Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm Not Sure If You've Heard...

But Michael Jackson has passed away at the age of 50.

The media frenzy (reminiscent of Princess Diana's funeral) is at once baffling, in the face of much more important issues--Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, U.S. health care, etc. But the constant coverage and over-the-top spectacle are certainly predictable, if not understandable. It was a bit of a shock, and aren't we all just the tiniest bit curious? What made this strange, sad man suddenly drop dead? Are we finally going to get the exclusive, tell-all details? Of course, it's all none of our business, and the tabloid-consuming public is complicit in many ways in his ultimate madness and downfall, I'm sure. But if you're my age, Michael Jackson most likely meant something to you at some point in your childhood. And you may find it's still possible to love the old hits while watching in dismay as his face corroded and he was accused of molesting CHILDREN, for Christ's sake.

I am of an age where Michael Jackson was one of my first celebrity crushes--I was about seven or eight years old when "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" were all the rage. My best childhood friend--the neighbor boy next door--had Michael Jackson albums that we would listen to religiously after school. He was grounded once when a nun caught him trying to moonwalk out of church. I remember being at the baby shower of a family friend when the "Thriller" video premiered and how everyone at this baby shower--young and old alike--stopped everything just to watch this video. I remember watching MTV for hours, waiting for Michael Jackson videos to play. ("Darn it, it's just Prince again.") I loved his infectious pop songs, his dancing (before all the crotch-grabbing), his singing (before all the interjections of "SHAMON!"), his sense of style that had everyone looking insane in the 80s, emulating him with single white gloves and "Beat It" and "Thriller" jackets. So much childhood can be conjured up just by listening to those songs.

And then there was the realization that my peers and I had left childhood behind, but Michael never had. This man grew older and stranger-looking and clung to tree-climbing and amusement parks and petting zoos, which I guess wouldn't have been so awful if it weren't for the "slumber parties" that were frankly sinister. He had been robbed of his innocence long ago and didn't understand that you can't recreate it. He didn't understand that LOTS of people are robbed of an idyllic childhood yet turn out okay, because he had lived his *entire life* in a narcissistic celebrity bubble. And although I can't say for certain what went on behind closed doors, he may have damaged some children along the way. Or even damaged them by association...once molestation charges are levied, how do you think other kids and adults would react by finding out you hung out at Neverland...even if nothing had actually happened? I certainly hope that none of it was ever true, but his legacy will never shake those suspicions.

A lot of the tributes and public mourning are totally hypocritical. All of the current stars wailing about Michael Jackson's music and legacy--I don't remember a lot of them sitting at the feet of their master in recent years. All of the news stations covering his death and funeral arrangements 24-7...these were the same media figures that reveled in his bizarre antics.

When I think of Michael Jackson, I reflect on the sadness of his life...a young boy abused, a great talent exploited, a beautiful black face willingly mutilated. But I can't give myself over to hysterical mourning because well, a) I never knew him and b) I feel uncomfortable lionizing someone who may have left child victims in his wake. I guess the kindest thing to do is to try to remember the good about him, to remember him in his prime, when he really was the King of Pop, when I thought he was totally, totally cute.

Remember him like this:

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Dear Trent,

Deirdre here. I've been... well, let's say "out of commission" for awhile now, but I felt like it was time for the former president of the Girls Who Love Trent Club to come forward and say a few words in view of it being the end of the road for Nine Inch Nails, and your impending nuptials and the way you're so hassled by haters these days.

Fucking haters. Seriously. Where do these (apparently often fat) bitches get off? Don't they know that if they really, really loved you, like I do, they could never do anything but wish you joy in all your future endeavors? I've never actually seen or heard what kinds of things these members of "the community" have to say, but I just think you should know that not all girls who love you are hateful, plus-size lying whores; or for that matter, would even be WILLING to fuck you if you offered, let alone saddling up and then telling the whole internets about (real or fictional) cocks-of-rock cowboy stories. Some of us girls who love you (and have known the self-righteous hatertude of all the people who are so much better at being NIN fans than we ever were, since they are serious people who don't love you, and know all about synths and shit) have only ever wished you all the love in the world and a lifetime of satisfying work.

