Note: this was on July 13th, and I've been meaning to write it up since then
I arrived early, as I tend to under certain very specific circumstances, and followed the black clad trickle up out of the tube station , past the array of touts, hawking their ways with cries of "Nine Inch Nails! Get Yer Nine Inch Nails tickets here!" until I hit ground level, where I found, reflected under a dark grey sky, the equally grey streets of Brixton.
Arrayed around me were a variety of people in a variety of dark clothes - everything from young-uns in freshly printed black t-shirts to original-goths in their black jeans and shirts, clearly retrieved from the backs of wardrobes across the country. The majority headed straight off in what was presumably the direction of Brixton Academy - a venue I've wanted to visit for about 15 years, since I first started going to gigs - leaving small pockets waiting behind, the tube station the most obvious meeting place for groups coalescing from around the countryside - a NIN tour being one of those events guaranteed to bring people from all over the country - 400 miles in my case - to see it.
Mike was, of course, late. Partially because, well, it's to be expected, partially because he didn't know Brixton and partially because while it seemed obvious to me that I'd be arriving via London's celebrated underground train system, he'd assumed that I'd be waiting at the train station instead. Oh, and having left my phone charger in Devon, my phone gave out about 20 minutes after he was supposed to arrive (and 15 before he did). Still, all's well that end's well, and he did eventually manage to track me down and lead me off through a maze of back streets to find his car (where I dumped my bags) and a chip shop (where I got some dinner) and then back to the main road, where we found the Gothic trickle had turned into a flood, sweeping us along the street until we got to the Academy itself, where we were efficiently frisked, ticketed and passed through into an extremely large room with around 5000 people in it (1000 of whom were unlucky enough to be on the seated balcony, leaving a mere 4000 between us and the stage).
Luckily I've been to a few concerts before and knew that no matter how crowded it looked from the back there were bound to be numerous spaces nearer the front, so we weaved our way through the crowds until we got to a nice spot, about 15 people back, giving us an excellent view of the stage without being too crushed. We made vaguely polite conversation for the half an hour until the scheduled start (we'd deliberately arrived late enough to miss the support act) and the usual tattooed crew wandered the stage, plucking, thumping and testing everything into a state of heightened awaitness.
And then the lights went down and we launched into "Pinion" - the intro to the Broken EP - building up, and up, and up until they launched into what can only be described as a full-scale assault. I don't remember the order the songs played in, I just remember that they played pretty much everything you could expect them to, and more. The first couple of songs weren't ones I loved, and I started to worry that maybe I was getting a bit old for this kind of thing - and then Wish started and I found myself, without any real memory of how I got there, embedded 5 rows from the front, arms in the air, suspended in the extreme brownian motion that is the mosh pit.
And for the next 40 minutes it was a case of "Can I have my arm back?", "Sorry, was that your foot?", "No, you can't get past". "Would you mind removing your knee from my ear?" and "No, I'm not sexually assaulting you, the 500 people behind me just though I should get to know you better.", with one case of "Do you really think this is the best time to look for the lighter you dropped?" and a rather worrying one when I was pushed forward by a surge into a case of "JesusFuckingChrist, someone's let in a couple of 12-year-olds, unless they're just very short women, not that it really matters because they're going to get ground into paste unless I put an arm on the person next to them and brace! fuckfuckfuck".
Some people worry that they might fall over and get trampled - not really aware that it's impossible to fall over when you're wedged in that much. Well, not unless the 200 people on your left all surge in your direction at once, which didn't happen _that_ often. "Hurt" was somehow transformed into a sing-along, something instrumental was played at some point so his Trent-ness could get a drink, and Mike ended up abandoning me three songs before the end because it was just faaaaar too hot. Which was a shame, as he then launched into a couple of excellent songs including "Head Like a Hole" that had me ending up 3 people from the front, arms thrown in the air.
And then it was all over - Trent's other good musical habit being that of not playing encores - he gets on stage reasonably promptly, does the best concert possible, then fucks off at the end. We staggered out, I decided not to buy any of the t-shirts as none of them grabbed me that much, we bypassed the fake ones outside and staggered back to Mike's car, where I changed t-shirt (the ones I was wearing could literally be wrung out by this stage) and prepared for the really exciting part of the night - negotiating Brixton's traffic system to get back to Guildford.
And of course I had to be up at 7am the next day, to get to Devon, but that was another story...