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Just Like I Imagined: Nine Inch Nails, HEALTH @ Henry Fonda, 9/8/09

September 12, 2009

It was one of the craziest decisions I’ve ever made.

I had decided to not go to the rescheduled NIN show at the Henry Fonda Theater. I had a ticket, but it was as someone’s plus one that would be waiting in line and going in early. I knew there was no way that I would be able to make it back to LA in time for the early bird wristbanding schedule. The only way I’d be able to go is if I were able to score a ticket in my name.

I was driving the rental car to LAX on Monday when a batch of Fonda tickets are released. Apparently you can’t buy them on an iPhone while driving down the 405. So I’m thinking, “OK, this is definitely a sign that I’m not supposed to go to this show”, because I believe in stuff like that.

On Monday night, I finish up my Echoplex review, and then I stayed up for a couple of hours trying to figure out how I could find someone who would take me to the show that would go in late, if I should just fly down there without a ticket and try to get in that way, what to do about my job….I just had a strong feeling that I needed to be there, that if I missed the show and something incredible happened, I couldn’t live with myself.

So I get to work the next morning, totally bummed out, and a Twitter update from @nineinchnails pops up on my phone- ‘A limited number of Henry Fonda tickets have become available’. I bought a ticket. I didn’t even think about it. I had already completed the transaction when my phone blew up with texts from friends telling me to get a ticket because they knew of my situation….all of my enablers!

I quickly found a flight for a few hours later (flights from SF to LA are normally very cheap, so I paid close to three times that for same day booking…3x cheap = mildly expensive), told my friend with a hotel to leave a key for me at the front desk, and then told my boss. Luckily, he is really into music, so he understood…best boss ever! Otherwise, I was going to have to go with the ‘don’t ask permission, ask for forgiveness’ method.

Instead of eating lunch, I ran home and showered and packed. Then I went to two meetings and was off to the airport. I changed in the car in the airport parking garage. I made better time then I thought, so I was able to hop on a flight an hour earlier…which totally saved me in the end.

Landing in LA a little ahead of schedule, I decided to try to save some money and take the Super Shuttle….two hours later I made it to the hotel. I threw my stuff in the room and hopped in a cab to the venue.

When I stepped out of that cab, I had a perma-smile on my face…shaking….I can’t believe I made it!


The line was still to the end of the block, but I didn’t care. For the first time ever at a NIN show, I didn’t care about my spot, I just wanted INSIDE! Due to the projection of the show upstairs, I could tell that HEALTH took the stage the moment I stepped in line.


As I’m moving up, I hear the unmistakable sound of a car crash- there was a head on collision at the corner. I stood there and thought to myself, ‘Here I am, seizing the moment, because you never know what might happen next”.

Once I made it inside, I walked onto the GA floor, which seemed packed. My friends had texted me where they were at the rail, but I grabbed a drink first to celebrate. I’ve never been to the bar at a NIN show before- CRAZY! But the real crazy part was when I was able to walk through the crowd only to find that there was a huge empty space right where I would have stood anyway, right behind my friends who had waited all day! Unbelievable.

I did a happy dance all throughout HEALTH.



I had a much better view of them this time. Their passion and intensity are really admirable.

During the break, I observed Shooter Jennings sitting up in the VIP balcony, which made me insanely happy. I looked around the venue and quickly fell in love with it. Definitely one the most well set up venues I’ve been to. I spoke with a few people around me- it seemed like everyone had an interesting story to share about how they got in, how much they love the band…it’s truly a great feeling to be in a crowd of people who all feel the same as me.

When the band hit the stage and launched into Head Like A Hole->Terrible Lie, I can’t even describe how I felt. Well, perhaps my tweets will convey it:


I was literally jumping up and down with the people around me, grabbing onto them, shouting “PHM all the way through!!!!!” I think a taper had to move away from me.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so upset to hear ‘Sin’. Trent Reznor, you are such a fucking tease!

Onto ‘March of the Pigs’, I started to laugh….it was pretty comical, actually. Especially when we got to ‘Echoplex’- which we all thought FOR SURE we were going to hear at the Echoplex show. This setlist was quickly becoming one big message from TR- ‘Remember, pigs, you never know what I am going to do’.

‘Reptile’. ‘Head Down’. ‘Letting You’. ‘Burn’. ‘Eraser’. Songs I will never tire of, but I must soak them up, because it might be the last time I ever hear them live.

Over the course of the evening, Reznor played keys with a towel over his head two or three times. I’ve never seen him do this before, and couldn’t get a picture of it…but I thought it was interesting. Perhaps it had some aromatherapy treatment on it for his cold….

After ‘Eraser’ (which was great, but will never match the Webster Hall show), Reznor introduced Mike Garson, a pianist who worked on The Fragile. Being able to hear ‘Just Like You Imagined’, ‘The Becoming’, and ‘I Do Not Want This’ with a piano accompaniment was so beautiful.

