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: 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 onstage...you 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 worries...you 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!