Olympia is a nice, but small city, that is roughly 40 miles from Aberdeen. It is about a 15 minute drive from one end of the city to the other. Olympia has a very different feel to it, considering its proximity to Aberdeen. I can see why Kurt would have liked it. Olympia felt safer than Aberdeen, more like a place you wouldn’t mind living. The home he lived in with Tracy Marander was certainly a much better living situation than Kurt usually had in Aberdeen.
The Evergreen State College has a rural feel to the area. Unlike many US colleges, as you drive up, the entrance is a long road, nestled between large trees. The college feels more within nature than most and the trees kind of hide the university buildings within them. Once you get up to the university itself, it separates into left and right sides of the school.
Capitol Lake Park was pretty and picturesque, but also fairly small as far some city parks go. Olympia has its own farmers markets and art fairs going on, that were nice to come across. I also ran across a popular children’s museum, among other activities while in Olympia that all seemed worth checking out.
114 1/2 Pear Street Olympia, WA USA – (home where Kurt lived with then girlfriend Tracy Mirander and later with Dave Grohl in 1990-1991) nice blue home, 3 separate sections of home available for living with Kurt previously occupying the right side & right rear side of home (sections 2 & 3). Young college aged kids living there during my visit from what I could tell. Street parking is available in front of the home and across the street at the Washington State Lottery Building (that Kurt & Dave Grohl used to shoot air gun pellets at). There is also a parking lot for the Washington State Lottery building right there too. The home itself has a small alley access on the right side of the home as well and the backyard is small and only partially visible due to trees from the right side alley. Kurt wrote a large majority of the most famous Nirvana songs at this home. What I think was maybe just a coincidence, when I was right in front of the house, a car passed down the adjacent street (but not in front of the house) playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with the window rolled down. It hit me that I was standing in front of the house where that song is thought to have been written. Amazing.
The Evergreen State College Olympia, WA USA – TV Production, Library area, KAOS Radio, etc. – (Kurt & Nirvana played shows here, appeared twice on KAOS radio station, recorded songs in the television studio & had friends that went here) – I visited on a Sunday in the Summer, so the school was out of session. However, because of that, I was able to go around and see more than I probably would have been able to otherwise. All of the Nirvana related buildings seemed to be open. The building that has the KAOS radio station inside was open and I was able to walk up all the way to its front door. Lots of interesting messages on the glass windows in front. Next to the KAOS offices (which were locked) was a billboard for upcoming events going on in the college. Nirvana played a gig near the library so I went to check that area out. While the library itself was not open, the photography section was, which has a display of various personal looking photos taken during US wars in the Middle East. Once heading further in that building, it leads to the TV & Graphic Arts rooms. Those rooms were all closed, however you could walk through the entire department and its hallways. I could kind of picture what it must have been like all those years earlier after visiting the college.
Keep in mind that many of the places Kurt and Nirvana played at or hung out at in Olympia have either closed or have changed drastically over the years. That is the case with Aberdeen and Seattle as well. This is to be expected since it has been 20-25 years since they became apart of the Kurt Cobain/Nirvana story. I visited what I felt were the most relevant and intact places as of 2016.
If you are looking for more to do in Olympia, check out the State Capitol building, a Japanese Garden, the Bigelow House Museum, as well as other lakes and parks.
And if you want to see every related Kurt Cobain item here, you can go by the house that Courtney Love bought for Kurt’s Mom Wendy & sister Kim at 8910 Bordeaux Rd SW, Olympia, WA. Courtney purchased the house in 1997 but stopped making payments by 2003. WMC Mortgage Co. in Los Angeles was owed back payments, so the house was auctioned off in January 2006 at the Thurston County Courthouse in Olympia.
Part 1: Seattle can be found here:
My 2013 visits are documented in the ‘Nirvana Maps and Locales’ category, check the menu at left hand side of the screen. They include:
A little while a go I checked NirvanaDarkSlivers@gmail.com and was greeted by a couple of emails from a charming fellow called Brian describing his own Nirvana journey in the State of Washington – an endeavour he’d been working up to for quite a while. My own trip was – wow, some three years ago now, ages. So was curious to see his updates and happy to agree to share his ‘journal’ and photos more widely. Hope you enjoy – oh! And definitely go see the Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia/Aberdeen area, it’s intriguing!
Recently I’ve spent quite a bit of time immersed in the world of Elliott Smith’s posthumous recordings as selected for the movie ‘Heaven Adores You’. Naturally I have an automatic empathy with the efforts of fans and friends seeking to celebrate and memorialise someone whose work they admire – the fact it does some real-world good via the Portland charity Outside In certainly provides further warmth in that respect.
Was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to Will Brooks of Dälek – it’s interesting watching some of the same spirit that motivated the U.S. punk underground surviving in numerous forms. In the end I suspect it isn’t the music that creates the culture, it’s the shared culture, the people, first – the instruments and sound come after ward.
