Nail biding

Nine Inch Nails fans await Trent Reznor's every move, even the one to start his long-awaited tour in Fresno.

By Mike Osegueda for The Fresno Bee on March 20, 2005

Two days before Fresno and the rest of the world were supposed to know that Nine Inch Nails' first tour in five years was starting off in Fresno, word slipped out.

A weekly release by Ticket-master announced the show, even though nobody was supposed to know before Feb. 11, when an advertisement was scheduled to run in The Bee announcing it.

Damage control started. Promoters were calling, trying to put a hush-hush on the info. It was said that if word got out before Nine Inch Nails management approved, there was a chance the show would be canceled.

Yes, it sounds strange. But it's part of the not-so-normal world of Nine Inch Nails and its mastermind, Trent Reznor. He doesn't play by the regular rules.

The next day, the tour dates — starting with Wednesday's tour kickoff at the Saroyan Theatre — were posted on the Nine Inch Nails Web site. Reznor had let the world know. Sighs of relief came next. Crisis averted.

When tickets went on sale on Feb. 12, they were gone in 10 minutes. Remember, nobody was supposed to know. Apparently, 2,400 people did. It was the quickest sell-out in the history of Saroyan Theatre.

It was a testimony to something loyal Nine Inch Nails fans know very well: As weird or random as Reznor's actions may seem, he always seems to know what he's doing. It only adds to the enigmatic image of Reznor, his ever-changing band and his industrial music.

There are plenty of questions left unanswered about Wednesday's show and the tour it begins.

Why Fresno? Why a venue like the Saroyan Theatre, when there's probably enough demand to fill Selland Arena?

Why is he doing three U.S. dates — Fresno, Reno and Davis — before taking off for Europe for a couple of shows and then coming back for dates in San Francisco, Las Vegas and the Coachella Festival, and then onward around the country before going overseas again?

We don't really know. He rarely gives interviews and sometimes answers questions from fans on his Web site. He's definitely studied at the Bob Dylan school of media relations.

We're left to believe that Reznor has some sort of plan. We just don't know what it is.

Dustin Bartels, 16, had been watching the Internet and the newspapers for two years waiting, hoping, for news of a Nine Inch Nails tour. He wasn't much different from other fans.

When word of the concert hit, his mom, Lynn, agreed to go buy him tickets the Saturday morning they went on sale. That day, rather than heading down to the Saroyan Theatre to snatch up a ticket, Lynn had to take her husband to the hospital with pneumonia.

She arrived home at 3 p.m. to Dustin.

"Mom, were you able to get tickets?"

He already had heard the news. Tickets were gone.

"Mom, they're already sold out."

So Lynn did what any mother of a 16-year-old, semi-obsessed Reznor fan would do.

"We went on the Internet, and sure as heck, the tickets were already at a hundred bucks a pop," Bartels says. "We ended up spending 0 for him to get one ticket in Row K. I wouldn't usually go to that length.

"I still haven't told my husband how much that ticket cost."

It cost almost five times the ticket price. Last Wednesday, an eBay auction for a pair of tickets ended at 2. It was one of 47 listings. Two weeks ago, there were more than 70listings.

The situation is similar elsewhere. Every U.S. Nine Inch Nails date scheduled is sold out. The only way to see Nine Inch Nails is to go to the enormous Coachella Festival or to Mexico City on June 2. Or there's eBay.

"It seemed like such a big scam to me that people could buy such huge blocks and sell them for five times the amount they were offered for," Bartels says. "That's just a mom speaking for her 16-year-old kid."

Jaimie Jenkins, 24, of Fresno, got seats in Row O, but those weren't good enough. This was her favorite band in her hometown. And she had screamed for 15 minutes straight when she heard the news. So she needed better seats than that.

She doled out 0 on eBay for a second-row seat — which really is nothing compared to the 0 two of her friends from out of town paid for their second-row seats.

She knows people coming from Maryland, New York and Seattle for this concert. It's going to be the first chance to hear music from Reznor's new record, "With Teeth." For some, that's definitely worth flying across the country.

Many of them are following Reznor to Reno and Davis. Jenkins has tickets to nine different shows.

"He's never even played in Fresno," Jenkins says. "For the first show of this tour to be here, it blows my mind."

When Leticia Juarez heard the news about the concert, she was ready to camp out all night to get tickets. Nine Inch Nails was her first concert. So she couldn't miss this one.

Rather than camping out — hey, it was cold — she arrived at the theater box office at 6a.m. with a lawn chair, her homework and a bottle of water, and she waited. She was fifth in line and scored second-row tickets.

"Three bloody hours," she says. "It's totally worth it. Trent's gonna sweat on me."

Back to Trent Reznor and his plans. Whatever those may be.

Many people have theories on why Fresno, why the Saroyan, but nobody knows for sure. Probably just how Reznor wants it.

It could be all of these or none of these:

"It's really rad what he's doing," says Jenkins, about Reznor not wanting word to spread too much before tickets went on sale. "He wants it to be for all the psycho fans who check his Web site every day."

"I'm not really sure," says Claudia Arguelles, director of sales and marketing for the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center. "Maybe that's what they felt comfortable with. I know the band hasn't been together in many, many years. So maybe this is just kind of a start for them."

"He has always kinda said," says Dave Pelletier, a fan coming from Thousand Oaks, "that he missed the days when he was touring for 'Pretty Hate Machine' and 'Broken,' before he hit massive popularity. I've heard him say he wants to go back and do some smaller dates and do some club dates.

"They really could have gone anywhere else. People would have driven to San Francisco or Los Angeles to see them. But no, they went right in the middle of California."

Pelletier, who DJs under the name Joymode, will be DJing an unofficial afterparty at Club Dance put on by Fresno Goth. The event was a reaction to the many disappointed fans who weren't able to get tickets to the show. Many of them found out tickets were sold out before they even knew they were on sale.

They'll be playing a variety of Nine Inch Nails remixes and B-sides. It's not a concert, but it's something.

"The guy hasn't put out an album in six years, but people are still ready to rock with him," says Pelletier, a Coarse- gold native who recently moved to Southern California. "If you get on the Internet and look at any fan site, you'll see that people are rabid over it."

Yes, the Nine Inch Nails fans are just waiting on Reznor's move — as they have been since his last album and his last tour. Exactly the reason for him to do things differently. It keeps people on their toes. It adds to the mystique.

When other bands are playing arenas in New York and Los Angeles, why not go start your tour at a 2,000-seat theater in Fresno?

That pretty much sums up Nine Inch Nails, its leader, its music and its tour strategy — if everyone else is doing one thing, do the exact opposite and pride yourself on it.

"Trent has always been about doing whatever he feels he needs to do," Pelletier says. "Half the time nobody understands what the heck is going on with it, but we grasp it and we're feeding off it."

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