Gary Numan came out to perform ‘Down in the Park’ and ‘Metal’, with Garson still on piano. It’s weird to say that this was expected- and became the lull in the show for me- but I guess that’s just how NIN shows are: Gary Numan as a special guest was not the highlight of the show. Wow.

The exact moment when the set took a turn was when Eric Avery walked out onstage to play ‘Cars’. So we have Garson, Numan, and Avery onstage with NIN. Seeing Eric play with them brought back a flood of NIN/JA memories.


They were all then joined by members of HEALTH for ‘Anthrax’. That was a lot of people on one stage. And then they all left. The house lights came on, and out comes Reznor. “As you may or may not know, we are kinda winging this right now….it’s supposed to be that the song is over, everyone finishes, and then we come out an surprise you with an encore, but we kinda fucked up with the house lights so just pretend that was the end…thank you, good night!” And he goes to the back of the stage, takes a bow, and blows a kiss! Trent Reznor blew a kiss….hilarious.

It was interesting to see Reznor take an almost ‘Tom Morello-ish during his Justice Tour shows‘ role this evening. What I mean by this is, because of all of the coordination with special guests, Reznor would have to go up and whisper instructions or cues to people throughout the show. It made for a feeling of spontaneity- anything can and will happen.

via synthetik

I had read on twitter that Danny Lohner and Dillinger Escape Plan would be in attendance, but I tried to not make any assumptions, though I insanely desired for them to be special guests. Earlier in the week, there had been rumors that Chris Vrenna would be there- but I knew that was near impossible as he is on tour with Manson.

So when Danny Lohner walked on stage, I was ecstatic. I never saw him play with NIN, so for me, this was a great gift. ‘Heresy’….and then ‘Get Down, Make Love’! I thought I was never going to hear that one.

From synthetik


And then out runs Greg Puciato. I have a hunch that a lot of people in that crowd had no idea who he is. Well, he is the vocalist for The Dillinger Escape Plan– one of the best live bands around, and thusly, one of HRC’s faves. I had been fantasizing about this moment ever since NIN and DEP had a ‘bromance’ (Reznor’s words, not mine!) back when they toured Australia earlier this year. An intense performer to no end, he killed it during ‘Mr. Self Destruct’ and ‘Wish’ (even though his mic wasn’t working well).

From synthetik


And this is where I’d like to present the MVP award to none other than JMJ. The first time I saw him play with NIN, last year in Seattle, I had very mixed feelings (was that really only last year?!). Thinking back to how he seemed awkward and incongruous then, to watching him throw off his bass, take a running start, and dive in to the crowd this evening during ‘Wish’….what a transformation. JMJ, HRC <3's you. He got back on stage and pushed Lohner. He was on fire.


Lohner and Puciato exited the stage, and ‘The Hand That Feeds’ signaled the wrapping up of the show. ‘Atmosphere’ was great to hear after it was scrapped at Echoplex. ‘Dead Souls’, ‘The Day the World Went Away’, all culminating with ‘Hurt’. I couldn’t cry. I wanted to. But I was so happy with this set, that I had made the choice to come, and knowing that I would still have one more show, that I had a smile on my face the entire time.

I hopped on a 6am flight and went to work the next day.

No regrets.

When I receive my credit card bill this month, and am forced to stay home and eat Ramen until the end of the year, I’ll think back on this evening.

Setlist/Special Guests Tracker (from nin.com)
1. Head like a Hole
2. Terrible Lie
3. Sin
4. March of the Pigs
5. Piggy
6. Echoplex
7. Reptile
8. I’m Afraid of Americans
9. Survivalism
10. Head Down
11. 1,000,000
12. Letting You
13. Burn
14. Gave Up
15. Eraser
16. Just like You Imagined (w/ badass Pianist Mike Garson)
17. The Becoming (w/ Mike Garson)
18. I Do Not Want This (w/ Mike Garson)
19. Down in the Park (w/ Mike Garson & Gary Numan)
20. Metal (w/ Mike Garson & Gary Numan)
21. Cars (w/ Mike Garson & Gary Numan & Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction)
22. Anthrax (w/ Gary Numan, Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction & the four members of HEALTH… )
23. Heresy (w/ Danny Lohner)
24. Get Down, Make Love (w/ Danny Lohner)
25. Mr. Self Destruct (w/ Danny Lohner & Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan)
26. Wish (w/ Danny Lohner & Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan)
27. The Hand that Feeds
28. Atmosphere
29. Dead Souls
30. The Day the World Went Away
31. Hurt


  1. jamie:

    thanks for blogging / hyping all of this. bizarre circumstances launched me out of southern california for the foreseeable future and there was no way i could have made it to these last gigs. keeping up with you on twitter made it easier to deal!

    man, i cant believe they brought out mike garson. that man has god-hands.

    cyrus / spinecraft

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