Also wanted to share a lengthy review (thanks Brett for noticing it) of ‘Cobain on Cobain’ from PopMatters. Megan Volpert is a very experienced and expansive writer so enjoyed reading this on many levels.
In other ‘stuff’…Well, I wasn’t so chirpy about the Melvins’ latest – but, as ever, it doesn’t matter because those guys are an idea fountain and there’ll be new, fresh thoughts spurting out of them soon enough. In the end I admire a band willing to walk the high-wire and fail publicly – at least these guys ain’t save even if this is far from their best record. The track with Krist Novoselic, alas, I was too distracted by the horrors of the accordion to even notice the bass playing so I’ve not got any deep analysis of this latest on vinyl outing for Mr. Novoselic. I would say though, love that ‘The Decay of Lying’ track. Awesomeness.
Interesting, since early last year the locks seem to have fallen off the ol’ Nirvana vaults somewhere down the line. My suspicion is that activity surrounding Montage of Heck led people to hunt out buried tapes, source material, to surreptitiously snag copies that are now emerging. That’d be ironic if part of the impetus around MoH was for the Estate of Kurt Cobain to safeguard the material.
So! What does it amount to? Incidentally, yes, I’m doing something I find fun and comforting – chatting about the music of Nirvana – to distract me from the dreary reality of the U.K. voting its way out of the EU. Probably best I don’t get into that one eh?
The first piece of interest is the emergence of ‘Lullaby’, a title that has floated around in fan circles (as ever kudos to LiveNirvana) for years. What does it amount to? Alas, not much. A jammed out improv with organ to the fore. There’s a guitar part low in the mix but is there – it seems all three members of Nirvana were in on this. The drum sound makes me think it might be Cobain drumming (thoughts and opinions welcomed!) Alas, these stabbing chords and little strolls don’t offer much and the band clearly know there’s not much left to offer other than a final shambolic breakdown. Noise is a good refuge for any jam that has run its course. Shame it didn’t quite live up to it’s name – I think I’d actually been hoping for some kind of slight ‘Marigold’ style acoustic piece.
Speaking of Marigold…Two versions have come out. The instrumental take one of Marigold is intriguing for giving a sense of what a more muscular guitar part might have lent to the track. The decision to keep it as a light pop tune, something whispered and gentle, certainly created something unique but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have potential to be a more standard fit for the Nirvana template.
Take two of Marigold, again an instrumental, seems primarily intended as a run-through of the drums. The guitar part is far more familiar but the drums are more forcefully delivered. Maybe it’s my ears but the drums seem to become more confident as it develops, like this is a practice exercise, warming up, Dave coaching Cobain through it until Cobain has it ready for what will become the proper cuts.
Oooo… ‘Dave Solo’, southern-fried boogie-down grunge rock! It’s pretty likable! The scratchy guitar sound and the growling rhythm guitar fit beautifully, it’s something different to verse-chorus-verse, works well as a relatively brief n’ spunky run-through of basic ideas and doesn’t outstay its welcome. There’s basically just a couple of thoughts at work in it, pretty-vestigial, no sense of how it might shift or develop…So it doesn’t, which is fine for a sub-two minute running time.
There’s also a barely different version of Dumb released. To be fair, by February 1993, Dumb had been worked over for so many years it would have been stunning if there were any significant changes or inflections left to make to it. The only thing I noticed is the absence of backing vocals (and perhaps a slightly less powerful delivery of the “I think I’m dumb” outro line:
Just for fun, here’s Dumb from KAOS 1990 too – nice to compare the takes and the small elements that shifted 1990 to 1993. The humming on the chorus is a lovely touch and does make me wonder if he was using a vocal sound to indicate where he already imagined another sound (the cello in 1993?) would substitute:
To finish on a high note…Now THIS I could listen to all day. Some kind and awesome soul has spliced together Nirvana’s ‘live destruction’ efforts from 1991 into two ten minute efforts. Ah…The sweet sweet sound of Nirvana torturing their instruments…
Doesn’t time fly? Here we are in late May and it’s been ages since I last posted. Many apologies, a full month of ill health, final preparation on the Thurston Moore book I’ve been working on, plenty of my real job to do, a lot of real life.
The attached piece written for Words & Guitars is…Well, I’m less temperate or mellow than I’d be ordinarily. Jesse Hughes of the Eagles of Death Metal made a batch of comments about what happened at the Bataclan in Paris last year. Why does it bother me? Because this is friends of mine he’s talking about, these are people I love and care for that he’s calling terrorists when they’re just as upset or worried by it as anyone else. The day I see Jesse Hughes take responsibility for crimes committed by white Christians is the day I’ll suggest that the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are anything other than individuals getting on with their lives as, unfortunately, the usual ragtag bunch of idiots present in any society or group ruin it for the majority.
Here’s the letter shared by one Muslim survivor of the Bataclan attack:
And here’s the piece regarding the gentleman who saved several hundred lives that night: