Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Words "Pete Doherty" and "Hottest" Should Never Appear in the Same Sentence

Hm, when exactly was it that Christmas turned from a cherished childhood tradition into an extended military campaign? I think, for me, it was when the husband and I bought a house. Then someone in my family said something along the lines of "Why don't we have Christmas at YOUR house?" And I, underestimating the daunting task ahead, said, "Sure." So this turned into me at the last possible minute (because despite the approaching holidays they still expect one to work full-time) cleaning the whole house from top to bottom, decorating, buying and wrapping gifts, baking multiple types of cookies (as I have been the designated family baker for years now as well), picking up my mother from Indiana, taking her to church, and then putting my mom and husband in charge of dinner because by the time people actually arrive to celebrate the holiday I am on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion and/or a migraine. And everyone has SO much fun that Christmas at my house becomes another family tradition, and I have to go through this every year now.

(Conversely, New Year's transforms from watching Dick Clark on TV with your parents, drinking sparkling grape juice and going straight to bed at 12:01 into something considerably more interesting in adulthood. So there's that compensation at least.)

So that's why things have been quiet on the Maise front over here at PP. But I just had to post when I saw that the readers of NME have voted on "The 20 Hottest Men in Rock." (Quotation marks both to signify the title of an article and for ironic purposes.)

Of course, a certain someone we know is TOTALLY FUCKING ROBBED, and it is one of the great injustices on the internet, but I think these NME readers must be of a certain age and must be into a certain genre of music. You know, the kind where the guy threatens to steal your jeans. (barf)

So I'll comment on several of their choices:

I guess if I had to be stranded on a desert island with any of their picks, I'd go with the Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson, but only because he has certain Gabriel Miller-esque qualities that make my heart go all pitter-patter:

But in general, as noted on Jezebel, pretty much all of their choices look exactly like this guy:

(Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys)

I mean, it's not that I don't like skinny, pale English guys...Damon Albarn, YUM...but I think I'm just too much of a child of the '90s to embrace these anemic, anorexic hipster indie/emo types. I mean, most of them just look either too hungry or snobby to want to go to bed with a girl.

Now this guy on the other hand actually has actual qualities of sexiness, although I'm not too familiar with Muse, other than the singles I've heard on the radio, which are okay:

(Matt Bellamy)

As does this guy:

(Jared Followill, Kings of Leon)

Meanwhile, I don't think it's possible for them to provide a worse picture of Jack White of the White Stripes and Raconteurs:

And THIS is just fucking inexplicable:

Who the fuck wants to fuck sweaty, scabby old Pete Doherty? Okay, NME readers, you guys have fun recreating the withdrawal scene from "Trainspotting" with Pete. You can lovingingly caress his collapsed veins and open sores. Then, maybe when he passes out, you can steal his wallet or something. I mean, to each his/her own, but goddamn.

You can see all of NME's skin-and-bones, melanin-deprived picks here.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good News & Bad News

A few weeks ago Trent hinted at, but did not elaborate on, a change up not only for the stage production but also the current lineup as we now know it. Good news is that Robin is definitely NOT going anywhere. Bad news is that it can now be confirmed that Alessandro Cortini, along with Josh Freese, will be leaving the band after the first of the year.

From, one of Alessandro's side projects, he posts:

thank you.

December 13, 2008

It’s been exactly 4 years since i joined Nine Inch Nails and the time has come for me to move onto new things.

I feel a need to explore other paths in music and life which leads me to leave the tour at this stage.

I am grateful of the chance i was given: it doesn’t happen every day to be able to work next to some of the most talented people on this planet.

Trent & Co. have been aware of this decision of mine for a while now and are prepared to take the band to the next step.

Thanks to all the fans who welcomed me at the beginning of my journey and supported me through the years: I hope to see you around here or there.


And from Josh Freese's MySpace blog:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why I'm leaving Nine Inch Nails

So, I've been wanting to write something for a while now explaining why I am leaving Nine Inch Nails at the end of the year. Not that it's THAT big of a deal or important compared to other real shit going on out there in the world but I figured I'd take a minute out to explain anyhow. I know a few people are aware that I'm having my 3rd child in January and basically....that about SUMS IT UP!

I've just been gone too damn much lately and if I hadn't spent so much time on the road in recent years (between NIN, A Perfect Circle, Devo, Sting, The Vandals) coupled with having 3 kids (come January) then I'd still be out on the road in the new year. It's just that the rate that NIN has been touring (and will continue to tour in 2009) is something that I can't keep up with right now. My kids need their Dad around and I want to be around for them. I am definitely not retiring or "done touring" by any means though. I just need to be home a bit more next year.
I am not leaving because I got a better offer from another band or because I don't enjoy's one of my favorite situations I've ever been involved with and I already miss it (though we still have 5 more shows to play).

If you saw a NIN show in the past 3 years then you'll know that to say I LIKE playing up there is an understatement and that I give it my all every night. It's much more than a "job" or a "gig" for me. I'm a big believer in Trent and his music and feel fortunate and privileged to have had the chance to work along side of him and be a part of what he does for the past three years. It is something I am truly proud of and he makes most the other ones out there feel pretty small time. I have faith in the notion that we'll work together again at some point, in some fashion. But for now I need to go teach my 7 year old boy how to ride a bike.....nothing can really compare to that (except maybe an all night hotel coke session with some hookers.)

While it's nice to know that both are leaving on good terms, unlike the blowout with jeroME that landed Josh the job in the first place, they are leaving some big shoes to fill.'s been great watching you guys do your thing with Nine Inch Nails and you will be missed.

Here's some video from the show last night in Vegas of Trent's speech to the audience.

And here's an interview conducted pre-show by a fan from the website Pink Is The New Blog. This is seriously one of the best Trent Reznor interviews I think I've ever watched. Subjects include end of the tour, what's to happen after, Trent's music listening habits, old videos that have surfaced via YouTube, and, what Maise will probably think is the best part of the whole thing, missing his dogs at home. Kudos to the boys who put it together for asking good questions and reasonably maintaining their cool. Enjoy.

Oh and if you're wondering about the link under the video (Trentisthenewpink) it's not a reference to El Rez. Just so happens that the kid who runs the site is also named Trent.

Checking in with Trent...

12.11.08: Regarding NIN music used at Guantanamo Bay for torture
It's difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you've put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture. If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued, with any potential monetary gains donated to human rights charities. Thank GOD this country has appeared to side with reason and we can put the Bush administration's reign of power, greed, lawlessness and madness behind us.

Trent Reznor

And from one of our own readers:
I'm sorry for saying this here but I fear if I say it on I'll be blacklisted but Trent has really annoyed me with his latest bit of political grandstanding (about 4 years too late) - his latest comments on Guantanamo Bay - [see above]

Really Trent, what about pregnant women being murdered to start race wars like Sharon Tate? I'm surprised he doesn't break into Guantanamo and nick someone's slipper as a 'really cool momento' like he did her door. He's also been known to say that he'd watch a snuff movie - so apparently on his list of outrages he'd care about, fundamentalist religious madmen are right up there - but pregnant women and poor innnocents tortured for the edification of rich men who want to wallow in the darkness are right at the bottom! Bah, sorry I had to get it out and I really want someone to say something to mitigate what I think is deep hypocrisy - because I do love his music but think sometimes he really should just shut up (you know what you get if you wallow in darkness for years, someone using your music for torture) - I'm really sorry to rant.
Now I'm not going to try and slay our reader here because I do think she has a right to be upset with Trent to a certain degree. He has been known to be a hypocritical ass in the past to lesser charges and I'm sure anyone of us could name multiple instances where we wished he'd shut the fuck up but I think he's got a legit reason for his public outcry on this one. True, he may not have the most pristine track record for saying no to violence having admitted to watching snuff films and, hell, even making the "Broken" movie might make one think that this sort of action is right up Trent's alley BUT I think there's a slight difference between a morbid personal curiosity and having something you created be actively used in the present day for the torture of others in the manner in which the US Government is doing so.

Was it the most mature or politically correct thing to keep a door from the Sharon Tate house as a memento? Probably not. But to say that he has no right to be appalled at this recent discovery and that he should instead just shut up is is something I'm going to have to disagree with you on. Actually I would be upset if he hadn't said something about this. Staying silent would be, to me, the same as condoning it.

