Not Just the Ticket — #58, Lollapalooza ’92, Sept. 12 1992

Lollapalooza 1992, Irvine Meadows

Festival lineup from headliners to openers: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Pearl Jam, Lush

Back of ticket ad: I suspect KLSX was already looking forward to adding an act like Pearl Jam to their full rotation if they hadn’t already.

I’ve marvelled a bit at the ticket prices I paid before and this really is no difference. Granted these were of course the cheap seats, ie the lawn area at the back of the venue, and there’s always inflation to bear in mind, but that’s still an amazing price no matter what, given what I know of most current festival pricing.

Meantime, welcome to Orange County, welcome to Irvine. Welcome to my now big local venue.

I’d long since bought this ticket earlier that year, of course, up wherever I was in LA at the time. Unlike last year, I knew at least a little of what to expect. Strictly speaking, everyone did — this wasn’t Lollapalooza, the shoot the moon/hail and farewell to Jane’s Addiction, this was the big alternative festival, almost in capital letters at this point. It wasn’t simply huge, it WAS huge, and was almost immediately the focus of all sorts of attention this time out. The other breakout band from Seattle that wasn’t Nirvana was on the bill, plus one other Seattle band to boot. The LA band that wasn’t Guns and Roses that had broken huge over the previous twelve months was headlining. One of the biggest and most avidly followed hip-hop MCs of the time was on the bill. However much this was packaged and marketed and what have you, this was music as larger event than just music in more than a few eyes.

Which probably included mine, I couldn’t imagine not. I had my own reasons for being there — the three other bands I haven’t mentioned yet, actually, being my priority, most especially Ministry — plus I was going with a clutch of friends from LA, replicating and extending the group that went the previous year. Steve, Kris but many others as well, it was a bit of an extended holiday in a way, and an extension of my LA time just a little bit more. Only instead of going down to OC with them they were going to come along and pick me up along the way, being only a few miles down the freeway from Irvine Meadows. The big shift had already begun.

It had already been heralded a bit by the previous month, my trip to the UK for the Tolkien Centenary Convention at Oxford, visiting friends throughout England and Scotland, an absence that underscored the inevitable change upon my return. I ended up not seeing any shows when I was over there, though I remember being tempted at one point to see if I could sneak over to Reading to catch at least part of that year’s festival — with hindsight I wish I had done, but I would have been pretty much on my own and not too sure what to do, a still pretty sheltered 21 year old on his first trip overseas. It may say more about my somewhat unadventurous side than I care to admit, but such is life. I did end up picking up a slew of albums unavailable in the US — including, very crucially, Disco Inferno’s In Debt, the beginning of a fandom that has continued without change to the present day — and I had the fun experience of going to Ride’s stated favorite record store in their area of Oxford. Plus there was also the unique feeling of reading Melody Makers the day they were released, itself a bonus.

But back to the US with me, back to SoCal, and then down to UC Irvine and settling into prep for grad school and organizing my bedroom (the first time I had a bedroom to myself in four years! that was one phase of undergrad life I was more than happy to leave behind me) and setting up my CD racks and figuring out where the radio station and student newspaper was and and and…and then Lollapalooza. I seem to remember watching the car with my friends come driving up and me heading down the staircase of my new apartment building — grad school dorms, in essence — with undisguised glee. A last little bit of hopefully carefree fun before whatever it was I’d gotten myself into kicked into full.

It was definitely another hot, clear if still somewhat sticky day, as almost every day in September around here is like; by the time we arrived at the parking lot we were all probably overheated and about ready to just stake a place somewhere on the lawn and zone for a while. If the location wasn’t a new experience for me at this point some details were, including a slew more of booths and exhibits and what have you all scattered about the concourse area next to the amphitheatre itself, plus a second stage for acts. Apparently my new bete noires Rage Against the Machine headlined said stage and drove the crowd there into a frenzy but I honestly don’t remember the stage or anyone on it at any point, so I can’t have spent much time there aside from grabbing something generic on the food front. (And I can’t have been too exploratory there either — probably the psuedoburgers the official concessions folks sold.)

