While I can't really claim that I was there from the very beginning of the NIN saga (give me a break--TVT didn't exactly have bang up distribution to Camp Zama, Japan when Pretty Hate Machine was released), this ticket at least proves that I was there long before most. I spent most of my high school years 'finding' new bands that were still small enough to play clubs with a couple hundred people, tops. These were bands who sold < $20 t-shirts and who's records you had to go a little out of the way to find. That sense of discovery would be almost completely lost after I started MAKING music on my own, but for a few years there, it felt pretty exciting to be at the leading edge of a cultural something. I think it says something that I never saw Nine Inch Nails again after this show, and I can't imagine that will ever change.
My dad dropped me off at the Ritz theater around 6:30 PM since the ticket listed 8:00 PM. While I wasn't the first in line, I was among the first and I was so new to Tampa that I didn't know anyone at all. It didn't matter--I HAD to see Nine Inch Nails and it helped that one of my other favorite bands at the time (Die Warzau) was opening. Die Warzau was an unknown quantity to most folks in Tampa, but I had seen them with Dessau a few months earlier just before leaving Virginia (a ticket I don't have for some reason,) so for the first time I got to lead the charge for the opening band!
Little did I know that 8:00 doors really meant that someone would probably open the club after 10:00, and that the show might get started around 11:00 if we were lucky. My poor dad had instructions to come back to pick me up at 11:00 and of course NIN probably wasn't hitting the stage until closer to midnight. In those days, Ybor city wasn't exactly the kind of place you'd want to sit around in a car waiting for someone, but at least you COULD park right on 7th and do that if you had to!
Since I was in early and I was keen on getting close to see Die Warzau, I wound up in the precarious position of being the human shield for all of the cute proto-goth girls who wanted to be close to Trent but didn't want to be crushed by the raging mob of skinheads, meatheads, and angry punks. As it turned out, this wasn't such a bad place to be.
For the majority of both sets I found myself intimately pressed up against four or five cute girls in white v-neck t-shirts and jeans shorts (THE outfit of the time). They all took a liking to me immediately because I was big enough to keep the circling throngs of mosh kids at bay. We all developed a kind of system whereby they would hang on to the stage barrier for dear life and I would do my best to shield them. A bunch of horny teenagers dreaming about Trent Reznor but settling for winks at me wound up making the night more memorable than the music.
By the time we got out of the club at some time after 1 AM, my dad had to have been furious but he didn't show it. He was quiet and I could tell that he wasn't happy about spending the better part of his night parked in the then-shady Ybor city, but in a rare moment that I can't remember seeing too often in my teenaged years he took one for the team, asked me how it was, and just drove me home.