I am curious how others feel about this, whether it be about our reader's comment or the situation in general, and encourage further discussion. I'm not out to slay anyone in their opinions unless, of course, you agree with bassist Stevie Benton of Drowning Pool (refer to pg2 of article linked above) who believes this to be "an honor." In that case, it is my civic duty to inform you that you are indeed retarded. That is all, for now.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Hand that Feeds Amanda Palmer--Part II

Okay, so I needed some time to catch up on work and wanted to wait until we had all our audio-visual material uploaded, so that I can provide suitable examples, but now I can tell you all about The Coolest Thing the Places Parallel Girls Have Ever Done, Seriously.

So, on Wednesday, December 3rd, I weaseled my way out of work early, and Iris and I packed up all the food (in our Glad family of products...I felt just like a contestant on Bravo's Top Chef!) and a crock pot, just in case the Metro was poorly equipped, and we set off in a light but traffic-jamming snowfall to the Metro on Clark Street in Chicago.

Now, the Metro is located very near Wrigley Field, which is a notoriously rotten area to look for any sort of parking, but we were very fortunate to find an open meter just across the street from the venue. We were early, so we took to a bar for some liquid courage, as we were both feeling pretty nervous at this point.

But we arrived promptly at the doors of the Metro at 5:30, as requested. Steve, our contact, happened to be waiting outside, and he had us wait just inside the lobby for Kat, another member of the Danger Ensemble, who would escort us backstage.

The Metro is a tiny venue, so it's not surprising that the artists have a tiny area to themselves backstage. The walls are painted all black, and there is some curious decor:

All sorts of people were already backstage...including Amanda Palmer (gasp!) who was sitting in a recliner, being videotaped by someone. It was hard to tell who was who...performers, fans, etc., and to tell the truth, it was all pretty intimidating. Kat led us into a room that was loaded with food brought by fans, and I sheepishly realized that I could have probably gotten away with bringing hummus and pita. I asked her if there was any kind of microwave, and to my infinite disappointment, she said there was not. Seriously, Metro? You can get a microwave at Target for like $60. Kat assured us that it would be okay if the food were cold, but we strongly recommended that we go back to the car to get the crock pot and at least heat up the soup. But inwardly, I was fretting because the tacos would remain cold, and who really wants a cold veggie taco? In addition, although crock pots are very handy for keeping things warm, they're not exactly known for their speed in reheating things, so I then became The Girl Who Neurotically Fussed Over the Crock Pot for 90 Minutes. The only open space for said crock pot was right in front of a mini-fridge, so I was also The Girl Whose Fucking Crock Pot was in the Way of People's Cold Bottles of Water. Oh, why, I inwardly lamented, why didn't I just think to bring hummus and pita or sandwiches, like this guy Chuck who sat on a couch with his Sullen, Silent Female Companion? (Although I have to give props to Chuck for providing me with a ladle.)

The fans who provided food all sort of huddled together silently and terrified in a corner of the room. It was an awkward atmosphere, let me tell you, although it was also very interesting to be a fly on the wall backstage. I wish I could tell you that I was cool, but I'm not cool. I'm a total fucking dork, and when confronted by people I like and admire, my brain function decreases by a good 40%. When Amanda strolled by, doing her vocal exercises, my conversations with her were completely profound and scintillating, like this:

Me: So, did you get to enjoy Chicago at all today?
Amanda: No.

Amanda (lifting up lid of tacos): Mmmm, this smells good!
Me: Yes, they are veggie tacos.

(Note: I didn't actually see her consume any of my food, as she didn't want to be "too full" for the performance, which is understandable, especially since my food was very bean- and lentil-heavy.)

Nope, nope, nothing like "'Leeds United' is the most amazing song" or "The first Dresden Dolls album helped me survive a very difficult time in my life" (cheesy, but true) or any of the things I'd actually want to say if I were theoretically to encounter Amanda Palmer.

Also, she was doing warm-up exercises and flitting around here and there, and although we probably could have made her pose for pics or do silly videos, and I'm sure in her extreme generosity, she would have gladly obliged, but Iris and I were both struck by the desire to let her prepare for the show and relax in peace. So our documentation of our time backstage is, unfortunately, limited to some pics we took on the sly:

Although dreadful performance art group, Pony Spread, kindly posed for a picture with us. (I'm sure they're wonderful people beyond their dreadful performance art):

But Iris did get a chance to present Amanda with a t-shirt that she had made for her. As you may know, Amanda's had some problems with her record label lately. Among other issues, they criticized the appearance of Amanda's TOTALLY not fat stomach in the "Leeds United" video, sparking the online "Rebellyon," wherein fans have been posting pictures of their own less-than-whippet-taut bellies as a "fuck you" to the execs at Roadrunner Records. Anyway, in one of Amanda's blog posts, in response to the controversy, she threatened the life of a My Little Pony. Therefore, in Iris' t-shirt, the ponies get their revenge.

Amanda was delighted with the shirt and started showing it off to people, whereupon Iris' head exploded with joy, which was a little messy, but it was worth it.

So they had us hanging out awkwardly backstage for about 90 minutes, and then they informed us that it was time for the show! Now here comes the glowing part of this review. I mean, I'm not a professional rock critic, so I basically pay money to see the artists that I like, and more often than not, I like it. So the haters can suck my metaphorical balls if they're not happy to hear that this show fucking rocked our faces off!

First up were The Builders and the Butchers. It takes a very special opening band to get me enthused, as many times I view opening bands as my punishment for arriving early. But this indie group from Portland, Oregon, is more than up to the task, with their heavy percussion, use of eclectic instruments (banjo, accordion, mandolin, etc.), audience participation (at one point, the lead singer passed out maracas and tambourines, so that audience members could play along), and infectious melodies. A lot of reviewers label their music as "dark folk" or "reminiscent of gospel," but it reminded me a lot of Irish rock, like Flogging Molly, but without the accents.

This is one of the few times that an opening band had me enjoying every note, as opposed to checking my watch and shifting my weight from my left to right foot, killing time before the opening act. I wish that their set wasn't so short, and I'm looking forward to their next appearance in the Windy City.

Next up was the amazing solo cellist, Zoe Keating. This woman is extremely coordinated, as she handled all the pre-recorded parts on her laptop herself during her performance. Her music is like the most mesmerizing, mournful soundtrack to all the movies in your head:

Zoe Keating is an amazing musician, with incredible poise, even when her computer crashes on her. ANOTHER opening artist that I didn't want to see leave the stage.

Then...we had Pony Spread. Like I said, I'm sure they're nice folks, and maybe it's just my personal bias against some of the more esoteric forms of expression, but I HATE HATE HATE the performance art segments of Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer shows. They had a Christmas-themed performance for us during which impish reindeer simulated masturbation, Santa was crucified, a girl was persecuted by women dressed like the Virgin Mary(?), the reindeer and the Virgin Marys attempted to force Santa to rape the girl, but they were thwarted by a woman dressed all in black who was the girl's true love or something, and Santa blessed their relationship, and it all ended happily ever after or some shit. I mean, I guess I just wish it wasn't so cliched...I mean, crucifying Santa? Zzzzzzzzzzz...give me more Zoe Keating.

Next, we had...oh NEIL FUCKING GAIMAN read a "eulogy" for Amanda Palmer IN PERSON. NEIL FUCKING GAIMAN! Apparently, he and Amanda are working on a book together to accompany the whole "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?" murder mystery that I couldn't keep up with online. Hopefully it will all show up in the book, and we'll know who killed her in the end too.

Amanda came onstage in her usual dramatic fashion and opened with the infinitely awesome "Astronaut." Seriously, I'm, like, fucking OBSESSED with this song these days. And watching the video again gives me goosebumps.

Onstage, she was accompanied by the Danger Ensemble, backup dancers and performance artists who do it right (take note, Pony Spread). They managed to be thought-provoking and convey their interpretation of the music without being obtrusive.

Pretty much anyone who's into the Dresden Dolls would enjoy Amanda's solo work, and she's never less than electrifying onstage, banging violently on her piano, her leg flying beneath her. I'm probably more of a fan of her uptempo songs: "Runs in the Family," "Guitar Hero," and the superb "Leeds United," all of which made an appearance in the setlist. The one songwriting weakness of Amanda Palmer, I'm afraid, is that she's got just a few too many songs that sound like this:

But I do enjoy the lyrics of "Ampersand":

"The ghetto boys are catcalling me
As I pull my keys from my pocket
I wonder if this method of courtship has ever been effective
Has any girl in history said 'Sure, you seem so nice, let's get it on'
Still, I always shock them when I answer, 'Hi, my name's Amanda'

And I'm not gonna live my life on one side of an ampersand
And even if I went with you, I'm not the girl you think I am
And I'm not gonna match you, 'cause I'll lose my voice completely
No, I'm just gonna watch you, 'cause I'm not the one that's crazy..."

Or maybe I'm the only one who identifies with that, in a way. Anyway.

One of my favorite songs of the evening was one co-written with Neil Gaiman: "I Google You," which is meant to be an Ella Fitzgerald/Frank Sinatra standard for the internet age. We've got a portion of this recorded, but unfortunately, our nemesis for the evening, a particularly zealous Metro security employee, kept zeroing in on Iris (despite the HUNDREDS of other people taking photos and videos) and forcing her to stop recording:

Because of Our Nemesis, we are not able to bring you video of the chilling ode to school shooting, "Strength Through Music," the rousing "Guitar Hero," the playful lip-synching to Rihannna's "Umbrella," or the climactic, infectious closer, "Leeds United, complete with horn section.

Amanda was available to sign merch after the show, but we eschewed the long lines and made our way backstage to get our coats, signed posters, crock pot, etc. During the whole show, I had been brooding about the culinary disappointment of the evening...that I couldn't even get my damn soup sufficiently reheated. But then! Like a Christmas miracle, when we stepped backstage, we could smell the delicious, comforting aroma of my soup in all its glory. The crock pot had finally brought the soup to its optium temperature, and I started getting all kinds of compliments! Kat from The Danger Ensemble enjoyed a bowl, and the horn section were *particular* fans. I felt so vindicated and overjoyed, I can't even tell you. I hope that Amanda and the gang got to enjoy the leftovers as well as heat up the tacos in their microwave on the bus because seriously, those are some upscale veggie tacos...made with tawny port!

One of the horn players kindly provided some video testimonial with regard to the awesomeness of my soup (of which he consumed multiple bowls), but unfortunately, he uses my real name in the video, so it's not going up here. But trust, was a success!

Iris and I left the Metro that night absolutely thrilled. We had had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cook for one of our favorite musicians, hang out backstage, and then see a kickass show that we'll always remember. So when the Amanda Palmer Experience rolls into your town, I can of course, recommend it, and I'd like to add that it's well worth it to bust out your wok, Cuisinart, baking pans, crock pot, what have you, to feed her as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Hand that Feeds Amanda Palmer, Part I

So as a faithful fan of Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls, I am of course on their mailing list. And towards the bottom of Amanda's U.S. solo tour announcement, I saw a curious plea:

"FOOD: you CAN help us with THIS....two different ways, even... feed me, The Danger Ensemble and our crew when the show hits your town! we had wonderful luck on the european tour, now it's time to try this in the states and we're getting ORGANIZED, baby.

we works hard. we tours. we's is hungry. we needs sustenance. we needs good food sourced from righteous places, prepared by YOU. we are hungry for HOMEGROWN ingredients: local, organic, sustainable, grown by family farmers or grown by YOU! yes!

the way this works: you bring food for us, we'll keep it backstage, we'll all perform, then we'll eat (with you, of course) after the show. obviously we'll hook you up with tickets and merch if you do this. and cover you with love, and probably give you some beer, and toast to the health of you and your progeny.
veggie options a huge plus, but most of the crew are carnivorous.
jason and i are both pescetarians (aka vegaquarians, aka fish-eating) kat from the danger ensemble will be your point person, but steven will be fielding the emails.

send to and format your email like this:
FOOD: CITY. he'll pass it along to kat."

I like the people in my life to feel nurtured and well-fed, so I decided to answer this clarion call. I emailed the aforementioned Steve and offered up two of my favorite recipes: Giada De Laurentiis' Spicy Italian Bean Soup (chock-full of hearty veggies) and soft vegetable tacos with a tasty tawny port sauce. Dan will note that these recipes are not only delicious but also vegan-friendly (assuming you skip the cheese and use vegetable stock in the soup, of course).

So I waited and waited and waited for a reply, wondering if I was going to be called to cook for the December 3rd show at the Metro tonight in Chicago. Finally, last Sunday, I received a reply from Steve:

"This sounds awesome if still availabile.. let me know if you can.. but basically the deal is.. if it's possible for you.. come to the venue at 5:30 the night of the show (ask for Kat from The Danger Ensemble) and then 1 of 2 things usually happen : either we bring the food into the venue and you witness the craziness that is backstage at that time of day - which usually includes people running in and out and not really have time to chat.. people being incredibly grateful for the food you've given us and all of us trying to have a moment to connect with you.. or the food goes on the bus and we eat it after the show.. then we try to find a time to introduce you to Amanda and if that can't happen before the show (sometimes as a result of press and soundcheck times) I will introduce you to her during the signing and make sure she knows that you are the one who so generously fed us. When possible we love to eat with people but as I've discovered on the european tour that isn't always possible depending on venue policy and blah blah boring..

I think that's really everything.. oh.. except where possible - if the food is able to be transported in vessels and things that you don't need returned to you like takeaway boxes etc that usually makes things easier..

We will also hit you up with a some merchandise to say thank you.

Let me know if you are still keen to do this and thank you so much!

Love S."

I excitedly reported this news to Iris, who made some hasty arrangements to get some time off. Then yesterday, I set about purchasing ingredients, making my kitchen sanitary for food preparation purposes, and cooking, cooking, cooking!

Fortunately, the cooking part went well, I thought. I mean, I've made both of these recipes before, to rousing success, but it's nervewracking to cook for a stranger whom you admire! I was not told how many people I'm supposed to be cooking for...I would presume that several fans are contributing to the potluck, so I made one big batch of the soup and a double batch of the tacos. Will they be able to properly reheat the food backstage on the Metro, or will they have to use the microwave on the bus? Who knows?

I had neurotic visions of burning the shit out of onions and peppers at like midnight, when I would be near my breaking point. Or maybe I would be sitting in the middle of a dirty kitchen, overwhelmed and paralyzed. But I actually found it all quite enjoyable. And these recipes really couldn't be's just time-consuming to chop everything up.

So I hope that Amanda and the Danger Ensemble and Crew enjoy the was made with a lot of love! We will have lots to share with you soon! In the meantime, let's trade some favorite recipes in this thread!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

NIN in Cedar Rapids, IA--11/20/08

So this review is only slightly delayed due to the holiday and the debilitating bout of bronchitis and a sinus infection that I endured in true martyred, moaning-and-groaning-and-leaving-used-kleenex-everywhere fashion. But I am still excited to tell you all about this show because it ranks very near the top of all-time favorite NIN performances, and I've seen quite a few at this point. It is not only worth seeing when the tour rolls into your town, but it was definitely worth crossing state lines and driving on VERY long stretches of I-80, surrounded by cows and cornfields.

We reported to the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, IA, at the appointed time. I don't know if Iowa crowds are particularly tough, but to be admitted, we had to experience the most thorough and gruelling personal search for contraband outside of being arrested. We were subjected to the typical patdown and purse search, of course, but I wasn't expecting the strict, but otherwise friendly, staff members to insist on inspecting my beltline and the tops of my shoes. Cameras were verboten, but Iris managed to sneak hers in under a layer of used, diseased kleenex.

Sadly, tragically, heartbreakingly...the batteries in her camera as well as her spare batteries were on the verge of an untimely death. So we do not have as many A/V goodies for you this time, but Mr. Iris saw our dejected faces and came to the rescue...acting as the Battery Whisperer and somehow keeping the camera going far longer than we would have expected. Apparently you can keep dying batteries charged up just a little by warming them in your hand! That's our science lesson for today, kids. Seriously, though, we are extremely grateful to Mr. Iris for keeping hope alive, and he's the whole reason we do have some video clips to present to you.

Other than the arduous strip- and full-body-cavity searches, I think U.S. Cellular is a great concert arena. It's large enough that tickets will be readily available for most shows, but you don't feel miles away from the band. They have a General Admission area on the floor, of course, but I also appreciated the General Admission concourse area overlooking the floor, but with arena-style seating. From this perspective, we were actually able to see the stage and the terrific production, which really makes all the difference if you're going to see the Lights in the Sky tour.

