Last Shot: Survivalism with Nine Inch Nails

[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.]

It is difficult to plan my life that far in advance. For example, I have the next nine days off of work but most of those will be absorbed between doctor's appointments, MRI of my back and potentially three days of cyberknife radiation to erase the metastasis in my spine. While I plan to enjoy one of two concerts in between, my schedule needs to be open just in case.

This is also coupled with the potential fact that I will probably not feel as great until I”m placed on a new chemotherapy regimen. It is a scary time for me.

One of the things that has kept me going is the fact I can still shoot concerts and see my favorite bands. As you may have heard, Nine Inch Nails have come out of their short retirement to release a new record Hesistation Marks on September 3rd. Out of all the bands I've seen in concert, there are few experiences that are intense as a Nine Inch Nails show. The first time I saw Nine Inch Nails was at the Warfield in San Francisco for The Downward Spiral warm up tour.

*Last Shot: A Concert Photographer's Battle With Cancer


That concert is legendary in my mind because Nine Inch Nails were on the precipice of exploding and the intensity of that show was palpable. One of the memorable moments occurred during “March of the Pigs,” when Trent Reznor tossed his microphone stand in the air behind him and it clocked their drummer in the head. After a short break, the bandaged drummer returned to the stage to close out the set just as fiercely as they had started. I was hooked from that point on.

Over the years though, Nine Inch Nails didn't tour as much until 2005 as they paired up for a huge arena tour with Queens of the Stone Age and Autolux which had me in distorted guitar heaven. They continued to tour into 2006 and I strategically caught some shows in Boston, Charlotte, and Raleigh. I figured I would go to as many shows as possible because they hadn't toured in such a long time.


It so happened that I planned my vacation around the Nine Inch Nails tour. In 2007, my good friend Michael and I went to the United Kingdom and caught seven shows in various cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and London for one of the best trips in my life. Nine Inch Nails continued to tour tirelessly into 2008 and even had a open camera policy at the end to allow you to take photos without needing a photo pass.

While I did make it to all their farewell shows in 2009, I thought that my Nine Inch Nails live experience had come to a close. It will be difficult for me to travel too far to see that many shows but I have some tickets for their Las Vegas shows in November and plan on catching their Staples Center show. Unfortunately, November feels like it is years away and my unstable health condition makes things very cloudy.

My glimmer of hope is that Nine Inch Nails will be playing Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco on August 10 which is a mere month away. I plan to do everything in my power to see Nine Inch Nails once more and hope it provides me with a boost of good energy to help me keep fighting my disease. My fingers are also crossed for a potential warm up show here in Los Angeles but it could just be my wishful thinking.

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