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ONE FOR NIRVANA FANS...


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The Nanny & The Rock Star

From Panic Button #8 by Ben Weasel

 

The call came in sometime in the early morning hours. I do not answer my

phone in the early morning hours. The machine does. The caller, chummy enough

with me to know my home number, but yet not enough of a pal to leave his name,

instead left the following message: "I just heard that Jawbreaker is doing a week in

the southwest with Nirvana and Mudhoney, so I guess that shoots your theory to shit,

doesn't it, pal?"

I got the message in the morning. An hour later I got a call from Pfahler.

"You won't believe what happened," he said.

"You're doing a week with Nirvana and Mudhoney in the southwest," I said,

fairly pleased with myself.

"Jesus," he said. "we only found out yesterday ourselves..."

It isn't too surprising. Jawbreaker's many detractors in the punk scene have

been waiting for something like this and they were already jumping all over everyone

in the band.

The tour, however, wasn't just in the southwest. Jawbreaker did six shows with

Nirvana and two of them were in Chicago. I was provided with the opportunity to

document the backstage goings on at a big time rock show, a chance I couldn't pass

up as a tenacious Panic button reporter.

I don't know if it was worth their time or all the shit they had to put up with from

the hardline punks, but as for me, well, I'm a reporter damnit, and I go where the story

is. Even if I have to dig one up.

 

We arrive at the Aragon around 3:00 P.M. As we attempt to get into the parking lot

reserved for band vehicles, we're stopped by a stereotypical Chicago mook who asks

the threatening yet polite sound question, "CAN I HELP YOU?" Chris spends a few

minutes conversing with he guy and finally convinces him that we are indeed

authorized to park in the lot. We pull up next to the big tour buses rent by Nirvana.

They have been christened "Wave Dancer" and "Blue Mirage," complete with

cheeseball airbrush paintings on the back that have me wondering if Loretta Lynn

might be making a guest appearance tonight. The people from the catering truck and

the security pay no attention to us as we file into the building from the alley entrance.

We head for the Jawbreaker dressing room, a drab little white-walled hole. There

aren't many people around, save for the occasional security thug and the caterers,

who are busy preparing the meal for the night.

I walk out onto the balcony of the dressing room and look down at the few

Nirvana fans who are already camped out outside the club. The ÔL' train rushes by

about every ten minutes or so. Kinda boring. I am here to get a scoop. The boys have

already warned me that my chances are slim, but I'm certain that my charm and

determination will get me SOMETHING to write about. I vow to keep my scoop

antennae up throughout the entire debacle.

Bill (Jawbreaker's roadie) suggest that we visit the tour coordinator to get a pass

for yours truly and demand extra beer for the evening. We worm our way through a

labyrinth of dark walkways back to the office of the man in charge of the tour, Jeff. Jeff

is on the phone so we site down and wait, chatting with Karina, head caterer. Once we

have Jeff's attention, Bill and Chris mention my need for a pass (it would be taken care

of later), turn in the guest list (which would go through fifty miles of red tape before

reaching the front door; the people running the tour all have laptop computers and

walkie talkies. Instead of simply walking the guest list downstairs, they have to put it

into the computer and route it through Dante's Inferno and back before it reaches the

grubby hands of the will call people) and mention the fact that another 12 pack would

be nice. giving a fatherly grin, Jeff asks, "Do you really need all that beer?" Apparently

this is a reference to the fact that Chris has gotten severely blasted at several of the

shows prior to today. Chris assures him that we do indeed need all that beer and Jeff,

sighing heavily, says he'll do his best.

 

Now it's time to explore and Bill, having been at the Aragon for the show two days

prior, agrees to show me around. We inspect every corner of the building, constantly

discovering neat little things that I'd never noticed in my previous visits to the Aragon.