Up in the lawn area I can’t remember too much of us doing anything big besides sitting around with the scattered crowds waiting for Lush to kick things off. This ended up being the last time I saw one of my hands down favorite groups of those years; they did tour America again for further releases but somehow I kept missing those shows until it was too late, when Chris Acland’s suicide ended the band on a tragic note. It would have been nice to say that they absolutely killed it at this show — and funnily enough it wasn’t the first time they’d played this venue, having ended up on a mixed bill headlined by the Sisters of Mercy the previous year that I had to miss. But whatever familiarity gained by that didn’t quite translate here; while they weren’t bad or anything they were stuck being the opening band on a long hot day in a venue that they wouldn’t’ve been able to fill even a tenth of on their own, however strong their fanbase was at the time. Miki wore white I think — a sensible decision — and their combined sound of sonic cathedral reverb and sharp hooks felt pleasant instead of truly crushingly big. The applause was polite and a lot of people were waiting.

What they were waiting for happened almost immediately afterward and I’m still a bit stunned by it. That Pearl Jam had become huge I wasn’t surprised by, that they had become THAT huge in the space of nine months, when I had last seen them for the Fugazi-headlined Rock for Choice show, was almost stunning. Their position on the bill had long been locked down but in terms of where they should have gone they might as well have been headlining — the parking lot was already full and so was the venue, every seat filled and the lawn area similarly packed too. It was the last time I would ever see the band — and while I think this was the legendary show that Chris Cornell joined them for to do Temple of the Dog songs, I’m not sure (the festival was there for two nights), it was already clear that the obsessive fan relationship with the band was getting well and truly established. Not only were some utterly unknown songs to me getting sung by nearly everyone around, at one point Eddie Vedder invited some kid up front to trade off verses on either what was a new or obscure number. Beyond that I just remember a lot of hair and jumping around a bit.

Which made the contrast to what happened next the most inadvertantly funny — and hilarious, and telling, and much more — thing that entire day. It was a little over two years since I’d seen the Jesus and Mary Chain on what had been a strangely magic summer night in LA, and they’d been top dog on the bill there at the Palladium. Here they were midrange in the bill — and like Nine Inch Nails the previous year, seeing JAMC in this kind of mid-afternoon light and weather really didn’t work. But more to the point, this unquestionably great band, touring on a partially great album with Honey’s Dead, had to be feeling like yesterday’s news in the worst way when they came on stage to a now nearly empty amphitheatre. Not stark empty, but everyone who had been there to see Pearl Jam could, it seems, care less about them and had headed off to mingle or eat or see the other acts or just talk about the great set they’d seen.

This had to have been the case throughout the entire tour, I’m guessing, but the setup of this venue maybe made it worse, who knows. I certainly was there to see them and from my perch in the lawn section it was a good enough show. But at some point, I forget when, Jim Reid had finally had it, seeing a constant stream of people heading out or milling about or probably just ignoring him in the pit. So between two of the songs he looked out at some bunch down front or around the area in particular, pointed and, in the broadest Glaswegian I’d heard to that point in my life, shouted into the mike, “LOOK! THE WAY OUT’S OVER THERE, YOU FOOCKIN’ COCKSOOCKERS!”

We all sympathized with him up top but there wasn’t much we could do except laugh at his frustration, which I’m sure we did. Sorry about that.

Soundgarden were up next, the third time I’d seen them that year and by virtue of my distance from the stage and general familiarity with their performances on this tour it was the least of those shows, but still pretty good by any other standard. I seem to recall Chris Cornell looking or sounding a little tired — the tour as a whole was about to wrap up and maybe he just wanted to go home after what had been a busy as hell year for him — but they did pretty well demonstrate why they were so unimpeachably great before stepping aside to let Alice in Chains rule the next twelve months (after which is when Nirvana and Pearl Jam both came back and…well, you get the drill; Seattle really did seem like the center of a rock universe then).