What I'm trying to say, Sparklepants, is remember back in the salad days of when I told you that my love would always be true, that my heart would always throb your name, and that you'd always be inside me, like, forever? Well, nothing has changed; it's still true, and shall ever be. I'll always remember the times when your awesome rockshow spoke it's secret language to me, making me stronger and better able to be me without compromising, and helped me fight on, just like I'll never forget the way you brought new meaning to the words "Jesus motherfucking Christ, that guy is smoking hot, look at his TEETH!"

But, does that mean, as some might ask, that now I must mourn the fact that you have found love, and can't keep it in? Did I rend my garments upon learning that you are officially off the market, and that love now calls YOU to shout it from the rooftops? Of course not! I mean, let's face it: wherever you were ON the market, I never shopped there, but more importantly, my dear, dear Trent, I love to hear it! It makes me feel closer to you than ever before because finally: you know how I felt about you.

Just let me know, darling, if you want me to give you away at the wedding. I'm ready!

Love and kisses forever and ever,

PS. Regarding the haters who apparently speak louder than all the love: go home and meditate or something, baby; they aren't worth the angst. Fuck 'em!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trent vs. The Twits...

During his career, Trent Reznor has had a curious relationship with his fans. His music has always been raw, personal, deeply confessional; yet, Trent himself was pretty mysterious--prone to disappearing for years on end rather than having his personal relationships and breakdowns broadcast in the tabloids and on gossip sites. Occasionally he'd post a few cryptic or sarcastic words on, sending his fans into an absolute tizzy.

In recent years, however, he's been surprisingly open and keen on interaction with his fans. He has been lurking and posting on NIN message boards; blogging; posting pictures of his various pets, his studio, and his travels; letting us remix his music; giving us a free album and other goodies; answering fan questions in online interviews; asking us to make mostly awful videos in response to "Ghosts I-IV," (except for this one, which is BRILLIANT); and lately, embracing the addictive powers of Twitter and urging us all to save a life. Most surprisingly, he has revealed more of his personal life to us than ever before. The days of scouring the dark corners of the Internet for any mention of "Trent Reznor and girlfriend" are over. Trent is in love, people, and he wants to shout it from the mountaintops, whether the fangirls can handle it or not.

I would say about 95 percent of us are delighted with this opportunity to reach out to Trent and regularly express our admiration, support and undying love to him through various media. There are some individuals, however, who have been continually harassing the guy to the point that it's pushing him--a total computer geek and internet addict--offline. I've checked out some of their profiles on Twitter, but I'm not going to name anyone in particular or link to them because they do not need any more fucking attention, negative or otherwise.

Today, Trent wrote an essay of sorts on, reflecting on Twitter and other online communities and how the disadvantages are starting to outweigh the benefits. You can read it here. I don't really approve of the part where he takes revenge on Metal Sludge haters by calling them FAT and UGLY (oooh! Burn!)--he comes off looking sizeist, and like there's nothing else wrong with these people other than their appearance? Please. But mostly, this post was just really sad to me. Trent really has given us so much in terms of his music and giving his fans so many opportunities to communicate with him and each other. And in return, the people who hate him because they can't have him or the people who are pissed because he's not really the Trent of their gothemo dreams have been making his life fucking miserable. Theirs is a misplaced, imaginary love turned to anger turned to hate, and I'm sure at times it's probably scary for Trent.

I've not really gotten myself involved in Trent's online spats because a) I don't need to be his freaking toadie; he can fight his own battles and b) although I can understand why he loses patience and calls people out based on what they say to him, I don't like it when NIN fans then employ mob action on people who are most likely delusional or disturbed. Also, c) I feel like Trent kinda perpetuates the problem by giving the haters the attention they crave. Again, based on the things that people say to him, like, "I hope you overdose again" or racist comments about his fiancee or people accusing him of a PR stunt when he has been devoting hours before every show meeting-and-greeting for the sake of raising a million dollars for Eric De La Cruz, I can understand why he gets cranky. Shit, someone on here calls me fat, and it puts me in a pissy mood. This feeling of "You don't even know me!" and "What have I ever done to you? Fuck off!" Yeah, I can identify. But we have just a handful of the Anonymi, who are easily ridiculed or ignored. Trent has the deranged "fans" who think they can win his heart by insulting Mariqueen. He has the people who are just fucking assholes who enjoy picking a fight as long as they don't have to say these things in person. He's got the racists, the dissatisfied customers, the eternal cynics. Granted, this is a small number of actual people, but they seem to be PROLIFIC. And Twitter is set up to allow people to post all manner of inanity 24 hours a day from their computers, their phones, their ipods. Unless he can tune it all out somehow, I don't blame him for retiring the Twitter account.

