Nine Inch Nails get down and dirty at Woodstock ’94
With a new Nine Inch Nails album set to be on the way very soon, something Trent Reznor promised was “a giant pot of angst”, we thought we’d look back to one of NIN’s most iconic moments as they took the stage at Woodstock 94.
Nine Inch Nails were wary about performing at the mega-corporate Woodstock 25th anniversary show. As were most of the acts that signed up for the infamous set. But a pre-show mud fight got them into the spirit of things before they even took the stage.
The video below sees the band arrive on stage looking just like the gleeful audience in front of them; utterly caked in mud. Nine Inch Nails then set themselves apart from the rest with a thunderous 15-song set which would live long in the memory of those who witnessed it.
The festival was organised as a celebration of 25 years of mind-altering rock and roll that followed the iconic Woodstock Festival of 1969. But unlike the ill-fated 50th anniversary attempt that didn’t go ahead last year, this festival had some heavy commercial backers.
Seeing Metal legends Nine Inch Nails be a part of such a commercial venture was something many of the band’s fans couldn’t reconcile with their ethos. Lead singer Trent Reznor revealed the simple answer, “The money. To be quite frank, it’s basically to offset the cost of the tour we’re doing right now.”
Attended by over half a million people the festival welcomed some heavy hitters of rock to take over the stages. Aerosmith, Metallica, Bob Dylan and Green Day would all grace the stage at some point over the weekend among a host of incredible acts. With a heavy downpour and a heaving mass of attendees trudging through the ever-growing mud pits, those stages were soon enough covered in thick and stinking mud.
Green Day chose to pick their mud fight with the audience on stage at a very memorable performance on the closing day of the festival, Nine Inch Nails, as they often do, did things their own way. With easily the biggest crowd of the whole event waiting on Saturday 13th August for Reznor and co.’s arrival the band graced the stage covered head to toe in mud.
Later the complete story came out, “On the way to the stage there was a little accident,” Trent Reznor told MTV after the performance. “It turns into a mud wrestling thing that escalated into a full-scale mud riot … I accidentally tripped and pushed Danny [Lohner’s] face into the mud. He retaliated by body-slamming me.”
It meant that Reznor and the rest of the band performed the mammoth 15-song set as moving blurs of dense New York filth. NIN provided some astounding ‘were you there?’ moments from the very start with the imposing opener ‘Pinion’. It is then followed up later in the set with a cover of Joy Division’s ‘Dead Souls’ and the frenetic finisher ‘Head Like A Hole’ all of which combine to make a set of alt-rock gold. It left the crowd a bubbling mass of energy and intense mud-covered fun.
“I feared after I committed to do it that it would be a corporate nightmare, with a Pepsi logo behind the Woodstock thing,” Reznor later said. “But I’m pleased to say that I’ve gotten a good vibe here. It’s a pretty positive thing for the fans that came to see us.”
Whether it was the pre-show mud fight or the crowd’s insistence to keep the game going off stage, this performance from Nine Inch Nails will go down in history. In fact, Reznor’s outfit from the day now hangs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and soon the band’s name will be there too—dripping mud all over the floor.