Ice Cube’s performance is one that I should remember better than I do. It’s frickin’ Ice Cube, after all, and I am absolutely sure he started with a blistering version of “The Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit.” The Predator was either just released or about to be and “The Wicked” had to have had an airing for that reason as well but beyond that it’s a bit vague in my head. I wonder what he was thinking as he saw the end of this tour coming up, especially since Dre was about to take over the airwaves with The Chronic and further introduce the world to a guy called Snoop Doggy Dogg…but speculation is just that, and all I was was the random dude who knew about him but honestly didn’t know his work all that well. Seems like strangely ancient history now, that mindset, that time.

By now it had to have been getting plenty dark, and from where I was that was perfect given who was about to appear, and who I was finally getting around to seeing. Ministry had been a band that had in some ways defined a lot of my UCLA time — I first heard them a few weeks after starting there when The Land of Rape and Honey came out and had been impatiently waiting on the release of Psalm 69 earlier that year, grabbing it the day of the release, and then there was everything in between. But I’d still not seen them, and given that we were still two months away from the election of Clinton they still, as I would see it in retrospect, made sense, a sprawling, angry rampage against the previous decade-plus’s wound up mess of institutional hypocrisy thanks to the right. I overstated the exact politicized nature of Al Jourgensen and company in my head, perhaps, but they still made a perfect soundtrack for my angrier moods that year.

Which is why when Al came out on his cowboy hat and started speaking in a George Bush impersonation about the ‘new world order,’ with the band pounding into the melodramatic introduction of “N.W.O.,” everything felt just perfect. The combination of light show insanity, skulls on stage and on the mic stands and the overdriven metal/electronic fusion that I’d learned was ‘industrial’ in my first experience — and finally seeing it live — was manna from heaven for me. It all careened along from there, marred only by the weird fact that while Gibby Haynes joined them on stage, they didn’t in fact do what I was most wanting to hear, “Jesus Built My Hotrod” — instead, he took over Chris Connelly’s part on “TV Song,” saying something about ‘Bain de Soleil tans’ and the like. Figures.

One other thing of note, though — at one point, standing where I was in the lawn area, a body flew past me. A little startling, you might agree. It wasn’t a dead body or anything, it was quite alive, if somewhat out of control as it plowed across in front of me by a couple of inches from my right to my left and then down the hill. Curious, as you might guess, I turned my head to the right. It was then I discovered not merely the many fires that had been started in the lawn section — a tiny touch of what was already becoming Burning Man, I guess — but that huge moshpits had been created, one of which had already taken up a lot of the central area. Which I was now bordering, as I realized with due concern seeing as a slew of people were hurtling along at less than an arm’s length from me. I found it in myself to ask Steve, a former high school linebacker, to switch places with me.

That left the Red Hot Chili Peppers to close out the night, and I have to say it was a bit exhausting. I had never been much of a fan either way outside of a song or two and had regarded their ascent to commercial godhead with a certain indifference — didn’t seek them out, didn’t ask that the radio be switched over or off when they came on. I don’t remember any big sense of megaanticipation, more than anything I was kinda wiped by the day, but they kept at what they were doing energetically enough. John Frusciante, who later became my hands down favorite member of the group thanks to his varied if sometimes upsetting solo work, had already left that year for his extended hiatus, but whoever it was standing in for him did well enough, I guess. Anthony Kiedis did a lot of prancing around, Flea was, well, Flea (no animal pants this time out) and Chad Smith played drums as he does. Yay rock, I guess.

I remember bits and pieces — a rampage through “Magic Johnson,” the title track to BloodSugarSexMagik actually feeling pretty sweepingly powerful, and so forth. Oddly enough I don’t remember “Give It Away” or “Under the Bridge” at all but I half suspect that I was slightly distracted by Kris’s friend Amanda at this point, given that she had decided to take off her top and wear only her bra in response to an invocation from Anthony to the crowd. She wore it well.