To be honest, I kind of miss Trent Reznor, Man of Mystery. I loved the music, the persona, and the rare glimpses into his real life that revealed that he's a funny, nerdy guy at heart and that he really likes animals and video games. Not expecting to ever be a part of his real life, I kind of liked the rest being left up to my imagination. It's much funnier to *imagine* Trent the tortured, angst-filled artist eating Lucky Charms and watching Good Morning America in his underwear. Not that I don't love and respect the real, human Trent that we've had a chance to get to know recently. But if he feels like he needs to withdraw that in order to save his own sanity, I'm cool with that. I don't need him to reveal his soft, vulnerable underbelly if it means that he starts to hate people. My imagination can more than compensate: Trent on a canoe, Trent trying to get a parking sticker from his housing association, Trent in a frou-frou pet boutique agonizing whether he should start his dogs on a raw diet...

But if Trent is still on the fence as to whether he should withdraw completely from the NINerverse, I would like to point out that it was through Twitter and that he basically raised the money to pay for a man's heart transplant outright. There is incredible stupidity on the Internet, yes, but I'm not willing to say that it's only the idiots who rule.

Oh, and Anonymi? If you're the cause of all this harassment and annoyance, lay off already! Jesus.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NIN Live at the Charter One Pavilion, Chicago 5/29/09

And now, finally, we can talk about the concert itself!

I was deeply concerned as the crowd started to gather and the sun set. My limping and hobbling was only getting worse, and I had several more hours to stand on my blistered feet. In addition, my headache wasn't improving, despite the regular Tylenol dosing and eating a million-dollar cheeseburger. The ear-shattering noise of a NIN concert was surely a one-way ticket to Migraine-land. I was never prone to this condition when I was younger, but I am sadly afflicted now, and I was worried that to counter the ecstasy and joy of the meet-and-greet and soundcheck, I would be spending the next few hours in agony until I barfed with an aching head. What I really wanted was a dark room, a cold compress, and silence. For this reason alone, I was not particularly looking forward to Street Sweeper Social Club.

As lead vocalist Boots Reilly is fond of proclaiming, "The Street Sweeper Social Club is more than a band--it's a social club." It's also more than a social club; it is also apparently an analgesic, as I swear my headache completely disappeared by the time they were finished with their half-hour set. I attribute my miracle cure to the fact that I had so much fun watching them. They sound quite a bit like Rage Against the Machine to my ears, except perhaps...less enraged and dancier. Don't get me wrong, Tom Morello is still committed to any number of leftist social causes, and part of the purpose of Street Sweeper Social Club is to bring awareness to these causes, but Boots Reilly (who I SWEAR looks just like the dearly departed Warrick on CSI) won't stop the show in order to rant and preach, a la our friend Zack de la Rocha. Tom Morello still does amazing things with his guitar, and Boots has some pretty sweet moves.

Here they are, performing "100 Little Curses":

Okay, doesn't that just melt your fucking face off? Seriously, it was love at first sight, and I was not at all in the mood for an opening band when they first took the stage. I don't really know the lyrics to this song, but even if it's just as commie pinko as anything RATM made (and mind you, I'm a hemorrhaging-heart liberal), it's just Street Sweeper Social Club's album comes out on June 19th, I believe, and I definitely will be getting it and look forward to seeing them again in concert soon.

