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!
My name is Brian Peterson, and I am a long time Nirvana fan. I completed a visit to Washington State in the US in July 2016, during which time I visited numerous Kurt Cobain/Nirvana related sites. I ran my own Nirvana web site, The Nirvana Information Archive, from roughly 1996 to 2006 and was an active member of the internet Nirvana community during that time.
Visiting Aberdeen/Seattle/Olympia/Hoquiam/Tacoma was something I wanted to do ever since I started reading the dozens of Nirvana books I own, bought the numerous unauthorized Nirvana videos out there, etc. I wanted to see if the “stories” were anything like the real experience. I wrote this in order to share with you my experiences. While researching my stops for this trip, I found there is a lot of outdated info on the internet for those who want to visit these Kurt Cobain and Nirvana related locations. My goal is for this information to be easy to understand whether you are a more casual fan or a hardcore Nirvana fan.
This journey is actually apart of a much larger trip I have been doing ever since April 2015. I have been traveling around the world. I have visited every continent and 50+ countries and counting. If you are interested in learning more, and would like to keep up with my latest adventures, check out my blog at:
Seattle is what most fans think of when they think of bands like Nirvana. Seattle is a huge city, especially compared to Aberdeen & Olympia, full of people from all walks of life. There is still a more “alternative culture” in Seattle than most places, and the fact that there are still numerous music venues within a few miles of one another is quite an accomplishment in itself.
However, Seattle is said to have changed quite a lot over the past 20+ years. While many Nirvana fans may think this is not a good thing, I think it is important for any city to evolve and grow in order to stay relevant.
You will likely not feel as personal of a connection to Kurt in Seattle as you will in Aberdeen. The fact of the matter is, Nirvana was not really a Seattle band in the first place. That being said, places like the Experience Music Project is a must see attraction for any Nirvana fan, and to a lesser extent, the “Kurt Bench” in Viretta Park.
I have visited Hard Rock Cafes around the world, and the best Hard Rock/Nirvana related collection is in Seattle. Stop by there as well if you get the chance.
11301 Lakeside Avenue NE Seattle, WA USA – (Kurt & Courtney’s home for much of 1993) nice area, home sits on the outer corner of the road that what turns into a dead end street. Had to turn the car around to get out. Mustard yellow and brown colored home up on a small hill with garage. House is very nice, but home directly across the street stood out more on first glance due to nice flowers growing near the road. Is in a private area of the town where no local traffic would normally ever pass through.
171 Lake Washington Boulevard East Seattle, WA USA w/ Viretta Park next door – (Kurt & Courtney Love’s former home where Kurt Cobain’s body was found on April 8th, 1994) – I previously had also visited Seattle in 2010 and many Kurt/Nirvana related sites, so I knew what to expect this time when going to Viretta Park. The home is less visible to see from Viretta Park from my visit in 2010 (due to the trees on the side of the park growing larger). The current park bench was covered in tribute of flowers, a Kurt drawing, beer cans, and a marker left to write on the bench. I only wrote my name on the bench in the back, because any message I could write obviously wouldn’t be seen by the man it was intended for and the messages already there I found were deeper than anything I could come up with off of the top of my head in that moment. I visited on US Independence Day (July 4th) for about 10 minutes. During that time 5 other fans also came up to visit all these year later. It felt kind of like I was visiting a cemetery, albeit very peaceful. There is no parking in front of the house nor park. There is another small park down the road with limited parking if driving by car. There were “no parking” signs on the side of the street near the home to keep visitors from parking there. Traffic is continuous on Lake Washington Blvd East and you need to watch for cars when walking across the street to Viretta Park. If going by public bus, it can get a bit tricky to find it from the bus stop drop off location, so use your cell phone GPS to lead you there if possible. My favorite message on the bench from this visit: “You are more than your suicide. You are more than your music. You are more than Nirvana.” Also, it rarely gets mentioned, but there is a 2nd bench in Viretta Park in the far left hand corner if you are looking at the park from the sidewalk.
Central Saloon – 207 First Avenue South, Seattle, WA USA – (Sports bar Nirvana played early shows at) Still in its original location and still looks to be going strong. In downtown Seattle. Lists itself as “Seattle’s Oldest Music Venue.”
