Um, no, really: I’m with the band …

Trent motherfucking Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, taken by me

There is a scene in the movie “Almost Famous” during which the star—a young and budding music journalist—approaches the backstage door of a concert venue, rings the buzzer, gives the surly security guard his name and says that he’s there to interview the band.

The guard checks the guest list on his clipboard.

“You’re not on the list,” he says dismissively and slams the door shut.

Undeterred, our young hero again rings the buzzer, and the annoyed security guard again opens the door.

“Sir, I’m a journalist,” the naive youngster says, holding up as a form of identification a copy of the publication for which he is due to conduct the interview. “Here’s a copy of the magazine that I—”

“Not on the list,” the guard says while some nearby groupies chuckle about the boy’s embarrassing predicament.

This scene is, for me, perhaps the most memorable moment of the entire movie, for it is an experience that I have lived through on more than one occasion.

The most recent occurrence happened earlier this year when I took a friend with me to a Chris Cornell concert that I was reviewing. After standing in line, we reached the door to the club, where stationed was the girl holding the ever-present clipboard to which was fastened the mythical “GUEST LIST.”

“Hi,” I said in my most charming fashion. “I’m supposed to be on the list.”

“Name?”

I provided it. She scanned the list, flipping through it until she reached the last page, then let go of the previous pages, which fell back into place.

“Hmmmm. Who are you with?”

I told her the name of the publication. She flipped through the list again.

“I don’t have you on here.”

“Really? Wow. Chris’ publicist just emailed me today and said she’d have me down for a plus-1,” I said, attempting to bowl her over with my knowledge of guest-list lingo. (“Plus-1,” as you can probably surmise, means the reviewer can bring a friend along.)

And it is at that moment that she and everyone in earshot joined in an unmatched display of synchronized telepathy to mentally shout in unison, “Bullshit!”

The thing is, I really was supposed to be on the list … so, rather than slouching over, slinking away into the night and finding a safe haven in which to nurse my ego back to health, I did the Douchebag Shuffle. This is the move where you say, “Well, if you don’t mind me standing off to the side here, I’m going to make a call to see if I can straighten this out,” then step out of the line and shuffle on over to rock-concert purgatory, where you stand on display for the other concertgoers to look at with bemusement as they proffer their own tickets and enter the club without incident while an almost visible cartoon-dialogue thought-bubble hovers in the air, from which successively smaller bubbles trail down to everyone’s heads, and the lone word in the middle of the cloud is “Bullshit!”

And now the game is on, because the guest-list girl and the security guards at the door? They think you’re full of shit, and that your little charade of pulling out your cellphone and calling someone is a weak attempt at saving face. But you know you’re for real, and you have been doing this for years, and this isn’t the first time this has happened, which is why, just before pulling out of the driveway to head to the show, you remembered to run back into the house and program the publicist’s phone number into your cell.

After a short conversation with said publicist, I hung up and informed Guest-List Girl that there was another list on its way, and that my name would be found therein. The dialogue in the cartoon thought-bubble morphed to “Suuuuuuure there’s another guest list on its way.”

But lo and behold, along came a higher-ranking Guest-List Girl, backstage laminate swinging from the lanyard around her neck. She held in her hand several sheets of paper, and my name was, in fact, on one of them. The dialogue in the cartoon thought-bubble morphed into “Well, blow me down. You don’t see that every day.”

Over the years, Wonder Woman and I have been fortunate enough to attend numerous concerts thanks to my job, but the frequency with which I go to shows has diminished greatly since the arrival of our lovely cherubs, and on those rare occasions when I am inclined to do so, I often end up going without her—since, you know, someone’s gonna hafta get up at an ungodly hour the following morning when the Pre-Dawn Duo rises, and, thankfully for me and my career, she is willing to be that someone.

Such was the case for the Nine Inch Nails concert the other night, which took place way out in Worcester, a city to which I would travel for perhaps no other reason than to see a Nine Inch Nails concert. Up until a day or two before the show, I had convinced myself I wouldn’t mind skipping it in order to avoid the hassle–but I had to miss the show the last time NIN was in town, and they are one of my most favoritest musical acts in the whole wide world, and their live shows are always completely spectacular. All of those factors eventually ganged up and convinced me that I wasn’t OK with skipping it after all.

With Wonder Woman recusing herself, I was left to find another date. I offered a free ticket to at least a half-dozen people, but pretty much all of them have kids and jobs and don’t get paid to stay out late at a rock concert.

So there I was, dragging my ass out to Worcester, alone, on a Sunday night.

“Who are your tickets from?” asked the woman behind the glass at the will-call window as she eyed my driver’s license.