Now that I look back on it, this last NIN show was kind of a bittersweet blur. Although I strongly doubt that it's the last time I'll ever see Trent Reznor on a stage, I think he's giving himself permission to retire the old chestnuts. (Unless he's hard up at any point and needs a cash infusion with a "reunion" tour) And I'm fine with that. I mean, after eight live shows in a relatively short period of time, even I am like, "Oh God, 'Suck' again?!" I can't even imagine how repetitive it gets for Trent and the band on one tour, let alone all the touring that's been done since 2004-ish. On the other hand, these songs are so close to my heart and have been and continue to be like friends in my times of need, that it's sad to reflect on the fact that this may very well be the last time that I will be so transported to a place of elation and excitement. Because I was seriously blissed out through this entire show. I thought of all the times I've been in some hardcore emotional pain, shouting along with these songs in the car, except in concert it just feels like tremendous happiness and catharsis, and no matter how many times I hear them live or how some idiot goes "WHOO!" at the wrong part or some eight-foot-tall guy blocks my view of the band, these songs will always belong to me in a very deep and personal way. And these songs will belong to everyone else in similar ways, I expect. And it's sad to see Trent put them away in a cardboard box and go on to his new and contented life, but I try to keep in mind that I will still have these songs when I need them, right on my ipod. Trent's like The Electric Grandmother in that way. (And that movie always made me cry, incidentally.) And that's probably the first and last time Trent has ever been compared to The Electric Grandmother.


Here is the setlist, courtesy of "stealth_" at because my blissed out state prevented me from taking on any secretarial duties:

"Somewhat Damaged
Terrible Lie
March of the Pigs
Piggy (regular)
The Becoming
I'm Afraid of Americans
Gave Up
La Mer
The Fragile
Gone, Still
The Way Out is Through
Mr. Self Destruct
The Day the World Went Away
The Hand that Feeds
Head like a Hole"

A solid, hard-hitting line-up. You'll notice something missing, though. Hmmmm...

NO "PHYSICAL (YOU'RE SO)". I PHYSICALLY asked Trent to play "PHYSICAL" and was in PHYSICAL pain all throughout the show, and I was denied. Bah! And to rub it in, he played it the next night! Whatevs, Old Man Reznor, I prefer the l'orangerie stank version anyway. So there.

One thing did make up for this minor disappointment, however. (And I wasn't REALLY expecting him to take requests, after all). That was this song:

What a pleasant surprise! I've heard David Bowie play this live in the past, but not Trent. You'll notice at the beginning of the clip, Trent was bitching about the weather because he seems to be under the impression that May 29 = Summer in Chicago. No, sir. May 29 = Not As Likely To Snow. Summer doesn't begin until somewhere around June 30th or so.

A new song for me was a cover of Gary Numan's "Metal":

I'm not the big Gary Numan expert, so I don't have a lot of analysis to provide, but watching this video is causing me to dance at my desk here at work. Ahem.

The Downward Spiral was well-represented in this show. How awesome is it to hear "Heresy" again?

Also, they have a new and improved intro to "Mr. Self Destruct" these days:

Didn't we just have an Anonymous bitching that he/she heard from someone else that the show wasn't good? This person called Trent Reznor a "donkey," so I can only presume that it's Gordon Ramsey. Well, I can inform you, and I hope that you can tell from the clips above, that all of the old passion was there, even though Trent's voice did sound kind of raggedy. This could just be a natural result of screaming his head off every night while on tour for the better part of five years, or maybe he was catching Robin's illness. But at no point did I feel like he was phoning it in. Jesus, there's no pleasing some people.

We also heard some "Fragile" favorites, including, surprisingly "The Fragile." I know it's probably like the fangirl anthem because it's as close to a love song as classic NIN gets, but I've always loved it and was happy to finally hear it live. Some good jamming goes on during "The Day The World Went Away." (Made me feel like I was watching the Terminator: Salvation trailer):

As usual, Trent wasn't terribly chatty during the show, but we did get this speech from him:

Oh hey, Trent! I noticed that you screwed up the lyrics to "Terrible Lie," and now I'm BLOGGING about it. Mwa ha ha ha ha!

So yeah, I think about wraps it up, unless Iris or Ro can think of anything to add. I'm very grateful to Trent for the music, the shows, the entire Maise experience. It's led me to meet some very cool people and go to very cool places. I hope he enjoys his break, has fun with his dogs and fiancee, rests his voice, and gives us something new to talk about very soon.

But of course, we'll carry on here at Places Parallel. There's other music out there to discuss, even if it's not nearly as fun as talking about NIN. We've got Lollapalooza coming up this summer. And I'm sure something or other Trent says on Twitter will bring the Anonymi out of the woodwork. So never fear, friends! It's not the end of the road for US!

