On this date in history, 1/21/1995, I saw Nine Inch Nails for the second time in just 4 months. This one was at the Pepsi Coliseum in Indianapolis, a venue primarily used as a hockey arena.

Instead of the chill of winter and the ice of the sport played on skates, this night featured the incinerating heat of Trent Reznor’s industrial juggernaut at the height of their powers. Touring on the strength of their masterpiece, 1994’s The Downward Spiral, Reznor led his live band through a dizzying set of shifting moods, both visual and visceral.

The opening act was called Pop Will Eat Itself and I kind of remember wishing they would have.

Next up was the ever entertaining Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, perfectly suited to open for NIN.

Nine Inch Nails was supreme in every aspect that night. The light show was staggering, the sound was pulverizing and the band was ferociously focused. Trent made a speech after the first encore and told us he was actually enjoying the performance so much that he decided to double up on the encores, so they wound up playing my all time favorite song of theirs, “Something I Can Never Have.” Other stellar songs included “Wish”, “Closer” (a capacity crowd singing “I want to fuck you like an animal” was definitely memorable), and “Hurt”, complete with some exceptional back screen projection work that was hauntingly intense.

One of the bands that made the ’90’s a special time for music, in my humble opinion.

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On This Date in History

Such a limiting term and framework as ‘industrial’ undermines and underestimates the range and quality of NIN’s music. We give you five entry points to the band as its catalogue approaches its 30th anniversary next year.

Photo by Steve Eichner/WireImage(Lollapalooza 1991)

This article originally appeared on Noisey US.

Whether or not Nine Inch Nails qualifies as an industrial band remains one of the dumbest debates ever undertaken in music. Reviled by anachronistic purists still grousing decades later over how the genre got away from its throbbing, gristly origins, Trent Reznor did his time in the Chicago trenches. With credits on records by Pigface and Revolting Cocks, there should be no doubt of his roots. And yet, as the mastermind behind the most successful musical act to ever be associated with industrial, he still gets selectively snubbed by latter-day scenesters who probably wouldn’t have heard of the EBM artists they purport to listen to without that initial Reznor exposure.

Who needs ‘em? With two Billboard 200 chart-topping albums and three RIAA multi-platinum certifications for full-lengths, Nine Inch Nails (frequently abbreviated to NIN by fans) clearly captured a broader and more appreciative audience. While Reznor has collaborated over the years with legends like Adrian Belew, Dr. Dre, and Adrian Sherwood, the project has largely served his singular vision, one that is both darkly intimate and fundamentally apocalyptic. With a live band in tow, NIN persists as a powerhouse, letting his often maximalist works fill enormous spaces that typically host pop stars and sports teams.

Such a limiting term and framework as industrial undermines and underestimates the range and quality of Reznor’s music. While he’ll never get the credit that, say, Radiohead received for subverting genre while still entertaining the masses, there’s nonetheless a breadth to the band’s catalog as it approaches the thirty year anniversary mark next year. In light of this imminent event, now seems an entirely appropriate time to help guide you into the NIN discography.

So you want to get into: Hedonistic Heavy Metal NIN?

Twenty five years ago, industrial music changed forever. The September release of the Broken EP shoved all of that leather-clad nastiness and rubbed raw flesh of that truly subversive alternative scene into the oily faces of teenage American suburbanites like a stranger’s filthy unmentionables. After an alternating intro of static and drum, the jarring single “Wish” exploded like a nailbomb with its opening line – this is the first day of my last days – and mangled riff, only to detonate a secondary charge with its epic metal chorus. Taken from a subsequently banned longform video that seemed to portray a grisly murder, the song’s accompanying clip featured the band caged and writhing in performance while a surrounding horde of neo-neanderthals attempted to break through and tear the gents asunder. This display was unsettling even by MTV Headbangers Ball standards of the day, and it laid the groundwork for Nine Inch Nails’ imminent full-on mainstream breakthrough.

The sadomasochistic concerns of Broken and its even more depraved remix companion Fixed were not new ideas in metal specifically or in music generally. Yet rarely had the metaphors been so simultaneously overt and grave as on flagellants ode “Happiness In Slavery.” Continuing that shadowy sexuality, 1994’s The Downward Spiral opened with the sound of a literal beating, leading into the devastating and dogmatic “Mr. Self Destruct.” Recorded at the former home of Manson family victim Sharon Tate, nihilistic numbers like “Heresy” and “Reptile” exude dread and terror even as they appropriate metallic tropes including gratuitous soloing on the latter.

Yet all these brutal guitars existed to mask extraordinary pain, with painstakingly confessional lyrics both whispered and screamed. Never known for poetic qualities, heavy metal has rarely matched the topical tenor of “The Becoming” or with anything resembling Reznor’s grace. While later records considerably dialled back the aggression, NIN always seemed to leave a little room for it to return.

Playlist: “Wish” / “Mr. Self Destruct” / “The Idea Of You” / “Last” / “Heresy” / “Survivalism” / “Somewhat Damaged” / “March Of The Pigs”

So you want to get into: Naughty New Wave NIN?

