[Editor's Note: Longtime concert photographer and fellow Weekling Andrew Youssef found out almost two years ago that he had Stage IV colon cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events for us on top of other freelance work and holding a day job at a hospital, of all places. As he continues to fight for his life, this series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]
My life continues to be a whirlwind since I posted my column about going into palliative care: coordinating visits with friends, tying up loose ends, sending more emails, and trying to find a break in between it all to have some quiet time to just unwind and decompress.
The way I decompress is by reliving some of my favorite moments. Flying to San Francisco to see Nine Inch Nails at Outside Lands and seeing them again at the Troubadour definitely qualify as top moments and had me at peace, realizing I could live with the fact I might not be able to see them on Nov. 8 at Staples Center.
Fortunately for me, my experience with Nine Inch Nails would not end there, as I was invited to see them rehearse for their current Tension 2013 arena tour. Surreal doesn't quite fully explain my time spent with the band. I was greeted immediately by keyboardist Alessandro Cortini, who quickly introduced me to Trent Reznor. The whole crew and staff went beyond their way to make sure I was comfortable. I was spending 14 hours in bed, and suddenly, I found myself at Nine Inch Nails rehearsals. I couldn't have dreamed that up if I tried.
It was amazing to see one of my favorite bands rehearsing in an empty arena while I sat on a plush couch in front of the soundboard. Whenever they dimmed the lights to examine their mind-blowing light show, I found a way to sneak in some tears because I was overwhelmed with such gratitude. Another part of the excitement was seeing bassist Pino Palladino added to the lineup and backup singers Lisa Fischer and Sharlotte Gibson providing another dimension on the vocals.
I was loaded up on medications in order to get me through the time I spent there, and I was well-aware it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It never got old seeing some of my favorite songs performed back to back. I would wake up and wish I was in the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day so that I could relive it forever. The rehearsals were catered, and during lunch and dinner, I was able to speak to various members of the band and tried to curtail my excitement.
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One of my many favorite moments was being able to eat with Trent and talk about everything from Breaking Bad to my journey fighting colon cancer and how I refuse to give up without putting up a fight. Those moments are something I will always cherish. Being an avid synthesizer enthusiast, Alessandro proceeded to give me a tour of his keyboard station, and I don't think I stopped drooling during the time he was talking.
Saying goodbye to everyone was definitely the most difficult part. I felt as though I was now a part of the Nine Inch Nails family. One of the crew members even suggested I should just jump on tour with them, which was beyond flattering. As I left, the band showered me with guitar picks and drumsticks and signed the Dave Smith Prophet 12 keyboard I recently purchased as a treat for myself. I would like to thank Trent, Mariqueen, Alessandro, Nine Inch Nails, Eric, Jim, Courtney, Rob and the entire crew for such a life-changing experience. Those were honestly were the best days of my life.