On August 13th, 1994 Nine Inch Nails took part in Woodstock '94 at Winston Farm in Saugerties, NY as the final date of the Self Destruct Tour. Their performance is considered one of the best in the band's history, despite the band's opinion that it was one of their worst. They took the stage covered head-to-toe in mud. This single performance is widely accepted as the one that made the band famous.
The other acts that played the festival on the same day as NIN were Joe Cocker, Blind Melon, Cypress Hill, Rollins Band, Melissa Etheridge, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Metallica, Aerosmith, Nenad Bach, The Cranberries, Zucchero, Youssou N'Dour, The Band, Primus and Salt 'N Pepa.
Oh, this is fucking weird… This is something new from us… This is from Natural Born Killers, it's called "Burn."
After "Down In It" was performed, Reznor said:
You guys having a good time? When we said we'd do this fucking thing… I was kinda worried that it would suck, but I think it's turned out to be a pretty cool thing. (coughs) I've got mud in my fucking eyes. Plus, I got the chance to say the word "fuck" on Pay-Per-View. FUCK!
Then, "Dead Souls" began, and Reznor said:
This is something we did for The Crow.
During the intro to "Suck", Reznor said:
I just wanted to say Thank you
Nine Inch Nails were considered to have the largest crowd density at the event, overshadowing many of the more mainstream bands of the time. In the interview after their performance, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor claimed he thought his band's performance was "terrible". Reznor admitted that while he disliked playing at such a large show, it was done for the money: "To be quite frank, it's basically to offset the cost of the tour we're doing right now."
The story behind the band being covered in mud was told in an interview with RIP magazine:
We were right out by the big mud pit and watchin' everybody, I thought, "well, this looks like a lot of fun." At that time there wasn't that many people that were muddy, but the people that *were* in the mud looked like they were having a great time and we thought "fuck, y'know, we kinda can't actually do that." But we didn't have showers backstage at that time either, so we went back and hung out backstage, and it was just a real nervous day. Then on the way to the stage I pushed Danny [Lohner], our guitar player, and he just fell face-first into the mud. Then he tackled me and it turned into a kind of all-male mud wrestling thing. It was actually really funny. After we did that, all nervousness kind of subsided.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Reznor's mud-covered stage outfit from the show is now part of the collection at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. With NIN's induction in 2020, an exhibit about the concert was also installed.
- Robin Finck: Guitar, backing vocals
- Danny Lohner: Bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
- Trent Reznor: Vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Chris Vrenna: Drums
- James Woolley: Keyboards, backing vocals
- "Terrible Lie"
- "March Of The Pigs"
- "Something I Can Never Have"
- "The Only Time"
- "Down In It"
- "Dead Souls"
- "Help Me I Am In Hell"
- "Happiness In Slavery"
- "Head Like A Hole"
There is a video for the "Happiness In Slavery" performance that has long circulated the internet through p2p and sites like YouTube. This version is heavily dubbed or poorly mixed, so much that Trent banging on the keyboards cannot be heard. The beginning has sounds from "Pinion" and the end is "Head Like A Hole," including the scene of comedian Calvert DeForest (1922–2007) announcing the band. This song was also released on the official Woodstock '94 CD and VHS. Part of the performance also appears on Closure.
In September 2013 a remastered video of the full broadcast was posted on YouTube by Kevin Carafa and reposted on the official Nine Inch Nails tumblr page in August of the following year for the show's 20th anniversary. This was subsequently removed and a substitute source was uploaded by the YouTube channel Music Vault..
Many bootlegs exist for this performance. On one such bootleg, titled When The Whip Come Down, the liner notes contain the following description:
- Like creatures from the black lagoon they slunk on stage, caked head to toe in mud looking like they had just risen from the pits of hell. Nine Inch Nails, without doubt, proved to be the most successful show of the entire festival. They went hell for leather like there was no tomorrow, nothing could stop Trent Reznor and his crew, it was Apocalypse Now brought to life in a field in Saugerties and being transmitted worldwide by pay as you view cable to millions in the safe confines of their own homes. You had to be there as the rain fell to appreciate the sheer beauty of the Nine Inch Nails killing machine on its own out of control rampage. Take no prisoners was the saying of the day as victims fell on all side. Any act that makes even David Letterman sit up and take notice has got to be doing something right. Nine Inch Nails are like taking a helter skelter ride through a tunnel of broken glass. Nine Inch Nails will shred your soul.