Yes, I’m that old. Yes, it was fucking unreal. Yes, it was probably not unlike how my parents would’ve felt seeing The Beatles in their prime. Since the “definitive rock doc” of Kurt Cobain will be released soon, this feels timely.
I was about to turn 15. I was a freshman in high school. I had recently made friends with a man I’ll refer to throughout these stories as “Nad” – I’d explain it, but if you know me then you know him and if you don’t, I’m not here to get the guy in trouble 1this story isn’t troubling, but some other stories might be. I sat behind him in Science class, and he always wore a hat and listened to music on his headphones. We both had long hair and a love for metal. I don’t recall our first conversation very well, but I know one of us asked the other if they’d be going to the Nirvana concert. Both of us agreed we had to go. That’s how it all started.
There was this dude in our class who, in my memory, seemed considerably older than us. Hair down to his ass. LOVED metal. He would ask me and Nad if we liked certain metal bands or songs, and we’d share our love of “that one riff” in an old Metallica song and things like that. He’d get so excited that he’d air guitar the solo and make squealy-guitar noises with his mouth and then just laugh and say “duuuuuude… that’s a BAAAADASS riff!”. His name was Jamie, and he constantly got kicked out of class for antics like that. But it’s not like he was trying to be disruptive. It was like he needed to air guitar and talk loudly about metal. One day, he got the boot from our class and we never saw him again. Nad and I still do impressions of him to this day.
Nirvana played at the Memorial Coloseum in Phoenix, just 11 days before my 15th birthday. When bands played at the MC, it was often during the AZ State Fair. You’d pay for a ticket to the fair and the concert was free. Essentially, Nirvana played at my state fair. My mom gave me the.. I dunno, $12, to see them and offered me and a friend a ride as an early birthday present. It was me, Dave, and Nad. When we went to pick up Nad, his mom had some concerns about moshpits, and decided at the last minute to not let him go. “You’re too young for that”, I think she said. It was down to just me and Dave.
We got to the show and security wouldn’t let us into the floor area, cause we didn’t get there early enough for a wristband. So, we had to sit up in the stands. Mudhoney opened the show, and I remember almost nothing about it, except Dave and I plotting a way to get to the floor for Nirvana. As it turns out – we were in luck. Everyone else had the same plan.
The lights went down, the curtains started to pull back, and you could see the little “In Utero” angels Nirvana was using on that tour, and you heard the squelch of guitars too close to an amp (as was Nirvana’s way). They busted into “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” and the crowd went fucking insane. Before the end of the song, Dave and I managed to half-run, half-crowd-surf our way onto the floor.
Seeing these 3 small, young dudes just tear up a packed arena was an experience I’ll never forget. And finding out that the audio of the show is on YouTube almost made me cry hearing it all these years later.
Don’t let people tell you Nirvana was overrated. That shit was transformative for everyone in attendance.
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