Friday, October 21, 2005

Nine Inch Nails in Houston, The Astros go to the Series, October 19th, 2005

I previously wrote about the Nine Inch Nails Concert in San Antonio, TX. When I left that concert I though I couldn’t possibly top it. I am glad I was wrong about that. And let me tell you, Wed. October 19th was a hell of a night to be in Houston, TX.

     We started out with the intention of just seeing the concert. Little did we know that the night of the concert was also the night that the Houston Astros went to the World Series, and that led to a great night to be in Houston.

     First, the concert. Leaving San Antonio took a bit longer than expected. Plus, I got an unexpected third passenger, which actually worked out since we could use the High Occupancy Vehicle lane and bypass traffic in our misadventures across Houston. We arrived in Houston after a two and a half hour drive from San Antonio at roughly six o’clock. This left us an hour and a half to get downtown to meet up with a friend who was kind enough to be our host for the duration of the stay. After meeting up with him, we had to get a hold of another friend since she was going to sell us her ticket. Unfortunately for us, her car had broken down and it had taken her a while to get back to her house. To make matters worse, she hit traffic. So we went back to our friend’s apartment to await news. At about seven thirty she arrived at her house, forwarded us her E-Ticket and we were about ready to go. That’s when we find out that our host does not have a printer at his house, so we will need to travel back to his office to print out the ticket. So a short ride later, we get to his office, print out the ticket, and we head to the Toyota Center. It was actually pretty impressive navigating through downtown Houston and getting to watch the beginning of the Astros game projected on the side of buildings. With all the anticipation of a win and the festivities planned for downtown, we actually managed to get really good parking a few blocks from the Toyota Center. A quick walk, a talk with a scalper to score a ten-dollar floor ticket for our additional passenger (I don’t know, I don’t want to know) and we are inside and ready to go.

     We missed the opening band and arrived just in time for Queens of the Stone Age to start playing. However, there was a large portion of the crowd glued to the TV sets in the halls watching the game, so getting drinks was a bit of a task. Once we got the drinks and headed down to the floor, I was relieved to hear that the sound problems QOTSA encountered in San Antonio had been corrected for this concert. The set was pretty much the same as the previous concerts, but it was great to watch them without having the high end on the sound blow my eardrums out.

     Between QOTSA and Nine Inch Nails I had a moment to converse with some of the stage crew and get a few details on some of their equipment. First thing I asked about was the enormous projector that they used. To me it looked like a huge oil projector, similar to the kind Pink Floyd used to use, and Roger Waters used on his 2002 tour. Turns out it was actually a Barco video projector (I believe it was the RLM G5i, but feel free to correct me if I am wrong) they used to project video on to sharks tooth scrim for the video images during Right Where it Belongs and Beside You in Time. The also had some video set pieces that I believe were LED video screens that displayed various effects footage on The Line Begins to Blur, Closer, and various other songs. Although I couldn’t talk with the lighting guy, it was pretty obvious that the lighting system they used was form the Whole Hog line from the former Flying Pig Systems, now a part of High End Systems. If I had to guess, I would say they were either Hog III’s or the iPC hog, since they didn’t have the old fashion look of the Whole Hog 500 or 1000. As far as the lighting heads they used, they looked like Studio Spots, but then again, to me all moving headlights look alike these days. They had a whole lot of other effects that I couldn’t even identify. Visually, this tour is pretty damned impressive.

     Nails put on a great show for Houston. The energy was there for the band. The songs sounded great. However, the crowd did not have the energy that San Antonio did. I think the Astros distracted a good majority of them. Anytime I went into the bathroom, someone would run in and give a score update. When I was on the floor, I could see people running up to the TV, running down and telling the floor security the score, and then they would split to update various other people on the score. When they game was over, there was a strange unexpected cheer in the middle of one of the bands sets by the interested parties. Although most people were actually focused on the concert, I did find it a little strange that there was so much split attention. The set list was pretty much the same, which was not the case with other concerts on the tour from other sites I have read. Fortunately for us, these shows have worked out the kinks in those previous shows, although I would have liked to have heard some of the songs excluded from the early play lists.

     After the concert we walked into a madhouse downtown. From the cities reaction, you would have through the Astros won the World Series. With all the people running around downtown screaming, cars honking, and people cheering, it just added to the natural high we all felt walking out of a Nine Inch Nails concert. Although stinking and sweaty from the two-hour musical onslaught we just endured, we went and hit up a few local bars and joined in the festivities. The atmosphere of Houston that night reminded me of Boston for some odd reason. And despite all the energy and drunkenness, we didn’t have a single problem, although I did get a little friendly badgering from the locals about my boys from S.A. Although I highly disagree with their predicted outcome, we did agree about the Astros.

     After hoping around for a while, we made out way back towards my buddies place around the W. Gray area of downtown and in this area there are some great restaurants. We got to eat at a really good 24 hour Greek restaurant called Bibas. The food here was excellent, and the service was definitely good. In the morning we ate at a place called West Gray Café and Grill, and let me tell you, if your there on Thursdays, I highly recommend the Turkey and Stuffing plate.

     For a single night stay in Houston, I had a blast. Great concert, nice ambiance, good food, and great people. All I have to say is Thanks Houston for being the highlight on my week off, and go Astros.

On a side note, I did get a chance to strike up some good conversations with my friends while I was there. We talked about some really interesting things such as alternative fuel sources such as Biodiesel and Alcohol, alternative housing sources such as Geodesic Domes and converting certain types of large frame steel sheds (they know someone who did this, I have yet to see it with my own eyes), and interesting server technologies. I will cover these when I do some more research on them.

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