The stage left balcony for instance, is closed off for people with backstage passes. This

is where the caterers prepare the meal and set up the dining table. Later, it will serve

as seating for the privileged few with the all-important passes

The stage is set up for Nirvana. Two cheesy mannequins that have been mutated into

resembling the figure on the new Nirvana album cover flank the stage. Little bits of

shrubbery and such are glued around here and there. The band's amps are covered

over with red velvet cloth; set up in front of them are itsy bitsy Marshall practice amps.

What a bunch of funny guys. Bill remarks that so far, not a single audience member

has seemed to understand Nirvana's wacky sight gag.

Bill and I head to the floor, where we quickly discover that it has recently been waxed,

making it a perfect little skating rink. We skate around for a while (and of course,

nobody bugs us; when you BELONG in a joint like this, you can get away with just

about anything).

As I glide toward the stage, I hear Blake yell my name from the balcony and at the

same time, a small rectangular box hits the floor next to me. A-ha! It's my Kools. One of

the perks, you see, of being on a big tour like this is that before the show, a gopher will

run and get the bands and crew certain necessities, like aspirin, moist towelettes or

butts. For me it's free Kools. It's already been worth my while to show up.

Our ears are suddenly assaulted by a deafening blast of white noise from the stage

monitors.

Apparently this is how professional sound people test their gear. It's horrifying, but

nowhere near as bas as the gigantic Scot with a mohawk and three square miles of

tattoos who then proceeds to test Cobain's amp by playing the riff from Godzilla (read:

Smells Like Teen Spirit) complete with very metal solos. I wonder if the massive

mohican knows all the solos from Purple Rain; practically the entire crew (90%

Scottish worked on the last Prince tour...

I go back to my skating competition with Bill and literally just about run into a kid who

has come in from the side entrance. He introduces himself as the guy who used to be

in the Lonely Trojans, a college pop punk band from downstate. He snuck in to get an

interview with Mudhoney. Mudhoney, unfortunately, is not around. He follows us

around for a while and then loses interest and goes back outside, asking us to make

sure to try to get him in when the fabled Mudhoney shows up. Hearing the tail end of

his plea, Adam remarks, "Fuck that." Um, ok.

 

Back in the dressing room, I am handed my pass. It's a laminated doohinkey with a

photo of a man dressed in lingerie lying in a bathtub, the word "PRINCESS" scrawled

across his belly. At the bottom, it says ""VIP". I am told that this pass is second only to

the all-access passes that the bands and crew get and one or two steps above the

passes that friends and relatives get. Theoretically, I can go anywhere backstage

except for Nirvana's dressing room. P place the pass around my next, determined to

exploit my first and probably last backstage pass for as long as I can.

We are told that dinner is ready. We sit down at the end of the long table on the

balcony and are given a variety of choices for a main course, including, according to

Johnny (one of the caterers), "Eggplant, artichoke hearts, red onions and parmesan,

lamb chops with baby onions, mushrooms and mint pesto, roast turkey with mustard

sauce, salmon with roast pepper salsa and a pumpkin herb Swiss cheese goulet." I

don't know what that last one is and neither does Johnny. In addition to all this, there

are salads, cheese and crackers, various breads, pastries and cookies and a variety of

sodas, bottled waters and Gatorade. I ask Karina if the salmon has bones.

"I already told you it's a filet," she exclaims in her thick Scottish accent.

"A what??"

"A filet!"

She looks at me as if I may be a bit retarded. I'm utterly confused. Blake jumps in.

"Ben, she means Ôfillay'," he says, pronouncing it correctly instead of phonetically. Now

I get it. I ask from whence the fish came. Karina is getting frustrated.

"I don't know," she says between clenched teeth. "Would you like to know which

waters it swam in?"

Johnny tells me it's Alaskan. Karina peers at me as if deciding whether or not to

clobber me over the head.

The meal is excellent of course, mispronunciations and thinly veiled hostility

notwithstanding.

 

Mudhoney finally shows up and Bill tells them that there's someone outside who wants

to interview them. One of them looks out the dressing room window and says,

laughing. "I don't know him". He walks away. But not far enough away. The band

member and his tour manager have staked out the Jawbreaker dressing room, talking

loudly about stupid shit. Tape recorder in hand, I approach them.