Like scene progenitors Ministry before them, NIN didn’t start out as an industrial band, all gnashing gears and percussive pistons. Drawing obvious influence from the new wave and new romantic likes of Adam Ant, Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan, Reznor followed the synthpop path set by Al Jourgensen’s early gothy groover With Sympathy on 1989’s full-length debut Pretty Hate Machine. Some real NINcompoops will try and convince you that the Purest Feeling demos are worth tracking down, but the official versions of cuts like “That’s What I Get” should suffice.

Though the genre often gets stereotyped for having an artificially bright sound, genuine darkness prevails with some of its finest practitioners. Numan’s Tubeway Army provided the necessary connective tissue between glam and new wave, and the connection between that group’s “Are Friends Electric” and “Down In The Park” with NIN’s “Closer” and “Every Day Is Exactly The Same” should be apparent to even the laziest of ears. While Reznor lacks the pipes of Dave Gahan or the idiosyncrasies of The Cure’s Robert Smith, he shares their glamorous glum on Pretty Hate Machine’s “Sanctified.”

Even as Reznor’s career progressed into the 21st century, a nostalgic appreciation for the purer electronics of his youth persisted. In recent years especially, the synthesiser freak has doubled down on these sounds for atypical singles like “Copy Of A” and deep cuts like Not The Actual Events’ “Dear World.”

Playlist: “That’s What I Get” / “Less Than” / “Copy Of A” / “Every Day Is Exactly The Same” / “Dear World” / “The Wretched” / “Closer” / “Sanctified”

So you want to get into: Aggro Arena Rock NIN?

If the first time you ever saw NIN live was from the elevated VIP pavilion with a craft cocktail in hand at one of the big corporate American music festivals like Coachella, chances are you’d be into the more rockin’ stuff in the band’s catalogue. While more conventional hard rock had crept its way into the fatty folds of lardaceous double disc set The Fragile, it took centerstage on 2005’s perfectly-titled comeback With Teeth. Guitars had regularly played a role in Reznor’s discography, but comparatively meatier bits like “The Collector” and “The Hand That Feeds” seemed to match the once wiry frontman’s now noticeably musclier beefcake image.

After years of terrifying stadiums with nightmarish noise, the more palatable fare of With Teeth and its dystopian 2007 follow-up Year Zero no doubt reflected a maturity for an artist on the so-called wrong side of 40. Ever the studio whiz, nuanced compositions like “The Beginning Of The End” and “1,000,000” offer sonic depth and even surprise, hardly the lumbering lunkhead rockers of your standard Nickelback clone or ageing arena axeman. Strip away a few layers of distortion and an arty indie vibe emerges amidst some of this tougher material. Case in point: 2013’s critically-acclaimed Hesitation Marks showed off an unlikely angular approach with the boppy “Everything.”

Playlist: “1,000,000” / “The Collector” / “The Beginning Of The End” / “We’re In This Together” / “Everything” / “Discipline” / “The Hand That Feeds” / “Where Is Everybody”

So you want to get into: Tortured Torch Songs NIN?

A most improbable balladeer given the violent tendencies of much of the NIN discography, Reznor has been crooning since those Pretty Hate Machine days. The pining of “Something I Can Never Have” provides a suitable introduction to this satisfying section of his oeuvre.

Led by Reznor’s vulnerable voice, these tracks showcase a pensive sensitivity that generally gets buried in the waves of electronics and guitars. Most proper NIN albums boast at least one such example, as do the EPs. So impactful is this material to the fandom that the band could confidently choose the drumless “The Day The World Went Away” as The Fragile’s lead single, an otherwise audacious move in the five year album gap following The Downward Spiral. It peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, NIN’s best ever showing there.

Not surprisingly, these are the songs that provide respite from the fury evident during the band’s live shows. An indisputable classic, “Hurt” remains a showstopper, its heartrending contents proving eternal relatable to those whose lives his NIN’s music has touched. Worth noting: it even garnered a cover version by none other than The Man In Black himself, Johnny Cash.

Playlist: “Something I Can Never Have” / “Right Beside You In Time” / “Find My Way” / “The Fragile (Still)” / “The Day The World Went Away” / “The Great Below” / “Lights In The Sky” / “Hurt (Live)”

So you want to get into: Moody Ambient NIN?

Much like the noteworthy industrial musician Graeme Revell of SPK before him, Reznor made a fruitful transition into soundtrack work. Even before becoming director David Fincher’s go-to guy alongside partner Atticus Ross, that penchant for evocative sound design manifested both inside and apart from NIN, from the spare piano-led drone of “Another Version Of The Truth” and the delicate shoegaze of “Beside You In Time” to his discomfiting score for the PC video game Quake. Listening to The Downward Spiral’s beauteous breather “A Warm Place,” one might be bold enough to draw comparisons between Reznor and ambient pioneer Brian Eno.