“The group’s publicist,” I said, bracing myself for yet another performance of the Douchebag Shuffle. She nodded and walked away from the window. The Will-Call Window Craps game began. Would I roll a seven or snake eyes?

She returned, handed me an envelope containing my tickets and smiled. Seven! We have a winnah!

Written on the envelope were instructions to head to the security booth located at Door 5, where I would receive my photo pass. I asked a venue staffer where Door 5 was, fully expecting her to ask me who the hell I was and why I needed to know the whereabouts of Door 5. Instead, she did everything short of draw me a map and offer me a piggyback ride. Wow. This was going far too smoothly.

When I finally arrived at Door 5, I expected it to be locked and heavily guarded. There was a goth-girl standing in front of the door with what appeared to be a list.

“Are you handling the photo passes?” I asked her.

“Huh?”

“Do I check in with you for a photo pass?”

“I don’t work here. I’m just waiting for my boyfriend.”

Jesus, what a dork.

I pulled on the handle and Door 5 swung open easily. Inside was a little lobby, where stood several other photographers. Opposite the doors was a large plate-glass window, behind which was the security office. Everyone was just as pleasant as could be.

The two women whom the venue tasked with handling the photographers showed up and went into cruise-director mode—like, full-on Julie McCoy—introducing themselves to each of us, asking us our names and thanking us for being there.

I was looking around for a hidden camera, and trying to decide if I should deck Ashton Kutcher when he came through the door.

But it turns out we weren’t being Punk’d. In fact, the only complaint to be had was that, instead of shooting the first three songs, we had to wait backstage during the first two songs, then shoot during 3, 4 and 5 … which means I missed the beginning of the show. Also, when the band’s liaison finally led us into the security pit at the front of the stage and song number three commenced, its onset was accompanied by a deluge of fake fog that made the band practically invisible. (And here, I shall thank god for Photoshop, which allowed me to milk 40 or so worthwhile photos from the 250 or so that I shot.)

After the shoot, one of the pleasant and bubbly venue liaisons pleasantly and bubblingly escorted us into a service elevator that dropped us off at the seating level—and, serendipitously, right in front of a Sam Adams stand.

So, cold beer in hand, I sat and watched the most impressive lightshow in rock-concert history (seriously; check this, this and this for proof) while listening to live renditions of some of my favorite songs performed by one of my favorite bands, and contemplated how far I had come since the first time I, metaphorically speaking, rang a backstage buzzer.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for more than a decade now … and even harder to believe that I actually get paid for it.

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Blast off

OK, this is the last NIN picture that I’ll force-feed you in Photo of the Day, but I couldn’t resist putting it up. Like most of the NIN pics I shot, it’s not super-high quality … but, dude: he’s airborne.

I had no idea when I took this shot that I had captured Trent launching himself skyward; I was just snapping like a madman and hoping to end up with something salvageable. I think I took almost 250 photos, and boiled it down to just over 40.

This is what happens when a concert reviewer pretends to be a concert photographer.

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Ghosts

Yes, this one’s even foggier and grainier than its predecessor … but I like the vibe.

Nine Inch Nails fans will recognize Trent Reznor’s unmistakeable silhouette (he’s the guy choking the microphone to death), and that gentlemen with the guitar right there, that’s Robin Finck. The sides of his head are shaved except for two little tufts that hang from his temples, he has a dreadlocked mohawk, and his presence, guitar playing and demonic backing vocals add an element to the live NIN experience that just can’t be replaced—which is probably why Trent brought him back for this tour after attempting to replace him during a few previous outings.

As promised, I uploaded to Flickr a bunch of shots from Sunday’s show.

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NIN

The last time Mr. Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails came to town, I had to miss the show so that Wonder Woman and I could take Zan to see the Wiggles. Thankfully, the big “Playhouse Disney Live” excursion took place a couple of days before last night’s NIN show.

I got hooked up with tickets and a photo pass, the latter of which allowed me to spend three songs leaning against the stage, snapping pictures of Trent and the boys … which was way cool, of course … but the quality of the photos is mostly subpar because there was a friggin’ fog machine blowing its fog all over the stage throughout the shoot. Thus, the incredibly grainy quality of the shot shown above. (Here’s the original.) Fortunately, graininess suits NIN just fine.

I’m planning to upload to Flickr in the morning a batch of the photos I shot during the show, and I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to feature one or two more here this week. I’ll also probably write a little something about the show. After spending last night out at the concert, though, and staying up way too late tonight, I am now on the verge of passing out from exhaustion, so this is all you get, homey.

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Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me an almost-40-year-old man who gets into Halloween way too much

Mr. Bones

I shall now regale you with the tale of “The Man Who Loved Halloween (Perhaps A Bit Too Much).”

