Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989, is both a photo journal and a grunge rock microhistory – an inside look into a crucial eight-day period in the touring life of Nirvana, and two other Seattle bands, as seen through the eyes of myself, the founder of Sub Pop, the Seattle label that first signed Nirvana in 1988.
The dramatic eight days covered in this book, from November 27 through December 4, 1989, represent a turning point for Nirvana. In this brief period, the young band goes from breaking up in Rome to winning over the influential music press in London at Sub Pop’s LameFest UK showcase, setting the stage for their imminent popularity.
On November 27, 1989, when my business partner Jon Poneman and I arrived to meet the band in Rome, they were almost finished with a grueling six week tour of Europe. Although determined to promote their grungy, riff-heavy debut album, Bleach, their travels with fellow Sub Pop act Tad had left them exhausted. Providing label support, Jon and I did our best to revive the spirits of a frustrated and downcast Kurt Cobain, who then managed to continue to London where Nirvana played the biggest and most important show of their career to date.
LameFest UK, held at the 2,000-capacity Astoria Theatre, featured three Seattle Sub Pop acts: Nirvana, Tad and popular headliners Mudhoney. Although Nirvana opened the show, their heart-pounding performance won over the crowd as well as the powerful British press, who went on to proclaim that Nirvana was, "Sub Pop's answer to The Beatles." It was then that the world's attention began to focus on the band that would become the biggest rock act of their generation.
A portion of proceeds will go to the Vera Project in Seattle, Washington. Vera is an all-ages volunteer fueled music and arts venue. By engaging participants at all levels of music production and community organizing, Vera strives to fulfill its mission to foster a participatory creative culture through popular music concerts, arts programs, experiential learning and volunteer opportunities for all ages, especially young people.
A rare glimpse
Only rarely in history is The Moment of an artist's public transformation from 'unknown' to 'possessed' documented by an attentive witness. And even rarer still is a witness who follows through with the production of a reflective, honest and eloquent account for all the world to share. In this case, Pavitt is both witness and instigator, and a fine story-teller with an eye for the archetypal. This book is the record of that Moment as it happened to a small group of young men who would go on to create the music and consciousness that defined an Age.
Get it, and read it, When you do, you will feel the same spark and fire that launched Nirvana into legend. And if you're like me, you'll think more seriously about writing some songs and starting a band.
Pavitt in part responsible for Kurt's demise
Will not support Bruce Pavitt, the man who is responsible for manufacturing and farming out Nirvana and other SubPop acts, forcing them to tour Europe relentlessly to the point of breaking Kurt emotionally (does Pavitt explain exactly why Kurt was having an emotional breakdown and threatening to jump off the speakers? Was it because of of sickening and over-rigorous overseas touring schedule Nirvana was under contract to oblige to help get SubPop out of debt? Notice they never actually sent him back home to get better, they knew he had to be their cash cow, so no matter how emotionally screwed Kurt was, they still would not cancel or postpone shows. That's all Pavitt and Poneman's call).
Pavitt seems to have no connection with Nirvana or the other label bands, other than from the pure business perspective of hopefully creating so much of a buzz for SubPop acts that the label gets bought out and he and Jonathon Poneman can retire on their riches, while leaving their acts in the hands of even more ruthless major labels who are truely responsible for Cobain and others' artist, creative, spiritual and physical demise.
Other than that, sure, great tour anecdotes from the label boss-man.
This book is awesome, it tells us about the story of Nirvana before the whole Nevermind thing, while they were still an "underground" and "unknown" band. Lots of cool stories from someone who was actually there and not some phoney journalist just trying to cash in, and lots of new pictures too. A must read for any Nirvana fan...Thanks Bruce!!!