Very aware a post was due days ago but an absence of time plus an absence of a decent Internet connection has had me on pause, that’s on top of the ongoing travelling.
Nirvana. World-conquering demi-God band; significant in the short history of recorded music. Indeed, all true. And yet this is where they started…
A totally ordinary one floor home where they played that first house party in March 1987. 17 Nussbaum Road is a pleasant looking property but the image in my head is trying to count how many people I can imagine cramming into any of the rooms of that house, especially with a band set up in a corner. There might have been a few dozen in the building but barely more than a dozen could have been in the room and enjoying Nirvana.
I’ve tried to capture a few shots of the area around the house just to give a real sense of how stand-alone and isolated the property is. I’d always imagined some riotous suburban hangout akin to the Caddyshack Nirvana played at later…Couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m always suspicious of rags-to-riches narratives simply because its too easy and simplistic a story-telling mechanism, it’s the application of fiction to real-life. There is a degree of truth though in the humbleness of Nirvana’s beginnings and the fluke of their success which is emphasised when looking at the house.
Kurt, Krist and Aaron had been practising some six months by the time this show happened; they were comfortable sitting at home rehearsing endlessly. Listening to the recording of the 17 Nussbaum Road show (readily available and in suprisingly high quality) its pretty obvious how well drilled they are; even in the confines of someone’s living room, at a random party and all drunk to various degrees, the songs come through loud and clear with few errors. For sure, Cobain already shows that he was never a soloist in the Jimmy Page tradition, nor would he ever be, but he’s getting it together – scrappy but really fun covers wouldn’t be unheard of in future years either.
The show didn’t happen though of Nirvana’s own choosing. It happened because Ryan Aigner, after trying for ages to persuade Cobain that it was time for the band to play in front of a wider audience, finally pulled the trigger, turning up on Cobain’s doorstep telling him the show was happening and they needed to get in the van now.
The arrangement nearly cost Ryan his job given the van was impounded the next morning – he had to beg the pound to open specially on a Sunday to let him have it back. Incidentally, the exact date of the first Nirvana show is seemingly unknown – a shame no one can trace the birthday boy and ask him. For the record though, as it happened on a Saturday it would therefore have been either the 7th, 14th, 21st or 28th…I wonder which!
Anyways, while we’re talking about wrenching miracles and life-changing events from the everyday, this photo is from Montesano:
This is the location where Kurt Cobain saw the Melvins show that convinced him music was his future goal and destination. Nothing much to look at now but the acorns indeed grew.