"You guys are from Seattle, huh," I say brightly.

Mr. Mudhoney gets all serious like I'm doing some sort of important interview.

"Yeah," he answers.

"What did you think of the Mariners this year?"

Mr. M ponders this one for a moment.

"Y'know, the Mariners, baseball...Are you a fan?"

"Uh, no, not really. I saw Gayford Perry's 300th win. And I saw one game this year.

Griffey hit a home run but I missed it 'cause I was walking around."

"What about the Seahawks?" I ask, grinning like an escaped lunatic.

"I don't follow football too much. I heard they're doing ok this year."

Now I'm wondering why the hell the poor guy downstairs even wanted to interview

these chumps. I sit back down as the manager starts blabbering about his father who

was a mountain climber or some stupid shit. I am not impressed. What the fuck kind of

sport is mountain climbing? Seeing that I've turned off the recorder, the two imbeciles

resume their inane conversation, talking way too loud as they've already consumed a

few beers. Why the hell they don't go next door to their own dressing room is a mystery

to me, until I peek down the hallway and see that every scumbag leech in the history of

the Chicago music inside is already next door hobnobbing with the other knobs that

comprise Mudhoney.

Sitting back down in the chair, I ponder the fact that Jawbreaker doesn't seem too

keen on these geeks being in their dressing room. In fact, they'd told me earlier that

the other night they walked into their room to find Mudhoney huffing away on pot. What

a wonderful sight that must've been.

I lean forward in my chair about and say loudly, "I'M FROM CALIFORNIA!"

The conversation stops for a second and they look at me blankly.

"I'M THE PRESIDENT OF LOOKOUT RECORDS."

Silence.

"YOU KNOW--LOOKOUT RECORDS????? YA LIKE LOOKOUT RECORDS??? YA

LIKE HARLEY'S? I GOTTA HARLEY!!!!"

They leave the room. Mission accomplished.

 

The crowd is filing in. I go over to the balcony and glance down at them. Not a pretty

sight. I start to get slightly queasy thinking about the fact that there will soon be over

five thousand people packed inside this venue. I go back to the dressing room and

being a game of cribbage with Chris (always thinking ahead, I'd brought my board

along). After giving him a sound thrashing, I retire to the toilet where I take dump whilst

pursuing the cheesy cowboy outlaw book that Blake picked up somewhere out west. I

also chew down a Xanax; there's only about 30 minutes until Jawbreaker hits the

stage and what started out (I thought) as a joke has turned into a reality--I am to

introduce Jawbreaker tonight.

To get myself up for it, I pull out my little tape recorder and begin to make idiotic notes

to myself, occasionally interviewing anyone who comes my way. I walk out onto the

side balcony and look at the people waiting for the 'L'. Another crew member stands

out there alone. I approach him, tape running.

"How does the crowd look tonight?" I ask, thrusting the recorder in his face. "Ugly?"

"Oh yea, very," he says. "They haven't improved.

"Do they frighten you as they frighten me?"

He gives a nervous laugh. "They terrify me."

I'm out of questions, but I've never let that stop me before.

"Do you ever worry that England will declare war on you?"

"No," he says thoughtfully. "They know what most of the income in the U.K. comes from

Scotland. They'd never do that."

I'm a bit dejected. No dirt, no scoops, no nothing.

I head downstairs to the stage, where Bill is putting out the set lists. The crowd is

cheering him. I walk onstage to ask him if I have time to hand out some Panic Buttons.

He tells me I have fifteen minutes. I go back upstairs (after flashing my nifty pass at the

security guards), grab the fanzines and go back out to the crowd. I have 100 copies

with me. They're gone in about three minutes. One girl doesn't seem to want to take a

copy.

"What is it?" she asks suspiciously.

"It's a fanzine."

Nothing.

"Punk rock."

Plenty of vacancies in this motel.

