "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," and "1996." Only five songs were played, and at the very end, when they usually trash the drum kit, Manson hit Ginger in the head with the base of the mic stand. He kept playing for a little bit, but then passed out from the blow. The crowd had to be pushed back about five feet to allow the medics to walk him out so that he could go get stitched up.

The screen went down again, and the anticipation really started building. I really could not believe that I was right at the front of a NIN club show. We could see the crew preparing the stage for their set under the screen, and within about ten to twenty minutes, the screen was rolled back up.

The members of the band all came out and took their places: Chris Vrenna on drums, Charlie Clouser on keyboards, Danny Lohner on bass and keyboards, and Kevin McMahon of Prick on guitar. Shortly after everyone was out, Mr. Trent Reznor walked out on-stage, looked around, and smiled.

First song was the customary "Terrible Lie" -- but Trent started off by forgetting some of the lyrics. It was all good, though, because he was smiling and obviously having such a good time that we didn't really care that he messed a few words up. I thought it added something to the show, actually.

Reznor was in very fine form. It was clear that he enjoyed playing these kind of shows with such a personal audience. At many points during the show, he would come right up to the edge of the stage and let people touch his hair and hold his hand. He grabbed my hand and held it up for a good five seconds.

Next came "March Of The Pigs," which stirred the crowd up good. At this point we were very up-close-and-personal with those around us. And about every three seconds, some crowd-surfing moron would kick me in the head with a steel-toed boot. But I was acting as an honorary security guard: Every time one of them would come near me, I would help Lee, the ultra-cool security guy, toss them back.

Then the band performed "Sanctified." They played it the same way they did on the Bowie tour: cool intro, and just a little slower...the crowd chilled out a little for this, but was still going crazy during the harder parts. The lighting was also excellent for this song, with the strobe almost blinding the crowd between the lines of the chorus ("I am justified...," etc.). Next were "Wish", "Suck", and "Down In It." I believe at one point during DII, Trent threw his mic into the crowd, and when one of the roadies went to reel it back in by the cord, there were only frayed wires at the end of it.

At that point, Trent announced to the crowd that he had some special guests that evening. Then the mic was turned over to Kevin McMahon, the driving force behind the band Prick. This was another unexpected treat. "Animal" was played first, then "Tough," and both were executed beautifully. Next came Pop Will Eat Itself's front man, Clint Mansell. Reznor and Co. then launched into the Poppies' "R.S.V.P." I had been waiting a long time to hear them in concert, and even though only a small fraction of the PWEI crew was present, NIN did a great job covering their material. They ended the segment with "Wise Up, Sucker," which was excellent as well. And to think they only charged 15 dollars....

Afterward, Trent took the mic back and went into "Head Like A Hole." The biggest surprise of the night happened then -- for some reason still unbeknownst to me, Richard Patrick, former Nine Inch Nails guitarist and now frontman of Filter, joined the rest of the band on stage and played Reznor's guitar. It was quite odd to see him back with the band after there has been such obvious tension between them in recent years. The crowd was going insane at this point, and I was quickly losing all of the energy in my body. Fortunately, Lee the cool security guard scored me a bottle of water from on stage, thus saving me from completely passing out. They finished up, and the stage went dark, but the crowd kept cheering for more. A few minutes later they all assembled back on stage and played "Something I Can Never Have" for the encore. I was so exhausted that I could not even sing along any more, so I just took it all in, still unable to believe that I attended this once-in-a-lifetime event. Eventually, the last note was played, and I yelled out to the guys individually that they did a great job. It was kinda cool when they acknowledged my compliments with a nod of the head.

With sweat-soaked clothes, and my water bottle in hand, I somehow made it out of the venue without collapsing. Delirium was really setting in, and I am amazed that my friends put up with my inability to function as a human being for as long as they did. Being at the front of the stage for the whole night had definitely taken its toll on me, but I enjoyed every minute of it. We eventually got back to UMass at about 4:20 that night/morning, and realized that we had been up for about 25 hours straight.


And to think that I was just going to say, "Forget it...I have class on that day."


Dave Parmenter (daveparm@student.umass.edu) is a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. (Der, hey.) He is co-author of the Nine Inch Nails Frequently Asked Questions document (version 4.999 and later).

nothing escape next