(oh, and always, more pictures to be found here.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

You Are The Perfect Hug

It's kinda hard to know where to put this, but since this was like the best 5 seconds of. my. life. I think it deserves its own mini-posting. So as Maise said in her review, we were separated for the onstage group photo and, really, I had no idea where I was going, so I was a little shocked when I stopped filming and realized I was standing right next to Ilan and Justin. I actually didn't even see Trent until after Rob had snapped a few shots. Immediately after that, there was this stage manager chick who was trying to quickly wrangle everyone offstage so she could bring up the next group. I let her tug at my sleeve for about two steps before I overheard some girls behind me say, "Trent, you said the donation thing included a hug so..."

That was all it took for me to shake the stage manager, but she didn't give up without a fight. I faked right, I faked left, then I sacrificed another fan by pushing him into her and running to the left again. Even so, I only narrowly escaped her grasp. In a second, she was hot on my heels as I rounded behind Ilan's drum kit. Just as she was reaching for me again, I took a daring dive over the bass drum and straight into Trent's muscly, awaiting arms, where he held me tight and stroked my hair while whispering sweet nothings into my ear. -le sigh-

Okay, so maybe that's not totally how it went down, but a girl can daydream, can't she? I did manage to ditch the stage manager, so I walked up to Trent and asked "So can I get a hug too?" He looked at me for a second (he was either totally checking out my boobs or was reading the L'orangerie Stank shirt. Both possibilities make me giggle). Then he tilted his head to the side and nodded while motioning with his hand, "okay, come on." I went in for a criss-cross hug (one arm over his shoulder, one arm under the other shoulder with him vice-versa), and this is where things speed up and slow down. It was only about 5 seconds, but in my head it was "OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG," and out loud I think I said "thank you, thank you, thank you." It gets slightly fuzzy at that point.

As a side note, I wish I could say that I maintained the slightest bit of composure when talking to the band as Maise did while we got our autographs, but I can't. No, instead I went off about the most inane shit ever and at a "Gilmore Girls" quipping-session pace to boot. It was some serious *face palm* going on. I still had the same rapid-fire pace when saying my multiple "thank you" in Trent's ear, which I'm sure wasn't weird at. all. But I squeezed him, he squeezed back, my head nearly exploded, and I floated off the stage with Mr. Iris, completely elated.

Regarding the next part, even then I was thinking "this is kinda gross," but this is what happens when you go hugging rock stars. As Mr. Iris and I were walking down the offstage ramp, the breeze picked up, and I noticed my cheek was wet. I know you all probably think I was crying at this point, but that's not the case. It was Trent's sweat, which means there was like cheek-to-cheek or cheek-to-ear contact going on while I was latched on to him. So that part was awesome, but at the same time "Eww." Before you ask, I didn't go all fangirl and save the "precious fluid" in a glass vial to use later in some weird cloning experiment. I just kind of wiped it off and later, because I'm the epitome of grace, I managed to splash my own beer on my face while trying to shuffle through my purse, hold a camera, hold a beer, and not lose my place in line at the merch table. D'oh!

So, yeah, that's my tale of hugging the seemingly unhuggable. I grabbed Maise and Ro after their group photo and hugged them both to try and share the experience. Then we staked out a spot to watch the rest of the show. Stay tuned for Part II of our review--coming at you "soon."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Places Parallel MEETS Nine Inch Nails--May 29, 2009

And now...what you've all been waiting for...Maise, Iris and Ro backstage for the NIN soundcheck and meet-and-greet!

First of all, the reason for the season is Eric De La Cruz, and we wish him and his family the best. Please keep the De La Cruz family in your thoughts and prayers, as his health condition remains dire. I believe that there will be continued donation opportunities through NIN and Janes Addiction. I encourage you to take advantage of these because heart transplants are frighteningly expensive, and it's good karma to extend a little kindness to a stranger in this condition. Millions of Americans have inadequate health insurance or no health insurance, and basically any kind of catastrophic health crisis could turn all our lives upside down. So until a political solution to the problem is found, I encourage you all to help in whatever way you can, if you can. Plus, as we will report, Trent and co. are making it VERY MUCH worth your while to donate!