Those who really want to bliss out or sulk should seek Ghosts I-IV, a nearly two hour long collection of original instrumentals. While some of the material spread across these four contained volumes recalls more song-oriented NIN material, a great deal of it truly celebrates serene motifs and clandestine diversions. Though considered primarily for completists, it could perhaps serve as a less caustic entry point into Reznor’s vast sonic worlds.

Playlist: “A Warm Place” / “13 Ghosts II” / “Another Version Of The Truth” / “Beside You In Time” / “Hand Covers Bruise” / “30 Ghosts IV” / “Adrift & At Peace” / “Videodrones; Questions”

The Guide to Getting into Nine Inch Nails

Did Trent Reznor play one of those irritating “living statue” street performers on the most recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Namaste”? The question should immediately strike you as odd. For one thing, Reznor doesn’t act (although he was once briefly slated to make a cameo in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which didn’t actually end up happening). For another, if Reznor was going to make an attempt at acting, it seems unlikely that his debut would arrive in the form of a brief cameo on Curb.

And yet, after watching the episode, some Reznor fans are convinced that this was, indeed, the Nine Inch Nails frontman, decked out in silver, on the HBO sitcom.

site, it’s difficult to tell how much of this is meant to be a joke and how much of it isn’t… but the theory points to the cover of Strobe Light, a fake NIN album Reznor announced on April Fools’ Day 2009 as a way of satirizing Scream, Chris Cornell’s much-maligned foray into pop music. See, there’s a certain item Reznor wore on the Strobe Light “cover” that… well, here have a look for yourself:

Boy that’s co…incidental. Funny, but coincidental.

Few things in life would make me happier than imagining what the fucking fuck Larry David and Trent Reznor talked about while Reznor was on set, but I remain unconvinced. I guess we’ll see if Reznor says anything about the theory in the next few days…

Conspiracy Theory Posts That Trent Reznor Recently Appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm

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On this date in history, 9/10/1994, I traveled to the Ball State University campus in Muncie, IN, to see an incredible show at Emens Auditorium featuring Nine Inch Nails, The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, and Marilyn Manson. To say that this show brought out an interesting crowd is a massive understatement.

Marilyn Manson – Sweet Dreams

I was so mesmerized by the collection of enticing goth girls and assorted bold fashion statements worn by the members of the incoming audience that I barely took notice of Marilyn Manson during their opening set. I would rectify this poor decision with a quickness in the following weeks, but at the time I spent most of their allotted time simply people watching in the lobby as the fringes of society converged on this prestigious venue to witness this wonderful collection of alternative possibilities.

The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow:

 

bindlestiff-circus_photo-royvolkmann_hr

The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow featured bizarre displays of physical abnormality performed by characters such as The Enigma and Mr. Lifto, all energetically emceed by the charismatic and manic Jim Rose, who participated in the show by laying shirtless in a pile of broken glass with a heavy female volunteer gleefully standing on his back…and he never stopped talking during the entire stunt.

 

The main event was the brainchild of Mr. Trent Reznor, the incredible Nine Inch Nails. This was at the height of their popularity and the lights, sounds, and sheer physicality of the performance was absolutely riveting.

nine-inch-nails-1994Reznor designed the light show himself, and it dazzled with enough strobe lights to cause seizures, but also featured some disturbingly haunting imagery in some of the best screen projections I have ever witnessed at a concert.

Nine Inch Nails – March Of The Pigs (Unclean Live) 1994

This was my first NIN show and would not be the last. Actually, I’m hoping to see them again now that they have new music to bring to the faithful.

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

 

On This Date in History

Chicago – Reckless Records on Milwaukee Ave – 6pm Tonight. Live Q&A Event with Nine Inch Nails.

Details below.

Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Jawbreaker, M.I.A., Wu-Tang Clan, New Order, and many more to play Chicago festival

Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, and a reunion of seminal punk band Jawbreaker top this year’s bill. Other notable acts include M.I.A., Wu-Tang Clan, New Order, Prophets of Rage, Paramore, Beastie Boys’ Mike D (spinning a DJ set), and TV on the Radio.

Among the other confirmed acts: Ministry, Death From Above 1979, Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill, Peaches, Action Bronson, Vic Mensa, Hot Water Music, Liars, Shabazz Palaces, Gogol Bordello, the Mike Patton-led Dead Cross, The Cribs, Beach Slang, FIDLAR, The Hotelier, and The Orwells.

Also of note is the inclusion of Bad Brains, which marks the band’s first announced performance since it was revealed that frontman HR needed brain surgery.

As always, Riot Fest will wax nostalgic with 90’s and early aughts-era punk, ska, and emo band like New Found Glory, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Lawrence Arms, The Menzingers, Buzzcocks, Fishbone, and The Story So Far.

There are 25 acts still to be announced in May. Plus, on Thursday, April 20th, organizers will reveal which select artists will be performing their seminal albums in full.

General admission and VIP passes go on sale today at Noon CST through the festival’s website.

Nine Inch Nails – Less Than

Live Q & A With Nine Inch Nails Tonight!