I do remember the flaming helmets for the encore when they busted into some Hendrix — not “Fire,” I think, but “Crosstown Traffic,” a good enough version. The whole thing must have seemed a bit like a crazy homecoming for them, the hometown (well, LA area rather than OC) kids made good and happy to be the new funk/rock/metal/whatever gurus with Jane’s gone. I think I was mostly out of it but happy to have been there, part of it all, whatever it all supposedly was. But eventually I was mostly happy to get to my new home and sleep.

Not Just the Ticket — #16, Lollapalooza, July 21, 1991

Lollapalooza 1991

Full line-up from the top: Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band

Back of ticket ad: 75 cents off a steak fajita melt from Jack in the Box. Oh don’t tempt me. Really, don’t tempt me. Don’t catch my attention at all. Go away and die.

Browning, ragged but oh so clear, this ticket, telling me to be rebellious, outrageous, to take the day off — which would have been easy since I wasn’t working on Sundays anyway.

And yes, this show, this festival, this whole thing, the whole kit-and-caboodle. And here we go into ‘the nineties,’ I guess.

It wasn’t like there hadn’t been some sort of high profile alternative festival of some sort before in America — and I’m not talking about Monterey/Woodstock/Altamont/etc, that was old, that was something people went to before I was born. Dismissive and somewhat snotty of course but that was the point, I remember the only kind of nostalgia fest in 1989 about it being the twentieth anniversary of Woodstock that I enjoyed were the Randee of the Redwoods ads on MTV. But there had been, as I mentioned in the Charlatans entry a while back, the two Gathering of the Tribes festivals in 1990 organized by the Cult, and little surprise that it took a band who had been through the far more well established festival tradition in Europe to prompt the idea of an equivalent over here. It may not have received national attention but it did capture the imagination, and was the role model in my head.

And it wasn’t the first package tour that had come through and made a mint in my own memory. For me that was the Monsters of Rock in 1988 — Van Halen, the Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come, quite the quintet to scratch one’s head at now. I hadn’t gone but I knew plenty of people who did, so none of that was surprising, that one could get a bunch of acts together and take it all nationwide and make something out of it. Putting it and whatever alternative was meant to be together in one place at one time *and* taking it on the road, that was the stroke of some kind of genius or marketing elan or bookers’ backroom agreement or whatever it was.

I’m trying to remember the perspective among those of us who went. That was a group of at least three — myself, Steve M., Kris C., all KLA people, all duly sarcastic about many things, all intrigued enough by the idea to get tickets as soon as they went on sale, all rather dulled to the idea that this was supposed to be something deep and meaningful. Mostly I think I was looking forward to this as a chance to see some bands again — the Buttholes, NIN — some bands for the first time, especially Siouxsie, who had become a massive fan of in the previous years, and one band for the last time, or so I thought. Jane’s Addiction had already started going on about how they were going to be breaking up shortly and this tour was the swansong, this was it. (I seem to remember at least one friend of Steve’s saying that they had to already be planning a reunion at some point — whoever it was, I salute you for your perspicaciousness, because it was more on the ball than mine.)

So more than anything else, that’s what I was looking forward to, that and the to-me novel experience of a full day’s show in the sun at a venue I’d never been at before. I vaguely recall getting together what I called a ‘summer goth’ outfit, given that Siouxsie were on the bill and all — which I’m pretty sure consisted of a black T-shirt of some sort and black shorts. Hey, it was hot out (and it was, and while I salute the full-on goths that DID go in the full outfit down to the last spike of the hair and all, you were all collectively demonstrating why I could never go that route around here…it is too — damn — HOT). Thus dressed up (or down), I joined up with Kris and Steve and off to Irvine Meadows, as it was called back then before Verizon bought everything.

Steve had done Irvine Meadows shows before and thus warned us in advance about what he called the Bataan Death March between the parking lot and the venue itself — time makes it seem like more of a slog than it was, but the heat would have made it a slog even if it was a distance of fifty feet. Built into a hill looking out over the flat terrain of east Irvine and the El Toro air base, the venue itself wasn’t anywhere near as huge as Dodger Stadium but it was still a pretty impressive sight for a first time visit. We had ended up getting seats in the grass section at the back, probably at Steve’s suggestion, meaning we brought along a towel or two for sitting on and claiming a spot more or less in line with the stage on the steep grass section as noted. Bright sunlight, a distant stage.