The NIN camp asked us to report at the Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island at 4:00, with the NIN meet-and-greet scheduled to begin at 4:15. This was our first time at this venue; it is located on the grounds of what used to be Meigs Airport. It's a surprisingly small and intimate outdoor venue, and I found myself pleasantly surprised, except for the parking snafu when we arrived. We arrived at the Pavilion very close to 4:00 because traffic had been horrendously slow and were dismayed to be turned around and directed to the North Garage at Soldier Field. It's not very far away, but it was an unwelcome delay, especially because we had driven past the garage, and there was no indication that NIN concertgoers were to park there. We were supposed to have prepaid parking, included as one of the gazillion service fees with our ticket. But since we were parking at 3:55, rather than 4:00, it was going to cost us $19. Nevertheless, we paid up because we were concerned about the sizeable line that had already formed outside of the venue. But still, it was pretty bullshit that we had to pay for parking unnecessarily just because we were there five minutes before the arbitrary starting time. Meh.

We then walked back as fast we could to the Charter One Pavilion, which had tragic consequences for yours truly. My shoes weren't made for speed-walking, and I wound up with enormous blisters all over my feet, so I was hobbling around pathetically, like some kind of unfortunate Dickens character, before the evening even started. I was also afflicted with a chronic headache all weekend, so I was popping Tylenol Rapid Release the way House inhales Vicodin.

We had no idea how many people to expect at our meet-and-greet, at the $300 level, but I would estimate it was maybe about 200. Also, I couldn't tell how many people had provided $1,000 donations, but I think at one point, we guessed around 30. I hope that's helpful in case you will be participating in any of these any time soon. The line seemed MUCH larger than that initially because people were also lining up to get to the pit.

We were allowed in and then stood in a long line. A very friendly and courteous member of the NIN staff thanked us for our donations and informed us that we were allowed to have one item signed by the band and that no pictures or other nonsense would be allowed at this time because of the large number of people present. Then we would be taking a "group picture" with the band, and then the soundcheck would take place.

The crowd was very docile and patient. We had some people in full goth regalia and groupie attire (which puzzles me, as five-inch heels would be impractical concertwear, no?), and people brought a large variety of items in to be signed: CDs, albums, posters, artwork (hmmm...maybe we should have brought The Painting...), guitars, etc. I was kicking myself because in my rush to get out of the house, I had forgotten my copy of The Slip, which I intended to have autographed. Fortunately, the tickets were nice and large and could easily accommodate four signatures. See?

Tom Morello and Boots Reilly from Street Sweeper Social Club were also kind of hanging around, and although we weren't able to get any autographs from them, they did pass through the crowd now and then and said hi. Ro was hoping to impress her five-year-old nephew with this Tom Morello sighting, as her nephew is quite the "Guitar Hero" prodigy, but I don't think he believed her.

We approached the table where the band was sitting, and the nerves started to kick in. What, for example, am I supposed to say to Ilan Rubin?! The band was sitting at a long brown table underneath a white tent. There was some really nice outdoor furniture set up under the tent, as well as a gothy-looking chandelier with various colored light bulbs. I have no idea what was going on with that, but I would presume that the $1,000 donors would take advantage of that setup? Or maybe they just really like having an outdoor chandelier. I dunno.

Okay, so here's how my NINteractions went:

Ilan: [greeting me with a big smile and handshake]: Hi!
Me: [smiling back] Hi there! [As he signed] Nice chandelier!
Ilan: Huh? Oh...yes...I picked it out myself.
Me: Thank you! [Moving along]

Oh God, Trent was next. Okay, all you anonymous haters can fuck yourselves. Trent is NOT fat. Not in any way. He is very handsome in person, but he looks like he needs about 300 hours of sleep. Touring takes a toll, and I'm glad he'll be getting some rest soon. He seemed friendly, but tired. Or maybe slightly guarded. But he smiled at me and shook my hand.

Me: HI!
Trent: Hi.
Me: Thanks so much for doing this!
Trent: Thanks for helping out.
Me: You're playing "Physical" tonight, right? Not the Olivia Newton John version.
Trent: Well...I could tell you. But then I'd have to kill you.
Me: Well, ha, ha, in that case...thanks! [Moving along]

Next up was Justin Meldal-Johnsen. I was slightly concerned about finding something to say to him, but I noticed that he recently tweeted about attending a Cubs game with Tom Morello and co. I was also impressed at how friendly and cheerful he was.

