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Bootleg Country: Nirvana – 10/31/91

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Back about 12 years or so I was a counselor at a summer camp. It was a great couple of weeks spent playing games in the sunshine, hanging out with old friends, and mentoring young people. At the time I thought there would be nothing better than being a teacher, a molder of young minds.

The decade since either brought me to my senses, or slipped right by me.

During one of the weeks at camp, I had to go to a concert I had no interest in. While there I bumped into a girl I’d become acquainted with a few months back. We began chatting it up and digging on each other.

I noticed some scratches on her arm and listened, fascinated, as she told me how she had etched “Kurt Forever” into her skin with a knife. This was not long after Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Like a million other young people who are perpetually affected by such things, she took this selfish act to heart.

This was long before I understood terms like “scarring” or that thousands of young people do such things to themselves every day. I didn’t understand the pain or the crying out such things often represent. I simply thought it was a pretty cool thing to do, if rather weird. While I was saddened and angered by Cobain’s act, the thought of carving up my own skin because of it was something of incompressibility.

Around the same time I heard “Come As You Are” on the radio, which was followed by some smart-alecked DJ making sarcastic comments about Cobain lying when he sang, “And I swear that I don’t have a gun.”

My friend, who happened to be a girl who later became something of a girlfriend, became very upset at this comment. She couldn’t understand how someone could joke about the death of an artist, and certainly not the suicide of a genius.

These days when I think about Nirvana, I think about those two girls and their incredibly strong reactions towards the band, its singer, and the songs they produced. In my full-on grunge days I dug the crap out of Nirvana (though truth be told I was always a Pearl Jam man) but these days they barely garner a ‘meh.’

I dig the influential nature of the scene. Rock certainly needed a good swift kick from hair metal and arena rock. When listening to the MTV Unplugged album, you can really get a feel for how great a songwriter Cobain, et al. was. But these days, my musical tastes swing the long shot away from the amped-up new punk that is the bulk of their releases.

Nirvana
10/31/91
Seattle, WA

A Halloween show just after Nirvana became the saviors of rock music. It is loud, full of angst and anger, and some pretty stinkin’ good melodies underneath it all.

From my 30-year-old head, which prefers Donna the Buffalo to Soundgarden, Norah Jones to L7, this guitar heavy neo-punk music takes awhile to warm up to. After the first listen I was bored, so I turned it up a few notches. This is rock ‘n freaking roll, after all, and it needs to be cranked.

That helped, the rhythmic pounding blasting from my little Saturn’s speakers got me to head banging, all the way down to my pancreas.

But it still wasn’t enough; I kept wishing I had a copy of Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions or maybe a Bruce Hornsby bootleg, circa 1997.

By the third listen my nerves had calmed down. My mind accepted the distortion, the noise, the grunge of it all, and I began to digest the music.

For the love of grunge, this is some rockin’ shite.

For a band with only two albums under their belt, they mix it up pretty well. They cover a good portion of Bleach and Nevermind, throw in a couple of new songs, and even manage to cover the Vaseline’s “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam.”

The band seems to be in good spirits. Besides rockin’ they make some cracks about the audience not being dressed up for Halloween, white boy funk, and John Jacobs and the Power team. But mostly they just rock out.

Listening to these guys throw down the heavy stuff for a fourth time didn’t make me join the cult of Nirvana once more, but it reminded me why I was once part of the faithful.

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About Mat Brewster

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    nice review sir brewster. i came to Nirvana sort of late in the game. didn’t really love Nevermind all that much, but got hooked when i read an article about them and some of the subject matter on In Utero (especially the creepy “Scentless Apprentice”).

    then i went back and picked up Nevermind.

    alla that said, for some reason i still have more fun listening to The Foo Fighters.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    It’s interesting to hear how people of “our” generation (young Gen X-ers, I suppose, I’m 32) came across Nirvana. It sounds as though your musical tastes and perhaps relative youth put you in a different place with regard to Nirvana as compared to me.

    I grew up listening to straight classic rock: Led Zep, Hendrix, Cream, Doors, Jefferson Airplane. The hair metal scene turned me off completely, particularly because assholes at my high school seemed to embody everything that was wrong about a band like Guns N Roses… or, more typical of the times, Winger or Firehouse or Cinderella.

    In any event, my “Beatles moment” came on a day I came home from high school, flipped on MTV, and saw the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit playing on the “buzz bin” (if I’m not mistaken). I was listening to something completely different, and I liked it a lot.

    I caught the In Utero tour in late ’93 in Buffalo New York and it was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

  • http://ramblings.ajaxed.net aJ

    Very nice review, especially because it’s a rather different perspective and not a fanboyish review :)

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Thanks folks. Even though I’ve gotten out of my Nirvana phase, I’d still take them over the fighters of foo.

    EB, I was a straight top 40 kid. Which having grown up in the late 80s early 90s (I’m 30) meant lots of hair metal, pseudo rappers like Young MC, MC Hammer, and dance pop like Paula Abdul.

    When Nirvana hit I fell in love with the grunge/alternative scene. I loved Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, the Cure, Dinosaur Jr all that stuff.

    Now I much prefer acoustic guitars and horns to amped up metal. Nirvana is more nostalgia for me than anything else.

    Thanks aJ. I think I was a fanboy once, but again my tastes have gone in other directions in the ten odd years since Nevermind.