Mileage out of Nirvana

Firstly, a sincere thank you to Nirvana Live Guide, their guide to Nirvana shows sets an incredible bar and I haven’t seen anything of similar depth or knowledge for any other band. Amazing. I’m sure the next chart won’t show anything people aren’t already aware of — for me, cramming the data simply acted as a reemphasis of how true some statements are:

Yes, Nirvana truly are a Seattle band and yes, they really are a Pacific North-West band with an allegiance to Washington State. Just for emphasis…

I guess I simply hadn’t realised how dominant Washington State was in the history of Nirvana. The band visited Tacoma as much as New York. It also emphasises how U.S.-centric the band was; despite eight tours abroad (plus two one off foreign shows in 1992) only seven non-U.S. cities receive more than two visits, three of them still being in Canada or Mexico. It’s intriguing to me how much attention Reading 1991 or 1992 receive, or the Astoria Lamefest in 1989; what I think we’re seeing is how influential the U.K. based music press are in comparison to any other nation’s music media. Sub Pop were right in terms of their strategy; take the U.K. media and you won the world…So long as you toured like crazy in the U.S. to back it up. The story of Nirvana is dominated by foreign shows but I can’t tell at this range whether I’m seeing reality at the level of the fans, or whether I’ve adopted and assimilated a message written mostly by U.K. music journalists in which the U.K. shows look huge despite the low numbers. Seeing how much work Nirvana put in within U.S. borders I admit it makes me think that their fame was more down to that hard graft and less to self-regarding British journalists declaring XYZ U.K. based gig crucial…But as the majority of us never experienced the band live, as we only know them as an audio, video, photographic experience – does that then make the U.K. shows the winners?

This final graphic shows two elements; one, the fact that Nirvana were so heavily focused on Washington State and their West Coast U.S. neighbours that they performed over one hundred shows in just three states. To put that in context, Nirvana only played 121 shows abroad in their entire career — given how centred the U.S. entertainment business is in California, in some ways gaining a reputation in that region was as significant as all the work abroad.

This table also emphasises, to me, how much work Nirvana put in to their success; they visited 37 of 50 U.S. states — significant mileage into some backwood locations to spread the word. It makes Nirvana’s rise to fame less miraculous but far more impressive in many ways; the status they achieved was down to hard slog not just because moneyed powers plucked them from obscurity and set them atop the music industry.

We’ll play more with geography later today – its a neat diversion and I enjoyed crunching the information…


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