"IT'S FREE!"

"Awesome!" she says, grabbing for it.

Looking around, it hits me that the room is almost filled to capacity. I finish handing out

the fanzines as little waves of dizziness hit me every few seconds. I start to head for the

stairs and the safety of the dressing room when I run into Vapid and Mary who are

standing around sipping beers, unable to get upstairs due to the status of their passes.

The security squad has informed them that they'll be allowed behind the lines IF

accompanied by someone with a higher level pass and only AFTER the dinner table

has been cleared. Wouldn't want 'em eating that dumpster-bound food would we?

I'm having a nice little chat with them when a security guard lumbers over; he's spotted

my tape recorder.

"Can I help you?" he asks.

"No," I say, smiling like crazy.

"I'll need to take that," he replies, smiling back. "I'll put it in the office and you can get it after the show."

I go into a long explanation about the recorder, lying my ass off about being a member

of the press and having special permission from Jeff to carry the thing around. I know

these mooks. They don't have the balls to go to Jeff with such petty shit. The mook

goes over to the bottom of the stairs and consults a female security guard. They both

walk back toward me, determination etched in their previously blank faces. Just as I'm

about to receive a tongue lashing, I get bumped by a passer by. My jacked slides open

a little further, revealing my VIP pass. Their expressions immediately change.

"You're ok, I didn't see that," says my friend the security guard, pointing at my pass.

"I'm just doing my job y'know."

Yeah, I know.

I amble back toward the stairs, flash my pass and am halfway up when I spot a snotty

looking collegiate-hippie type. I flip the recorder on.

"Excuse me," I say, making sure my pass is showing. "I'm doing an interview for Rolling

Stone. Why are you here?"

The college boy looks at me blankly. I grab the pass and waggle it around furiously.

"Whattya think this is, buddy? Ya think they just GIVE these out??? WHO ARE YOU

HERE TO SEE???"

My mock indignation has fanned whatever small flame of wit flickers inside his puny

brain.

"I'm here to see both Mudhoney AND Nirvana."

"What about Jawbreaker?"

"I've never heard of them."

"Oh," I say, successfully concealing my disgust.

"You're in for a treat."

Hippie boy moves on, but a gaggle of teenaged boys who look like they just smoked

their first joint has overheard. One of them asks how much I had to pay for my pass.

"I DID NOT PAY FOR THIS!" I say into the recorder. "I AM PAID TO DO THIS!!!"

"Oh," he says.

"I'm with Hit Parader magazine," I say, calming down a bit.

Seeing that the recorder is going, he uses this chance to express his individuality.

"My name is Chris and, uh, therefore I am."

Huh???

His buddy jumps in. "Hi, I'm Justin and all your music's great, 'cause....I'm one of your

biggest fans."

"What music is that?"

"Uh, Nirvana..."

"Ok."

"If there wasn't us," he continues, "There would be no you."

Hoo boy.

"That's true," I say agreeably. "You know, I think you boys have a lot of potential."

Their third pal, who's been standing back, suddenly grows balls.

"CENSORSHIP SUCKS!!!"

Good God! How to respond?

"Oh yeah," I say firmly. "Censorship does suck."

"Fuck censorship," he says, this time more quietly, as if pouting over the unfair fact that

mom's just grounded him for a week.

"Damn right. FUCK CENSORSHIP!!!"

The boys cheer and I move on, impressed with the possibilities for our nation's future.

 

I hop onto the stage to ask how much time I have before my introduction. Bill informs

me that I have to do it NOW. Oh shit. I have no idea what I'm going to say. I have to say

something besides, "Here's Jawbreaker." I am not a spoken word artist. I am not much

of an ad libber. I wish that my bowels didn't feel like they'd just crumbled into a wet

mush.

Jawbreaker is ready to go. They look at me.

I walk over to the center stage mike and am immediately greeted by the room-shaking

roar of an impatient five thousand headed monster. I'm aware of a vague nagging

feeling that the recorder is running inside my zipped jacket pocket.

