Nine Inch Nails
with David Bowie, Prick at Great Woods
by Lex Marburger
photo by Kristen Gunst
I marked my existence by the number of cigarettes in the ashtray. They made the cancerous monument, a nicotine-stained Stonehenge. I was losing arguments with my stomach on the matter of subsistence, and my liver cried out for retribution. I gazed out beyond twitching fingers, over the asphalt playground that so many people seemed to enjoy. It took all kinds, each as ignorant as the next. This wasn’t a festival. There were those of us who believed in the sordid carnival of hurt, the unique and ineffable despair known to those who consider the ironic tragedy of life. I was there to commune with the noble priests of sorrow. My journey had only begun.
I subjected myself to the rigors of the groupmind being herded and tended to like bewildered beasts cutting their own throats, a patternless shuffling and anti-sentient behavior, and I agonized over the fact that I was relentlessly sober. The smiling faces I gazed at said nothing, even while words and phrases dripped from their gums and tainted the air.
The gates loomed ahead like a concentration camp, guards in blue and green watching us carefully, preventing us from stepping away from our assigned products, as we marched ever onward toward the electrical moment of technical annulment. Small comfort was the bland and pale substitute for alcohol doled out at extraordinary cost and time. It warmed my heart little and could not reach my brain to dull the inward screams of hopelessness and futility that serenade me in my moments of crowded solitude. The night air sliced my face with fishing hooks of coldness, crushed my fingers beneath a series of frigid blasts, made my cigarettes burn too fast, preventing me from savoring the slow tearing sensation deep in my throat. My teeth clenched unexpectedly at the arrival of the first of the night’s activities.
Dressed in floor-length coats, Prick forced themselves upon us, bellowing their pattern of rage and intolerance. Mixing the styles of other performers of the night, yet in actuality being mentor, rather than student, of Reznor’s sound. Trent was originally in Kevin McMahon’s band, and it was there he learned about violent sounds and macabre melodies. The crowd as responsive as a half-filled stadium could manage, the officials forcing the band to begin before the entire audience could get through the portals. The populous needs to be aware of Prick. They are the stone that made the ripples of Nine Inch Nails.
Nine Inch Nails
The lights lifted, and before anyone knew what was happening, “Terrible Lie” crushed the audience where they stood. The men in black stood in white light, faces contorted in rage and desperation. Thunderous and vicious, striking out against themselves, and anyone who stood in the way. Each song differed from its expected course, making each exposition of loneliness an experience as potent as the first time. Even in my frigid reality of pain and exhaustion, Nine Inch Nails reached my jaded brain and forced me to feel. They grabbed my soul and wrung it into the concrete floor to be trampled on by the masses of cows who came to have a good time. The message did not touch them, a catharsis of fear and agony did not occur. Maybe someday they will understand.
And then a man came from behind a curtain, walking in strides that could only have been made by David Bowie. As NIN continued inflicting their vengeance, it was now overseen by the master of confusion and charisma. A voice that came gliding over the heads of the Beast, a voice of denial and realization, a voice that echoed injury in sweetness, catastrophe in beauty. With the final goodbye of “Hurt,” Reznor slipped away, and the stage was set for the aftermath of destruction, a rebuilding of the psyche. With all eyes drawn to Bowie, he sang the newest collection of music, songs from Outside (Virgin), the soundtrack to a diary not yet complete. He made the connection between the misery of NIN and the whirling life all around us. Bowie lifted me to a point where I could face myself again, convincing me to keep the razor in the cabinet for one more day.