Our opening band that evening was Japanese experimental trio, Boris. Now, Trent picks opening bands that either become my favorite bands (Saul Williams, Ladytron, The Dresden Dolls) or bands that I tolerate at best (Queens of the Stone Age, Moving Units). This time he outdid himself with Boris. I don't have words to convey my hatred for this dull, overly loud, tuneless, droning jam band, so here's a picture of my dog:

Ahhhh, that's better. Now I feel my blood pressure going down. On to the main act!

The setlist we had was very similar to that we heard at Lollapalooza. But what a difference the change in venue makes! Not having to compete with Kanye West for volume is a definite plus. But indoors, the music can envelop you, mesmerize you, and speaking of mesmerizing...oh my God, those screens!

Trent obviously spared no expense on these toys, and it really enhances the entire show. Even songs that rabid NIN fans have heard 7,000,000 times in concert are greatly enhanced by the stunning visuals. Take the obligatory "Closer," for example. The ladies will appreciate that when Trent sings the chorus, he snarls into the unblinking eye of a camera, and projected 100 times larger than life onto the screen is what I can only refer to as the "Trent fucks you cam." He also employs this camera during "The Greater Good," as I recall. I could only reflect on how much I miss Wearing These Chains' Dierdre as I looked upon all the super-close-up shots of Trent's ferocious teeth. But it's not just all admiring Trent's tortured visage...for "Only," a large screen in front of the band flickers static that is broken up whenever Trent approaches the screen. Unearthly landscapes shimmer during the "Ghosts" instrumentals.

Here are some brief clips of some of the songs I mentioned. Unfortunately, zooming in strained the camera's batteries to the breaking point, so this is the best we can do. Better than nothing, right? Besides, I really think you need to experience this show for yourself...videoclips don't quite capture the saturated colors and the special effects in all their glory:

Trent did a nice mix of the old and the new...and as controversial as Year Zero was as an album and a concept around these parts, all of those songs sound great live. He's really putting so much energy into "Survivalism," it's one of the songs that I really look forward to hearing.

When you go see this show, and you really must go, you can expect to hear most of your old favorites: "Gave Up," "March of the Pigs," "Wish," "Head Like a Hole," etc. But Trent and co. do not shortchange the new songs, even though we all got The Slip for free. Here they are, playing "Echoplex":

Not sure what the deal is with Josh Freese playing Vanna White at the beginning of that song. But anyway.

Trent was in a pretty good mood--no microphone-throwing tantrums, although I suspect those days have largely passed him by. I think all of the bandmembers are starting to get a little tired of being on the road, if this speech is any indication:

Immediately after that, Trent introduced the lineup by saying, "And now I'd like to introduce you to the guys I'm sick of...just kidding," he halfheartedly added. Here's hoping that they all get a nice holiday break because I really like this lineup. Sure, the ever-competent and amazing Josh Freese is, as Fleetwood Mac would say, going his own way. But oh my God, is Robin Finck ever an improvement over the showboat-y Aaron North!

The show ended on a poignant note with "In this Twilight." As the screen projected scenes of explosions above an evening cityscape, each band member got a moment to take a bow and walk offstage.

Now, you all know that I'm Trent's ultimate cheerleader (and some would probably say "apologist" or "sychophant,"--WHATEVS!), but as I said before, this is really one of my all-time favorite NIN shows, and I'm really hoping that he can make one more stop in Chicago before sequestering himself to create the next album. (Or at least make a DVD out of this tour, asap.) Although it was a pretty awesome birthday present to see him in Cedar Rapids.

And, as always, more pics to be found here.

You know, I'm not sure how I feel about the adequacy of this concert review, but that's because I'm STRESSED OUT. Do you know why I'm STRESSED OUT? Because tonight, I need to slave over a hot stove so that tomorrow evening I can feed The Danger Ensemble and AMANDA PALMER when she plays a solo show at the Metro. No, seriously. Iris is making the long drive yet again, and we will be documenting as much as humanly possible. With lots of brand-new batteries this time! Stay tuned...