Down below in a little sort of courtyard area we’d passed by a vague collection of dispensers of some sort of clothing and food and the like down below, which probably made me think more of the similar sorts of people I would see with their booths at UCLA every so often. The crowd trickled in as it did and so did bootleg T-shirt sellers wandering around — and I picked up two, as they were both of better quality than the official T-shirts being sold (which featured a terrible fractal design that looked nothing like the design that had appeared in the print ads for the whole thing). I had god knows how much sun block on and the three of us relaxed and chatted away and listened to the announcements from the KROQ feed coming through and generally shrugged our way along through till, as Steve said, “Grandpa Hank” showed up.

Thing was that the Rollins Band, Butthole Surfers and Ice-T sets all kinda blended into each other. I’d seen the Buttholes already, I knew Rollins’ own solo work vaguely, and Ice-T was, well, Ice-T — EVERYONE knew who he was, even if you had the albums and singles or not. But the memories of the heat and shimmer and general ‘I think I don’t want to move all that much’ impulse meant that it was all this undifferentiated flow of stuff from down below, no matter whether it was Rollins going on about things or Gibby and crew once again doing things with sirens and vocal distortion and Ice-T introducing a new little project of his called Body Count that would yet be heard from some more. If it was a dawn of a new era, it just felt…hot. As noted. Though I do remember two gothed-up women happily grooving to Ice-T down in front of us, which felt about right somehow.

And then as things were sorta/kinda drawing towards late afternoon and the shadows were sorta/kinda starting to stretch out some, a whole bunch of fog appeared on the stage — to our general amusement because it just didn’t quite work. Nonetheless there had to be some sort of atmosphere going and Trent Reznor wandered on, singing the song “Now I’m Nothing” I’m pretty sure but I’ll probably get corrected there by someone along the line. For the first time I remember the crowd actually getting pumped up, people coming into the audience area to stay rather than to rubberneck briefly and then leave. We were all fans and we loved it pretty well, even if some of what was on stage looked a little familiar from our various past times observing Mr. Reznor at work (“Okay he’ll tackle the keyboardist right about now…”). But for the first time in the whole day there was an actual energy, a reason to be there, rather than a sort of sense of ‘well this is all an interesting experiment I suppose.’ Then again that was probably just my head talking.

Living Colour was enjoyable too — I’d liked the band for a few years, Vivid was actually one of the first CDs I bought back in 1988 — but I admit I was thinking that this would be a good time to get a burger or something. It’s a bit of a sad fact but I wasn’t the only one thinking that — still, I caught a good chunk of the set, including what remains my favorite song by them, “Type.” Siouxsie and the Banshees was way more to my interest and, happily, by that time it was actually dark and the stage lights needed to be on. They were touring for one of their most uneven albums, Superstition, but even that had a killer single in “Kiss Them for Me” which made up for the dull stuff like “Got to Get Up.” (Based on one the Twice Upon a Time singles collection they also did a lovely version of “The Last Beat of My Heart” but I admit I don’t remember that at the time.) Combine that with a rip through “Peek-a-Boo” that was an understandable audience hit given how it had owned KROQ three years back and what I’m pretty sure was the conclusion, a fiery “Dia de Los Muertos,” and there was, once again, an actual sense of full energy at work.

That left Jane’s. By this time we all had to be a bit tired and exhausted; even with the sun fully down and night settled in it had been a long day by default thanks to the lack of shade and the general sense of not wanting to move or do much — and two to one says this is a large part of the reason why I’ve never been to Coachella yet, but that’s another story. And I couldn’t be surprised by Jane’s now as I had been earlier that year; like NIN or the Buttholes I had a context to draw on. Still, I was figuring that knowing that they were that good — and that they were playing one of their last hometown shows, as the tour had only just started and was going to make its way across the country from there on out — that the show would be a barnburner.

