View more photos in the “Nightranger: NIN, Ratdog & Eastside Luvin'” slideshow.
HAMMER OF THE GODS
When Trent Reznor declared his recent tour dates in New York, Chicago and finally L.A., ostensibly the end of Nine Inch Nails, apocalyptic pandemonium ensued, at least among the music-nerd set. The Web site to buy tix crashed in seconds, craigslist and eBay prices hosted the expected gouging foolishness, and (in case you’re wondering) press passes were anything but plentiful. We’d seen NIN a bunch of times before, but not seeing one of these smaller-venue “Wave Goodbye” L.A. shows felt like heresy for this nerd-fan (since Pretty Hate Machine and the first Lollapalooza Tour). But something the always astute Justin Warfield (She Wants Revenge) tweeted during the NIN hubbub last week got us thinking: “Do I wanna go, or do I wanna say, ‘I went’?” Like Nightranger, he’d seen ’em a lot before so he decided to pass on the “ticket hustle,” but for many, getting into a “secret,” intimate or, more notably, “goodbye” gig is as much about being there as seeing the artists themselves. The motivation might be a shallow show of cool for some, but for most of us it’s not nearly as pretentious. We’d seen The Ramones play before, but catching the Adios Amigos set in L.A. at the Palace (now Avalon) in ’96 really meant something. Seeing NIN’s recent tour mates, Jane’s Addiction, at La Cita and El Cid earlier this year, for hardcore followers, meant something, too. Will the L.A. shows be Reznor’s final sonic catharses onstage? Probably not, but the fact that he says they will be makes them historically significant nonetheless.
Ultimately, we did get into the first show at the Palladium, with VIP to boot. Though he was supposedly sick — hence the rescheduled dates following — Reznor’s performance was as emotionally raw and rigorous as it was when he brought us to tears (literally) during Coachella last year. Few artists can re-create the depths of despair inspired from perspectives past like our man Trent, but he not only does it with ease, he also makes us ache against the throbbing rhythms right along with him. Given that he’s engaged (to former West Indian Girl singer Mariqueen Maandig), his ability to channel isolation and rage each and every time is a feat. Special guest Gary Numan got our attention, but he didn’t come close to Reznor’s intensity. Apparently there was a celeb turnout (Katy Perry, Jared Leto, Jason Lee, Danny DeVito, Adrienne Curry) but for once, we didn’t notice. As far as we’re concerned, NIN command full attention, and they earn it. Get full reviews of each NIN L.A. gig on LAWeekly.com’s West Coast Sound music blog, along with some gorgeous show photos. And don’t “Hurt” too bad if you missed ’em — rumor is that this tour will be featured in some kind of future DVD.
ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT
If watching Nails called for tunnel vision, catching Bob Weir & Ratdog at the Greek Theatre on Saturday was antithetical in more ways than one. The atmosphere at Grateful Dead–related shows is undeniably ingrained in the experience. We’ve always been a bit averse to the crunchy side of concert culture (we think Birkenstocks are ugly, we like to shave, etc.) but Saturday, we were seduced by the surviving Dead singer/guitarist’s jazzlike jams and we were endeared by the fans: their giddy movements, desire to share (everything) and utter joy during Ratdog’s intricate, tapestrylike selections. No, we weren’t stoned, the band really did revisit certain songs (“Terrapin Station” and “The Other One”) at different times within the set again and again. Talk about a long, strange sonic trip. Other stuff we learned: Calling all Dead/Ratdog fans hippies is like calling all Cure fans goths — it’s inaccurate. When a bunch of kids stand outside the concert pointing upward, they aren’t referencing a bad air day, they’re hoping for a “miracle” (a long-standing tradition of Deadheads bestowing free tix); and missing a tune to pee is not necessary, as there’s always an intermission, which is a lot more honest than the early climax followed by the pseudo encore most bands do (we all know they just needed a break, right?). Catching a music legend such as Weir on a lovely summer night at the Greek was a treat and, yeah, it was a sea of tie-dye, but, after drowning in darkness earlier last week, a refreshing change.
What goes best with a couple concerts? A couple cocktails, of course. Labor Day weekend brought some good clubbin’ and pool-party action, but sometimes all you want to do is park it on a stool and sip stiff ones to your liver’s (dis)content. We opted for two Eastside drinking holes, and we were not disappointed. (Oh, and for all you semantic fanatics, “eastside” is a state of mind, and if we want to refer to downtown — or Echo Park for that matter — as east-ish, we will. Funny how the sticklers on this are often not even from the area.) Anyway, Bar 107 is always a hoot, but on a recent Tuesday night, the kitsch emporium was downright bizarro. There wasn’t a DJ or karaoke as on some nights, but the boom box had some tatted convict-looking types aflame, crooning cruisier classics like cholos at a car show, and then bad prog rock (Toto’s “Africa”) at the top of their lungs, all unironic frat-boy style. Dogs barked about, homeless men did Michael Jackson moves. Then an irate woman threw her drink against the bar and stormed out cursing. Man, we love (downtown) L.A. Speaking of cholos, you won’t find them at Boyle Heights’ Eastside Luv, but they are referenced in the wine bar’s Latino culture–infused décor, including a novena candle–covered altar, Dickie fabrics and Lowrider chain chandeliers. The party music sure touched the cute Chicano hipsters in la casa Friday. The DJ spun lots of Smiths (natch) and ’80s new wave, but things took a funky — and foxy — turn around midnight, when the lowered bar turned into a runway for a burlesque-y babe on her way to the stage. Catch live bands here on Saturday, DJs on Friday and hot dancers both nights. Take our word: You will luvvvvv this place.