Justin: Hi! What's your name?
Me: _____. [I didn't have time to out myself as "Maise" coherently to any member of the band. If they'd even know what the hell I'm talking about.]
Justin: I'm Justin!
Me: I didn't recognize you without all the hair. Did you enjoy the Cubs game last night?
Justin: I did, until I got booed for cheering on the Dodgers.
Me: [not sure what to say without dissing the Dodgers] Ah, well...thanks! [Moving along]

Finally, I arrived at Robin's station. He had a sign in front of him that read, "Hi, I'm Robin! I'm sick, and I can't talk!"

Me: Oh no, I'm sorry you're sick! I hope you feel better soon!
Robin: [croaking] Thanks!
Me: [remembering Aaron North with a shudder] I am SO GLAD you are back in the band.
Robin: [croaking] Me too!

I kind of have a crush on Robin now.

And then that was that. I was proud of myself for remaining fairly coherent throughout all of these encounters, but I wish I could have made more of a lasting impression. Maybe if I had had them sign my tits...oh well.

After we made it through the meet-and-greet line, it was announced that because time was running out, NIN was going to do the soundcheck and then get us up onstage for group photos.

I was pleased that Trent was playing songs for us that they weren't going to play later on in the show. It was like our own little bonus concert! Here's the lineup:
--The Good Soldier

Here are some clips from the first three songs:

I've gotta say, Trent was kind of being a pussy complaining about the cold. Has LA thinned out your blood already, Rez? It WAS warm out! At least during the soundcheck. Once the sun set, then it was legitimately chilly.

My favorite part of the soundcheck occurred during "1,000,000." I had thought that the guys holding the guitars wanted these instruments signed, but apparently they must have asked Trent for the opportunity to smash them onstage with him. As you can see in this clip, they needed some pointers:

What an awesome opportunity for those fans, and they did an admirable job of guitar-smashing, but they kind of blew their wad early in the song, don't you think? Oh well, premature instrument destruction affects a lot of guys, I guess.

In the "1,000,000" clip, you might be able to hear Mr. Iris and me whispering to Iris, "handstamp, handstamp, HANDSTAMP!" This is because everyone with meet-and-greet handstamps was instructed to line up at the right side of the stage at the end of the song for the group pictures and not being sure how long they were going to indulge us for that, we were urging Iris to go, go, go!

They brought us up in groups of 50 to take a picture onstage with the band. Iris and Mr. Iris wound up in the first group, and here she is, walking can see Tom Morello, Robin Finck, Trent, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and Ilan Rubin:

Later that night, they sent us links for the group pics online. It was a bit of a wash for me personally, as the two biggest guys in the universe stood right in front of my 4'10" self, so at best you can kinda see my head. Ro fared much better, however, as Robin put his hand on her shoulder. You bitch! ;)

And Iris did even better than that, as she scored a hug from Trent himself. But I'll have her tell you all about that.

After we were herded offstage, Street Sweeper Social Club had time for a very brief soundcheck. They did one song, but we don't have video of that. But no will see more of them when we cover the concert itself!

Iris happened to see Rob Sheridan by the stage and thought we should get a picture with him. He was very nice and accommodating and posed with us with a large smile on his face until Mr. Iris (who was taking the picture) said: "Say Places Parallel!" Then his face completely dropped, and he looks totally nonplussed in the resulting picture. We're not going to post that picture or do anything to piss him off because he has WAY more internet minions than we do and because we don't want to wind up on Demonbaby. But what, I wonder, was behind his expression? We have no proof that [Trent_Reads], but perhaps [Rob_Does]. I mean, sure maybe we've had some aesthetic disagreements with Rob in the past, but we don't REALLY want to see his head roll, literally or figuratively. We're nice people and upstanding citizens, I swear! We seem to have (unjustly, in my opinion) garnered a weird reputation in the NINternet, if the Anonymi are to be believed. Hey, maybe he IS one of the Anonymi!!! Or maybe he had no idea why the fuck Mr. Iris said that.

Anyway, after that, we had a break to get some food, beverages, and merch. I can't believe I bought one more fucking NIN shirt, like I need another one! But it said "Chicago 5.29.09" on the back, and it is presumably the last one...Bah, Trent! You and your wily ways of separating me from my hard-earned cash!

Part II of our review will be posted shortly...stay tuned!