It’s 8:28 PM, 56 degrees, and I am holding a shitty umbrella I bought specifically for the night waiting for the headliner of 2017’s Day For Night festival to take the stage. Having kept an eye on my weather app, I had a good idea of what the rest of the night would look like. As the weather starts to pick up from the light drizzle to rain, the large dual screens sandwiching the Red Stage turn completely black. For a second, I am worried the show will be done before it has even started. Shortly after, a few white lines begin to creep and slowly form the NIN logo.
Atticus Ross, the band’s only other official member since 2016, is our first glimpse of the members appearing with the thumping intro of “Branches/Bones.” The performance is spirited, lively, and impeccable as the floodlights illuminate the sheets of rain falling upon the crowd. Rolling snares bring us into “Wish,” a unsurprisingly leather-clad Reznor now equipped with a hollow-body guitar. After the band completes their next song, “Less Than,” the opening of their latest 2017 offering Add Violence, the barren and primal drum intro of “March Of The Pigs” punches in. The dead rattling of the bridge and twinkling piano leads the crowd collectively screaming “Now doesn’t that make you feel better?”.
We are treated to a few more tracks, including “Piggy,” the tempo-deficient instrumental “The Frail,” and “The Wretched” while the rain teems down onto a cold but eager crowd. The lights turn a fleshy pink as the throb and clang of “Closer” begins. The audience’s excitement is obvious as the band’s most universally known song hisses in unison between blood red lights employed during the visceral chorus and pulsing strobes, each line sung back at the band giving us an exemplary show despite the weather that has now begun to make it’s way swirling onto the stage and leaving the performers just as soaked as the rest of us.
Upon song’s end, Reznor finally greets the rain-drenched Houston crowd.
The band immediately picks back up with “Copy Of A” and runs through a strong second half complete with “Gave Up” and ”The Reptile.” The crowd begins to thin due to the increasingly aggressive rain falling, and as it disperses, people begin to move closer. “The Background World” creeps on for a few minutes before Reznor announces to the crowd what we have all been dreading: “We’ve been asked to leave the stage,” he says. As the industrial pioneers depart, they are treated to cheers and applause from those left who stuck it out to see how much they could endure.
Albeit cut short, the band’s performance never faltered, every beat and discordant haunting note enthusiastically soaked in by a crowd persisting through 13 songs (and I would guess more if offered).
Later that evening, a lady would run past and grab my new umbrella.