Two days ago I had the great pleasure of attending a marvelous demonstration of 90’s nostalgia. It took me back to a time when cutting my arm seemed hip and edgy. A time when people would wear black non-ironically. When Trent Reznor was king.
I arrived at the Nine Inch Nails show just after the opening band had finished. Years ago I would’ve been lining up outside before the doors even opened. Nowadays I use that time to get a nice little buzz on at home before arriving just in time for the headlining act. I’m kind of a busy guy like that who doesn’t want to waste his time on opening bands. Plus I totally forgot about the concert until the day of so I wasn’t prepared to go straight from work. This shows you just how much I cared in the first place.
Luckily for me getting into the show wasn’t a problem. There were no lineups and I walked right past security without the after show joint in my pocket being discovered or discarded. I immediately started weaving through the crowd using my ninja instincts trying to find the correct aisle. I arrived and luckily enough the bar was right across from it! This was just too perfect. A feeling of dread comes over me when things work out in my favour. I always feel that any amount of luck that comes my way will be immediately followed by a devastating event which will force me into a year long wrist-cutting fest that will end with a trip to the hospital and a stomach pump.
I walk up to the bar and see a girl I work with near the front of the line. I chatted with her a bit and was able to put my order in with hers bypassing the line completely. They didn’t serve doubles there which was a temporary setback but I was happy enough not to let that bother me. I had only been in the stadium for 5 minutes and I already had a drink in my hand. Things were going great and I knew something had to come along that would destroy my world.
I started to hear some commotion and assumed that the show was starting and I should get to my seat. The first few songs I didn’t recognise but it sounded like it could be Nine Inch Nails so I assumed it was(I wasn’t sitting very close so I couldn’t tell by sight alone). The situation became more confusing when my friend arrived and asked “Is this them?”. I began second guessing myself and thought that maybe it was another opening act. The crowd reaction seemed a bit more excited than it would usually be for an opener but perhaps I was so out of touch that someone else famous was onstage and the main event hadn’t started yet.
Finally about three songs in he started playing something I knew. The audience went crazy and the energy level jumped higher than a russian blacksmith riding a horse! It as if a totally different crowd had just arrived to replace the zombies who formerly occupied the seats. It was at that point that I began to feel sad.
I have a lot of respect for Trent Reznor as both a songwriter and a teen idol. The way he’s been releasing his songs for remix and giving away whole albums for free in recent years really shows that he’s willing to try new things and not be the same old, past-his-prime starsearch reject. Oddly enough I even like a lot of his new material and promise to listen to more of it when I find the time.
But it’s not his old material.
Myself and most of the recovering goths at the show didn’t go to see him perform songs from his latest album. Most stopped following his career well before the turn of the millennium and were looking for a return to the good old days before painting your fingernails black was cliché(it always was but let’s pretend for the sake of this post). We all wanted to tear up the place and show all the squares that we weren’t down with their button up shirts and penny loafers! To me the whole night looked like the residents at a retirement home hunched back in their wheelchairs watching one of those old musicals where a little orphan goes to war and kills a bunch of koreans or something like that.
Now in my own musical “career” I haven’t played many gigs but the one thing all of them had in common was that nobody really cared about what I was doing. I would practice for weeks and try to tweak the show just right for maximum entertainment value and the end result was a group of 6 people consisting mostly of my friends acting like they’re paying attention to what I’m doing onstage. A lot of times I could hear the conversations in the audience louder than the music I was playing. If I asked anyone about what they thought of the show I could be assured that 9 times out of 10(not that there were ever 10 people) they would give the most elaborate and constructive answer of: good.
The point that I’m fumbling about for here is that I know what it’s like to be up there and doing something you feel really strongly about that has a deep emotional meaning and have nobody give a shit about it. The whole show I was expressing my sympathy for him. You can tell the man cares so much about what he does and really went all out to try to please the audience. The unfortunate part was that the audience only wanted to hear songs that were almost 20 years old. It’s a pity that a great artist is forced to re-live his glory days for a bunch of corporate sell-outs who are more interested in re-living their own glory days instead of hearing some new and interesting music.
I shouldn’t act surprised as I doubt this phenomenon is rare. No one is really interested in hearing new Stones or Devo tracks. The ear always craves familiarity and newer songs by definition lack that trait. I just fear that one day that old guy on stage will be me. Of course that would also mean I would have to have been popular and relevant at one point in my career.
I’m not holding my breath.