Robert Lang Studios – 19351 23rd Ave NW, Shoreline, WA USA – (Where Nirvana’s final recordings took place in 1994 and later Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters recorded) – beautiful large red home/recording studio found just north of Seattle. Wish I could have seen inside. No street parking in front. Does have a Robert Lang Academy which could be a great place to learn for up and coming engineers and producers.
Crocodile Cafe – 2200 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA USA (surprise Nirvana 1992 gig played here) – previously went inside in 2010. Great two story music venue with bars and overall good vibe. Lots of concert posters all over the walls. None of Nirvana though since they were not announced for that show and all posters look to be related to gigs played at the Crocodile.
Moore Theatre & Paramount – Seattle, WA USA (Nirvana concerts performed at these venues) – did not go inside either place, but both still regularly having big musical acts coming through their doors.
Seattle Hard Rock Cafe – 116 Pike St, Seattle, WA USA – (home of many Nirvana/Kurt Cobain/related acts artifacts) – Items found: snow globe from the wedding cake of Kurt Cobain & Courtney Love from the wedding in February 1992 in Hawaii, former door from Robert Lang Studios with Kurt drawing on it, Krist Novoselic bass, Kurt’s Aunt Mari’s guitar which Kurt played in the early-mid 1980’s, Dave Grohl Foo Fighters related autographed magazines, Nirvana “Bleach” era drummer Chad Channing signed drum set, letter written by Courtney Love, etc. A must stop if you are in the Pike Place Market area. There is a roof top bar there with a nice view outside as well.
Experience Music Project – 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA USA – (The absolute best Nirvana/Kurt Cobain exhibit in the world is located here) Be sure to check out the “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” exhibit that has been running for the past few years before it ends. It has been extended well beyond its original date, and there are tons of personal items/photos donated by Krist Novoselic, Shelli Hyrkas (ex-wife of Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic), among others that will likely no longer be there anymore when that happens. So what is to be found there? Almost everything you’d wish to see from Nirvana. Lots of used instruments, clothes, photos, tour props/cases, original concert flyers, you name it. Check this out for more info: http://www.empmuseum.org/at-the-museum/current-exhibits/nirvana-taking-punk-to-the-masses.aspx ;
Sub Pop Records – 2013 4th Ave #300, Seattle, WA – The building itself looks like any other office building from the outside. You will find a few logos for Sub Pop on the lower level of the building. The Sub Pop office is on the 3rd floor. To go there you would have to be buzzed in, so you may have a better chance checking it out by becoming one of their interns. You can find out more about doing just that by checking out their website’s FAQ: https://www.subpop.com/faq
Other Notes of Mention about Aberdeen/Olympia/Seattle: The McDonald’s in Aberdeen has Nirvana photos inside it that have been there for years. The photos are even visible from outside the building through the windows. The annual “Kurt Cobain Days” event July 15th & 16th, 2016 was advertised on signs in various parts of the city of Aberdeen, including one of the first buildings/businesses when you first enter Aberdeen on the right side of the road (1/2 mile up the road from the “Welcome to Aberdeen – Come As You Are” sign) & on the building of The Pour House which Nirvana played at but is now closed.
Some places that Kurt Cobain ate/drank at occasionally are still open in Seattle/Aberdeen/Olympia/etc., but I didn’t care to go into them. However, I did pass by some in Seattle. Linda’s Tavern and Cactus (semi-small Mexican looking restaurant near Madison Park) in Seattle were easy to find, but you would have no idea Kurt Cobain had been there from what I saw. Same thing goes for the known hotels/motels he stayed/temporarily lived at. It felt completely over-obsessive to go to any more lengths than I already did. However, it was an interesting experience that made more sense of places I had read about over the years. It’s amazing that so much of the stuff is still there really. I know time and various events have altered the way many of these places have looked over 20+ years, but it felt a bit like I was getting a small peak into what Kurt’s world really looked like and the places that may have directly or indirectly inspired him.
I’ll be sharing more of Brian’s travels – Olympia and Aberdeen next – over the next couple weeks. More materials for anyone planning a trip to the North West are contained in this category here on the blog:
Or just type ‘Nirvana Tour’ into the search bar at top left of the blog main page.