So it proved, even if it was the familiar touches that hit the hardest — “Been Caught Stealing” completely beating the heck out of the recorded version, “Three Days” being the monster anthem that it always was, “Jane Says” getting the crowd singing along. Lights and glowing skulls and all sorts of Mexican-inspired art everywhere on the monitors, what looked to be a bunch of people going insane down in the pit, it was all a way to see things out, whatever sort of vague only-clear-in-his-head vision Perry Farrell always had for how huge Jane’s should have been or how huge they were going to be or whatever it would be. I’m sure there were more rants about this and that during various midsong breaks, maybe even something about the following year’s election but I doubt it.

It couldn’t have felt like it was going to be the start of something at all, it felt like it was going to be the end, a definitive one. The end of Jane’s and then things would just keep going from there in musical life, up against ‘the mainstream’ or whatever it was supposed to be. There wasn’t a feeling of rebellion in the air at all, there was just a lot of exhaustion at the end of a long day, waiting for the parking lot to clear some so we could leave and make our way back north. I’m sure Kris and Steve and I just talked our way through all that and back up the freeway. Lollapalooza would go on about the country and then…

Who knew?

Remembrance of electronic angst past

A little under eighteen years ago, I was standing in about this same place with the same view below. It was a little earlier in the day, the sun was out more and all, but the stage was still filled with fog and at the center of it was an individual wearing black, on tour with his band on a multi-act bill, playing the song “Terrible Lie” just like was the case when I took this photo last night at what was Irvine Meadows Ampitheatre and is now called Verizon Ampitheatre or something similar.

Hi there, Trent Reznor, leader of Nine Inch Nails. Glad to have you back again and all.

I hadn’t been planning on attending this tour, actually. The announcement of a Nine Inch Nails/Jane’s Addiction co-headlining tour earlier this year — named, with a strained logic, NINJA — caused a flicker of interest, certainly. As I hope has been made clear enough via a variety of past posts, I am quite the fan of Mr. Reznor and have been for years, and have seen him enough times to know he puts on a show and all.

Meantime, Jane’s Addiction has been through enough revivals and the like that I admit my eyes long since glazed over about anything involving Perry Farrell running out of money again (or whatever drives him to reassemble the band every so often). But the fact that this time around the one member who had actually been my hero for never participating in the reunions ever since the original breakup back in 1991 decided to come on board this time — bassist Eric A., whose majestic work, simple but devastatingly effective, on songs like “Up the Beach,” “Summertime Rolls,” “Mountain Song” and “Three Days,” says it all (note how he starts each song, how that bass is at once warm, inviting and powerful, setting the entire tone of each performance that follows).

Still I was kinda unsure. Then my friend Tom picked up an extra ticket in payback for the Depeche tickets I’d scored for us and a mutual friend earlier this year and I figured, “Well, why not?” At the same time, having learned that they were playing at this particular, my own back and forth again qualms about reunion and retrospective shows came roaring back. It’s not that this was planned by the bands per se — this is a venue that acts regularly play and all, that’s the whole point of it to start with. But inevitably I could only flashback.

1991 was the year of the first Lollapalooza, Perry Farrell’s attempt to translate the spirit of the Reading Festival in the UK to the US, only via a collective tour instead of a fixed location. No need for me to go into detail about it but the smash success of said tour and its immediate successors, combined with that of similar tours covering other general styles, helped lay the eventual groundwork for that kind of fixed-festival location approach that now dominates summer shows, with Coachella being the obvious forebear there in turn. Whatever else one may think about the two related models, their impact on assumptions of how music is packaged, seen and appreciated is now simply a baseline commonplace.

