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The Beginning of the End: Nine Inch Nails, The Horrors @ Bowery Ballroom, 8/22/09

August 23, 2009

I decided to approach this show like I was going to see any other band. I went to dinner, and went to the show shortly after the doors opened. It felt weird to not wait in line all day, but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. I just wanted to see what it felt like to casually approach a NIN show; plus, I wanted to spend time with my friend and in NYC instead of being in NIN tunnel vision mode. And since the venue only held 500 people, I thought my chances of still getting a good spot were high.


The line was long, but it didn’t take long to get inside. We saw quite a few people with signs looking for tickets, and it was nice to see that some of them made it in later on. Upon entering the venue, we went straight for the bar and took shots. I was definitely in full celebration mode for this show.


To be able to have the opportunity to see my favorite band play in such a small venue really overwhelmed me. I kept it pretty cool all day, but it all hit me once I walked onto the main floor. Holy shit- it was an amazing space to see any band, nonetheless, my absolute favorite. We walked in and were able to stand 4 people from the barrier on Robin’s side- an amazing spot.


The Horrors promptly came on as we took our spots. I turn around to check on my friend, and JMJ and Brett are standing there enjoying the show. We say hi, and some others notice JMJ and start asking for pics, so he leaves soon after. I saw The Horrors between NIN/JA shows in May. I really love their first album, Strange House, and was looking forward to hearing songs from that since they didn’t play any at the last show. However, they are still on a Primary Colours only streak. I enjoyed the set more this time because I was prepared for that. Faris was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, which I thought was a hilarious contrast to their Joy Division meet The Smiths dynamic. They played for about thirty minutes. Towards the end of the set, JMJ came back and chatted with my friend some more…then Trent and Mariqueen walked by. It was as if they were all just attending the show, and weren’t about to go on stage and play. Surreal.

In between sets, I chatted with some random fans about how exciting all of this was, and how lucky we felt for being there. Then I heard someone call my name. My real name. Most of the NIN community only know me by HRC, so I kept thinking it wasn’t me they were talking to. And then a girl emerges from the pit, points at this guy, and says, “he has an Echoplex ticket for you”. Amazing! I don’t know how they know me, my name, and my need for that ticket, but I almost broke down in tears from the gesture right there. I was supposed to meet this guy after the show, but couldn’t find him….so who knows if it’s true, but it is seriously the thought that counts.

When the band hit the stage, the crowd roared to life, and every inch of space was promptly sucked out of the pit area. I had purposefully worn an outfit that was not pit- friendly so that I wouldn’t be tempted…but I was able to work my way into such a good spot that I couldn’t resist. I was leveraging my 3.5 inch bitch boot heels to keep me upright. They worked pretty damn good.


‘Somewhat Damaged’ is my favorite opener for a NIN set. I’m glad they went straight into ‘The Beginning of the End’ after that- because it fit perfectly. The pit was sweaty but not too ridiculously rough. I’ve realized that I enjoy NIN shows more when I’ve slept, eaten, and am a bit back from the rail in the energy of the crowd. I just felt like I was a part of the music, moving along with the crowd.


I knew it was coming before it happened. I heard the first note and made the leap…’Something I Can Never Have’. If you read this, you know that this song has special meaning for me. I hadn’t heard it live in years. I did pretty well until the end, when my eyes welled up and tears started rolling down my face. It was a good cry. Yay for waterproof mascara! And then they went straight into ‘Reptile’, which is one of my all time favorites. Definitely one of the best song pairings I’ve experienced at a NIN show.


I was in ‘the zone’. The show, maybe more than other NIN shows I’ve been to, had no place and time. Even though the impressively small venue and the importance of the beginning of the final shows weighed heavily on the beginning of the set, I soon lost all of those parameters and floated through the rest of the set inside of every NIN record and memory I have. I wasn’t in New York City, it wasn’t 2009, it was just NIN. And it felt amazing.


Trent had a few short speeches throughout the night. First, he spoke of how it felt good to play in a small venue again, where he can see faces. Later on, he talked about how they used to play a lot of NYC shows in the beginning, when they ‘sucked’. “We’ve done some sucking in our day”. He asked who had seen them back then, and a few people shouted and raised their hands. This was indicative of the mostly young crowd. He also commented on how the stage was so small, there was no place for him to hide out and drink tea. Later on, he introduced the band.


When introducing ‘Down In It’, another song that I hadn’t heard in a long time, he talked about how this was an old one, and they had started the rap/rock genre.


The crowd surfer situation was very interesting. Surfers who came over the barrier had to jump on stage and exit at the back. I was waiting for someone to behave badly and lunge for a mic and/or a band member, but everyone was well behaved. It was awesome.

The set was long- over two hours. And, like during the LITS tour, it ended with ‘In This Twilight’. It was interesting to go back to that format….that song is so tied to the visuals for me that it felt like something was missing at first. But, it is a great final song.


This might have been my favorite NIN show ever. If this was the only final show I’d gotten tickets for, I’d have been happy. It was raw, small, emotional, and unpredictable in comparison to other recent shows. I didn’t get any of my wishlist songs…but I still have a few more chances for that.

After the show, we had a drink in the bar before leaving. JMJ was leaving, and stopped and asked us if we enjoyed the show. We chatted with him for a bit, reconfirming that he’s the nicest person in music. He talked about how they are already getting sentimental about this being the end. It was great to be able to tell him that of all the NIN shows I’ve seen, this was probably my favorite.

In a few hours, I’ll be doing this all again at Webster Hall. Today, I love my life.

Setlist (from nin.com)

1.Somewhat Damaged
2.The Beginning Of The End
4.The Collector
6.March Of The Pigs
7.Something I Can Never Have
9.Meet Your Master
10.Banged And Blown Through
11. Burn
12. Gave Up
13. La Mer
14. Non-Entity
15. Gone, Still
16. The Downward Spiral
17. Wish
18. Heresy
19. Survivalism
20. Down In It
21. Hurt
22. The Hand That Feeds
23. Head Like a Hole

— encore —

24. Echoplex
25. The Good Soldier
26. Dead Souls
27. In This Twilight

~All photos by Christine Kohler / @bluelily425

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