"Good evening."

(MASSIVE AUDIENCE ROAR. MY VOICE IS LOUDER THAN IT'S EVER BEEN OR EVER WILL BE)

"You don't even know who I am!"

(MORE MASS HYSTERIA. DO THEY EVEN HEAR THE WORDS I'M SPEAKING???)

"Let me introduce to you a fine young trio from San Francisco."

(SCREAMS, CHEERS)

"They've worked hard for years and years..."

(MORE SCREAMS--AN AUDIENCE MEMBER UP FRONT YELLS AN OBSCENITY AT ME)

"Didn't your mother ever teach you any manners?" I say, looking straight at him. He

laughs. The massive beast rears its ugly head yet again.

"These young men play punk rock, a concept most of you are unfamiliar with."

(THE AUDIENCE REACTION SUGGESTS THAT THEY EITHER THINK I'M MOSES OR ELSE THEY DON'T KNOW OR CARE. WHAT I'M SAYING. BANSHEES, SCREAMING, SCRATCHING BANSHEES, EVERY ONE OF THEM)

"They've slept with dogs. They've slogged through shit. They've gone through hell just

to come here and entertain you at eighteen dollars a head."

(THE SALIVATING MONSTER SEEMS ON THE VERGE OF EXPLODING. HALF-PANICKED, I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I ACTUALLY SAID SOMETHING OF SUBSTANCE. NO TIME FOR THAT...)

"All I can say is..."

(I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING TO SAY. NO, NOT THIS! I CAN'T GO LIMP NOW!

JESUS CHRIST, I FEEL A GODDAMN RIOT COMING ON. THINK THINK THINK!!!!)

I speak the first three words that pop into my befuddled head.

"Christ, you're stupid."

Jawbreaker kicks in and I hide behind Blake's amp with Bill. I'm actually trembling.

 

Back in the dressing room I ask Vapid to rate my introduction on a scale of 1 to 10.

Before he can answer, Chris pipes up.

"You called them stupid punks."

"No I didn't. I said THIS is punk and I told 'em they were stupid for paying eighteen

bucks a head."

"You said punk is stupid," says Bill.

"I thought it was great," says Vapid. "I give it an eight."

"Well," Adam says dryly, "if you had said the band's name you might've gained a

couple more points..."

 

A young long haired guy wearing a mutation of a Black Flag t-shirt walks in carrying

The Baby, the infamous product of Cobain's loins. He's the nanny. Wait! It's the guy on

the VIP pass! I sense a potential scoop. He's quite friendly and I discover that he's

familiar with my band and my writing.

He seems comfortably enough. I ask him how he got the job.

"I got the offer and turned it down," he says. "Then three months later I still didn't have

any money so I just called 'em back and said ok."

"What qualified you for this position?"

"I'm trusted...," he stops for a moment while the baby lets out a particularly piercing

scream. "I'm trusted in that camp. I have no baby experience. I turned twenty the day I

started doing this."

"How old are you??"

"Twenty."

Pat Smear, ex-Germ and current Nirvana rhythm guitarist, has entered with a

Heineken in his hand. He makes himself at home, joking with everyone in the room.

He's an instant hit--a zany punker with a knack for the snappy comeback. I think I may

be onto something here. I approach the matter delicately.

"How did Pat get on the tour?" I ask the Nanny.

"I was playing the Australian bootleg, what is that on, Ghost of Darb Records? And he

shouted it out. PAT I'll call Pat!"

"Come on. Did you get him on the tour?"

The nanny answers very quietly.

"Yes."

 

I've realized that things aren't going to get any better for me than they are at this point. I

have my scoop .THE NANNY IS RUNNING THE SHOW. The nanny leaves the baby

with Pat while he goes out to the balcony to catch up on old times and Bay Area

happenings with Blake. Pat and I banter back and forth as he attempts to hang onto

both a baby and his Heineken. He's an unpretentious sorta guy, quick witted and very

out of place on this tour. He jokingly complains that there are no M&M's in the Nirvana

dressing room. Bill and I quietly hatch a quick plan to give him all the fucking M&M's

he wants at an appropriate time.