I, quite simply, lose my fucking mind on Halloween — particularly since the arrival in my life six years ago of Mr. Bones.

Mr. Bones is a 4-foot tall skeleton who sports a black grim-reaper cloak, and who has in the back of his skull an electrical input and a microphone input. When one speaks into the microphone, one’s voice is broadcast from a speaker hidden beneath Mr. Bones’ cloak while his jaw moves in sync with the dialogue and his eyes light up.

Wonder Woman purchased Mr. Bones in the middle of August back in 2002 for about $20, and I can say without any hesitation that we have gotten far more than our money’s worth out of his undead ass.

In years past, I have hidden in the bushes with the microphone while Count Dracula (a.k.a. my uncle, the other member of the family who is as fully looney as I am about Halloween) has greeted the children as they come up the front walk and led them to Mr. Bones, who sits in a pseudo-coffin (known the other 364 days of the year as your run-of-the-mill toybox) with the candy bowl in his lap.

Some version of the following exchange then takes place:

“And what is your name, young man?” the Count asks.

“Timmy,” says Timmy with no small amount of trepidation.

“OK, Timmy, come say hello to my friend Mr. Bones,” says the Count, leading Timmy to Mr. Bones’ coffin. “Mr. Bones, say hello to Timmy.”

“Hello, Timmy,” says Mr. Bones (in an accent that, for no particular reason, has evolved into a mix of Transylvanian, Spanish and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). “So nice to meet you.”

Invariably, the kids are surprised that Mr. Bones has actually used their name.

“He just said my name!” they exclaim disbelievingly. “How did he do that?”

“What do you mean, ‘How did he do that?’ I’m Mr. Bones, man! I’m magic!”

At this point, most kids have a funny look on their face that says, “OK, I know there’s no such thing as talking skeletons with red-LED eyes, but holy stromboli, I am totally having a conversation with a talking skeleton with red-LED eyes, and I’m trying to decide if this is the coolest thing ever or the freakiest thing ever or both.”

“Now, Timmy, what do you say on Halloween to get some candy?” asks Mr. Bones.

“Trick or treat?”

“Trick or treat! That’s right. Nice. OK, Timmy, take a piece of candy, yes, that’s righ— WAIT! NOT THAT ONE!

[Child freezes]

“I’m keeding, Timmy. You take it. I’m on a diet. And make sure you brush your teeth after you eat all that candy, man, because if you don’t, your grill will end up looking like mine.”

This year, I realized I was tired of sitting in the bushes, so I got my geek on in a big, big way.

Enter, 25-foot microphone-cord extension from Radio Shack, and hello, me sitting comfortably inside our front room by the big picture window, scarfing down pizza and beer.

“But wait: If you were sitting by the big picture window, couldn’t people see you talking into the microphone?”

Good question: No. I covered the windows with some plastic ghost-mural things.

“But … but … how could you see the trick-or-treaters?”

Another good question: As I said, I got my geek on … to include planting in the bush behind Mr. Bones a baby-monitor camera that allowed me to see all of the action on a small, television-like monitor.

“Wow. That is geeky. Can it get any geekier?”

Oh, helllllll yes. In addition to the microphone and the monitor, my newly established indoor mission-control post also included a remote switch for a flood lamp positioned on the left side of the lawn, a remote switch for a strobe light positioned on the right side of the lawn, a remote switch for a fog machine in the bushes behind the Bonester, and a remote control for the boombox from which emanated the obligatory spooky-sounds CD. Throw in two bushels of that fake-cobweb shit (which Wonder Woman so graciously strung up all over the front yard), a giant spider web and accompanying giant spider, some feaux tombstones, my mother dressed as a witch (taking over for the missing Count), my sister dressed like a gypsy seated at a table giving feaux Tarot-card readings, and a full-sized plywood coffin containing this year’s newest addition, Pirate Pete, and you have the mini-Disneyland of our quiet little neighborhood.

Pirate Pete

Of course, I had to take a half-day off from work in order to have time to string up the 2.5 miles of extension cords and cables required to pull this whole shebang off. But it’s worth it — especially when Wonder Woman tells me that she, while taking Zan and Jayna trick-or-treating, heard kids saying they wanted to go to the “cool house” or the “spooky house.” I’m spooky and cool, yo.

Particularly funny this year was handing the microphone to a pleading Zan, who had watched me deliver my Mr. Bones spiel numerous times, and who, using a funny voice of his own, nailed it while interacting with a couple of young trick-or-treaters. It’s like I’m teaching him the family business.

“Some day, son, all of this crap can be yours!”

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