Monday, December 2, 2013


"Timely" isn't something I'm great at - especially when it comes to this blog. I'm generally a little bit behind the times and when it comes to reviews, I'm way behind the times.
The plan was to do a review of the Nine Inch Nails show as soon as I got back last week. Then one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was waist deep in JFK conspiracy theories for a good 5 days straight. Writing a recap of the trip and the show wasn't nearly as important. Who wants to focus on writing about one of the best live shows you've ever seen when you can listen to 6 hours of podcasts about magic bullets, missing brains and LBJ ordering pants that don't feel like he's riding a wire fence?

Quick side note here: LBJ was sitting at the White House and decided that he needed to order pants, so he called Joe Haggar. When was the last time you think any acting President ordered his own custom pants, shirt and jacket?

Okay, back to the task at hand.

Casey and I left Salt Lake about 10 AM on Friday morning. We made pretty good time on the way down and, as usual, we stopped in Scipio at the petting zoo. Even ran into a friend of mine also on his way to the show. Got back on the road, pulled in to town and checked into The Plaza in old Las Vegas at about 3:30. We grabbed some lunch and wandered around the strip for a bit before meeting some friends for a late dinner.

Old Las Vegas is pretty great. It's far less crowded than the strip, but still full of weird stuff. When we got back to the hotel, we decided to walk across to Fremont Street, which is just weird. The Strip is full of tourists and mostly younger people looking for the "hottest" clubs. Fremont Street is full of older people that still want to get wild, but don't want to hang out with any of those other people.

About halfway down the street, we saw a huge crowd of people and heard a lot of shouting. We kept going and met the crowd just as there was a fight about to break out. There was an honest-to-goodness motorcycle club feuding with some street performers and drugged out hanger-ons. One the MC guys was in a shouting match with a guy in a wheelchair and the two of them kept moving in circles. Eventually, the MC guy got sick of it, got along side of the wheelchair and pushed it over. As he walked away, feeling triumphant, a guy in an Elmo costume took his head off, held it in his left hand, walked up behind the guy and threw a haymaker at the side of his head. That's when all hell broke loose. Pretty soon the place was swarming with cops and a guy in cut off sweat shorts and no shirt was screaming at everyone wearing an MC cut trying to fight all 15 of them. We stuck around hoping things would get really out of control, but the cops were able to keep it in check. We made our way back to the hotel listening to the sweet sounds of "Enter Sandman" coming from the Fremont Street house band.

The next day, we grabbed breakfast as Society Cafe in the Encore and did a little more wandering around. Casey wanted a sweatshirt, but after looking in about a half-dozen stores, he changed his mind and we hit up our usual Las Vegas snack spot, Twin Peaks. The food there is pretty terrible, but we went there as a joke last time, so we decided it was now a tradition. The best part of the whole meal was the table full of guys next to us. Twin Peaks is basically a knock-off Hooters with an outdoorsy theme. There's a climbing wall at one end of the restaurant, and for a certain price, you can challenge any of the girls that work there to a race to the top.

One guy chose the hostess and while the server went to get everything set up, they started talking about how good of a climber the guy was and how it would be a piece of cake. Casey and I watched them get geared up, then watched as the hostess climbed the entire wall before he could even get two moves finished - all while wearing Ugg boots. It was amazing. He didn't say much when he got back to the table. It was actually kind of great.

We headed over to the Hard Rock Hotel to check in, get our wristbands and wait in line. Since I signed up for the Nine Inch Nails fan club to get tickets early, we were let in before the rest of the crowd in a slightly disorganized fashion. While we were waiting in line, Casey spotted some actor that's on REVENGE and kept taking pictures and video to send to his wife. Then he spotted someone from GHOST HUNTERS. He was really excited about both of them. I had no idea who either of them were.

The Joint holds about 5,000 people and is more of a theater than the rest of the venues Nine Inch Nails were playing on tour, which was why I wanted to see the show there. The more intimate the venue, the more fun I have. When we got inside the venue, pretty much everyone rushed to the front, and camped out right in front of the stage. Casey and I stopped about 20 feet from the front, where the venue started to divide into tiers about 10 feet deep with railings and a small step separating each one. We camped out on stage left, leaned up against the railing and waited for the show to start.