And there I was, twenty years old, going to enjoy the show. Some acts I’d already seen, others I was finally seeing for the first time. That included NIN and Jane’s both, who I’d actually seen earlier that year together in LA, NIN being the opener there of course. They’d only just started to fully catch fire over the previous year, where Jane’s at that point were legitimate hometown heroes — only Guns’n’Roses were bigger as a rock act when it came to LA and they were already in a stratosphere all their own, where Jane’s were rapidly rising but still just enough of a personal secret of sorts, a classic example of being able to catch a band still arcing upward.

What I remember of both Lollapalooza sets was that they were pretty good — Trent’s aggressive/artistic approach to performing and staging was already well set, and if everything since then has been little but refinement, it’s because he’s always been able to throw poses and shapes with the rest of them, if not better. A friend once said that he destroyed industrial music in order to save it, and while that’s an exaggeration it does sum up the endgame approach he ended up playing — the logical product of a previous decade’s music wrapping up everything in a ball of wax and figuring out how to sell it back to America. What matter if he looked a little goofy playing Pretty Hate Machine songs in almost total daylight when darkness and bright lights suited things better, really?

And Jane’s were Jane’s — one of those acts that was always better live than in studio, much as I love the studio work. I regret not seeing them more at the time than I did — there’s a Palladium show from late 1990 in particular I wish I could have seen, with the Pixies opening; happily that show is included in the new Jane’s box set. But like Radiohead, for instance, everything great about Jane’s in studio kicked up so much more live — the versions of “Three Days” I saw them do at those shows remain jawdropping moments of absolute perfection, willful self-rock-god deification that worked.

Last night Tom, his friend Sue and I made it into the parking lot and discovered that Trent was opening this night, and in fact was about to play. I admit nothing was going to stop me at that point and as soon as I could I found myself at the point where I took the photo, sitting back against a barrier and letting it all happen. A great set, certainly — I’d been told to keep an eye out for Ilan Rubin, the drummer (thanks Brad for the trip!) and he was a monster but also knew how to do things subtly — not bad for someone who was only a year old when Pretty Hate Machine came out. Meantime plenty of people in the crowd were younger than that too, emphasizing the weird time-warp feature that was running in my head during the entirety of the show.

Another time warp thing was more unfortunate, but reflected the last time I saw the band in 2007 in London — a set list that relied heavily, too heavily really, on The Downward Spiral. A great album then and now, but also not an album I need to hear again, it’s pretty much inculcated in my memory. Frankly it’s the newer stuff I keep wanting to hear from Trent and company, as well as the interesting oddities like (as played last night but this link is from a few days ago) his cover of Gary Numan’s “Metal,” first done in studio about fifteen years back. But that was relegated to the side for the most part — only about four songs or so were even from the whole of this decade, doubly frustrating given that this has been his most productive yet, releasing more albums in the past five years than he had done in the previous fifteen. And to be sure, the killer conclusion of “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like a Hole,” (the latter from an earlier show but anyway) a smart combination of then and now, was worth it.

Still, it fed into the whole sense of grinding my wheels a bit — I understand why he takes this approach, and maybe I just keep catching him on the wrong nights (more than most he varies up his set lists). Of course, if I was eighteen instead of thirty-eight and this was my first time seeing him I’d be feeling a LOT different. And on balance it was a fine show, no regrets.

But after that, as we were waiting for Jane’s, Tom, Sue and I talked and we all agreed — we didn’t need to stay. Home sounded pretty inviting and Jane’s, well, even for me and even with Eric A. on board, Jane’s just wasn’t thrilling me as an idea this time around. I would have been happy to see them if they were opening for NIN but that was not the case this night, and I’d already literally been there and done that with both bands, NIN opening for Jane’s, twice before. I didn’t need a third time — and NIN, at least, had always kept going, a one-man band of course but still, working, touring, releasing, being busier than ever, resting on past laurels to an extent but never actually stopping. Not the story of Jane’s by a long shot, where the jokes about their inevitable reunion were being made back in 1991 even before their final shows then.

So we left, and as we did so we heard the opening notes of “Three Days” begin, Eric A.’s basslines prompting the crowd into a huge roar. I hope they all had a great time. I already had.