Letters to Holly

Friday, March 17

I Have Been Exploded

We left Mayberry around 4:30 and made it to Greenville by about 5:30, plenty of time before the show. Because that town offers so many more eating options than Brevard, we were flush with choices. We picked Barley’s Taproom and used the parking garage just one street behind the restaurant. We had beaten the dinner rush, but remembered that Barley’s can be slow to serve and we grabbed a copy of The Beat (formerly MetroBEAT, my paper) and Link, the Gannett weekly allegedly designed to put MetroBEAT out of business. There’s a whole conspiracy theory behind daily papers squashing alt-weeklies by stealing the advertisers at a virtual revenue-loss rate. Even if true, my old paper slit its own throat.

Inside The Beat, Your Sister finds an ad for a new production of A Doll’s House and is keenly interested. We’re gonna try to get tickets for a show next weekend. In Link, I find many ads for St. Patrick’s Day parties, including an ad using a drawing I did for a local bar. It was technically a commission piece: a partying leprechaun for March party. I got two t-shirts out of it with my design on them. Still, I figured they would have found another piece of art to use by now. It was a bit of a shock to flip the page and see my guy there. He has to be three years old by now.

After eating, we sashayed down to the venue and ran into a collegiate running buddy of Your Sister. They went on foreign study together. He was strolling with two kids and his wife who also went to Furman. It was a fun little chat until I mentioned we were going to a concert. What concert? Nine Inch Nails. And shock swept over them as if I said “and then we’re going to tattoo our eyeballs.” But they wished us well and we parted ways.

Got to the venue a little after 7. My God, the youngsters. We skewed the age curve hard and became so conscious of it that we spent a good half hour guessing the age of passersby, hoping to see people nearer and above our age. We had great seats, elevated off the floor and right in front of a wall. No one was sitting behind us. We immediately noticed that the floor area was general admission; there’s no way I would risk that mob during this show with a wife in tow. The opening act hit right at 7:30, a rapper named Saul Williams. More of a street poet, really. The kind of act that spends so much time railing against hip-hop clich├ęs and society’s ills that he forgets to bring the party like a good MC. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I liked it. We used this time to test our earplugs, making sure they felt right. It was a very noticeable difference. Everything was crystal clear, just turned down several notches on the speaker dial. I could hear every word Saul spoke. He played for about thirty minutes.

Unfortunately, NIN didn’t hit the stage for another 45 minutes, an interminable wait spent watching the stage crew and drunken audience members. But when they did hit the stage, it was like a bomb went off. For two hours.

I am utterly wiped out. I hurt, I ache, my voice is shot, and I’m blinking too much. I’ve had workouts that weren’t that intense. But am I complaining? Oh, no. I stepped into a Wind Tunnel of Awesome. A raucous, hard-rock party filled with an audience and band losing their collective minds to stomping, screaming rock and roll. They played stuff from all over their career, which I realized last night stretches through half my lifetime. I was in complete glee. Your Sister was hearing much of this stuff for the first time, and she seemed to dig it too. Part of the reason I’m so shot is that the arena was smothered in smoke. Once the audience realized the band was going to launch dry-ice fog for the entire show, they all lit up, and the air was like we were walking through a forest fire. Compound that with me screaming lyrics for so long, and yes, my voice is hammered.

Once, and only once, did I take out an earplug to test the noise, and holy crap. Imagine standing behind a jet airplane as it ramps the engines before takeoff. That’s what it sounded like. We looked like goobs with our plugs, but we’re able to hear today. The show ended with their first single “Head Like A Hole,” and the band thanked us and destroyed some instruments. They did this not in a “we’re so very angry” attitude, but one of “this means there is no encore” style of communication. They left the stage, the lights came up and the roadies started dismantling the stage. Nine Inch Nails hit the stage, never stopped playing, and left. There were a few nice moments like when lead singer Trent Reznor tossed water bottles into the crowd to hydrate the moshers or when he chucked a microphone into the crowd so they would sing while he played guitar. It was a fantastic show, and I’d see it again today if I could.

We drove out of town and found a Walgreens to buy drinks. I needed carbonation to soothe my throat and bought a big enough Pepsi to burp my way merrily back up the mountain. We got home at about midnight. I used my cellphone to record bits of the concert, and as I listen to them today, the clips sound like they recorded an exorcism.

Picture of the Day

I tried to find something to convey the full elation and glory of the show. The best visual representation is Hulk Hogan playing guitar in front of Old Glory. Feel the rock!

Bonus: A picture from the show taken from the band’s website. We’re in the picture, just tiny. We’re just next to the top edge of the guitarist’s left shoulder.


In the news
The news is that my ass has been rocked off.

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