Explosions in the Sky were the opening band, and while they're great musicians and I really like their stuff, I don't much care for watching them live. There was a guy standing behind Casey and I filming everything and he kept getting a little too close for comfort. Seriously, Casey and I were basically standing shoulder to shoulder with a few inches in between, and he had a camera right between our faces for the whole set. Just to piss him off, Casey and I started a conversation that lasted about 15 minutes. So if you ever find a shitty video of Explosions in the Sky in which the sound is compromised by some dudes talking about seeing Def Leppard play live, that's me.

Nine Inch Nails started just about 9 PM and it was everything I'd hoped it would be. I'd done some research to find out their set list so I knew what to expect and what they were probably leaving out, so I was ready to hear "Copy of A" and "1,000,000" right off the bat, but they tricked me. They played two shows in Las Vegas and played their regular set the night before, so they switched things up the second night. Good and bad came from that, since they cut out a couple of songs that I wanted to hear, but added a few, like "Reptile" that they hadn't really been playing.

Aside from all that, the performance itself was incredible. They had an amazing light show that was tailored to each song that was just awesome. They had to scale back on some of the bigger effects they'd been using because they wouldn't fit on the stage at The Joint, but I didn't mind. I liked seeing them in a smaller place.

Trent Reznor was interviewed about the setup and the show recently and the way he explained it made total sense.

“My goal is that — I can usually see the audience because I’m lit from behind a lot — is that I want to keep you from looking at your phone,” Reznor said. “I want to make you hold your pee because you don’t want to miss something. We’ve thought about all this stuff, and want to make this experience something that was worth your time.”

(*That link goes to a Buzzfeed article. It's there because I don't want to blatantly steal, but Buzzfeed is awful, so you don't have to click it unless you want to.*)

The whole month before I drove down, I'd wondered why I hadn't seen very many YouTube clips from Nine Inch Nails shows (granted, I hadn't been trying very hard), but the light show kind of explained it. They played for about two hours and worth every last penny I spent. One of the highlights of the show was when Reznor came back onstage for the encore and asked the crowd to help out.

He'd befriended a photojournalist named Andrew Youssef over the last year that was dying of cancer. Youssef was nearing the end of his battle and planned on making two more shows before he got too weak. He was able to hit the November 8 show in L.A. but had to cancel his trip to see the band that night in Vegas. Reznor found out he couldn't make it, so he called Youssef from the stage, chatted with him for a second then dedicated "In This Twilight" to him. It was pretty damn amazing and the perfect ending to the show.

The next day, we hit up the Mob Museum, which is in a renovated courthouse right near Fremont Street. The building itself is one of the last remaining historically significant places in the city. Everything else has been bulldozed and rebuilt, but the courthouse that held some of the Kefauver Committee hearings has been turned into a three-level archive of everything related to the mob.

There were a lot of great things, but since the mob is such a sprawling enterprise, there was almost too much going on. A lot of the exhibits were little snapshots that didn't go into too much detail. There was enough in there to spawn probably 20 great movies or TV shows (and probably 100 bad ones).

It was pretty great, but the mob is almost too expansive and has so many different aspects that it's hard to include everything. It ended up being more of a "greatest hits" type place, but it was still really, really interesting - though not as cool as the neon sign graveyard we saw last time we were in town.

By the time we were out of there, it was about 3 in the afternoon and time to head back to Salt Lake. We made pretty good time back and the soundtrack of Prince, Billy Joel, George Michael, Kenny Loggins and Ludacris. It was a short trip, but it was a lot of fun. Much like Los Angeles, every time I go to Vegas I like it a little bit more.

Oh, also on the ride down, Casey started talking about what he wants to have happen when he dies, so I recorded it for an irregular podcast-type feature that I'm calling "Riding in Cars with Dudes." Here's Episode 1 - Casey's Dying Wish.

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