"Are you a permanent member of the band?" I ask politely.

"I don't know," he says. "It's never been discussed."

I can't tell if he's kidding or not. I mean, he is living with the Cobain family in Seattle.

It never came up??? Whatever. He undoubtedly brings a punk rock credibility to the tour.

He insists that no one in the crowd knows who he is. They probably don't, but the

critics sure do.

When the nanny comes back I inform him of my angle. He seems to get a kick out of it.

Pat remarks that the nanny is the sole reason Jawbreaker's on the tour. I ask if this is

true. He hesitates for a few moments. Finally he speaks.

"Ummmmmm....yeah."

More punk rock credibility, and it's all engineered quite innocently by a punk rock kid

who's not even old enough to legally drink a beer.

My theory confirmed, I'm basically satisfied, though I'd sure like to get a peek into

Nirvana's dressing room. The nanny is more than happy to help me out, and a large

crowd follows him through the corridors to the dressing room. I head over to Smear,

who's sitting on a window ledge. While we politely insult each other, unbeknownst to

me, those members of our group with the less-important passes are asked by a

security guard, "Can I help you?" and quickly ushered out.

There isn't too much happening in the Nirvana dressing room. A huge bowl of fruit and

a nice selection of sodas and bottled waters sit on the bar. The proprietors of Shangri-

La in my old neighborhood, Roscoe Village, sit alone on one of the white leather

couches that looks to have been jacked from Graceland. They must know somebody

or they would have been kicked out by now.

I head into the bathroom to take a whizz. It's big, and unlike the communal public-style

bathroom that Jawbreaker, Mudhoney and the crew share, it has a fairly clean, modern

shower. But the toilet is lopsided and cracked and it looks like the room hasn't been

cleaned in a year. I realize that despite the enormity of this even, it still ain't Poplar

Creek.

When I come back into the room, I catch a glimpse of Nirvana's drummer heading out

the door. The Nirvana bassist, Chris, is talking with Smear. I approach them with a

copy of Panic Button, which Smear has already refused to look at, citing an aversion to

"corporate bullshit." Smear, apparently, is always on.

Chris leafs through my mag and comments on the nice layout.

"I'm sick of photocopied zines," he says. "Everybody's doing it."

He asks for a copy to read and introduces himself. At the same moment, Cobain enters

the room and stares me down for a second. I get the distinct feeling that he knows who

I am and a slight shudder passes through me as I envision myself being beaten in an

alley by members of the JAM security staff.

I break eye contact and concentrate on Chris, pointing out the fact that although he's

only three years older than me, he makes about 75 times as much money. I may have

hit a slight sore spot.

"Can we have a big discussion on materialism and the accumulation of wealth?" he

says sarcastically. "It's all part of this consumer society..."

I hand him the recorder so he can continue his diatribe.

"I think the system here, this transaction-based, capitalist type market economy..."

I break in.

"You gonna be playing the hits tonight, like Jeremy?"

He gives me back the recorder and Smear fields the question.

"Oh yeah," he says, "all the hits. Jeremy, Even Flow..."

The baby has been waddling around the dressing room and now Cobain picks her up

and takes her toward the window, about three stories up. He pretends to toss her out

the window while singing loudly, "Would you knowow my na-a-ame..."

I interrupt.

"Hi, I'm Ben."

"Hi Ben."

"I'm just looking for a scoop."

"A scoo-oop."

Smear intervenes again. "You're barking up the wrong tree," he says.

I'm fully aware that there's a slightly paranoid attitude toward the press in the Nirvana

camp these days. Earlier in the week, someone from USA Today had written

something nasty about the band and was flatly denied entrance to the show. Tonight it

was rumored that absolutely no press people were to be allowed backstage.

Obviously, no one was taking me very seriously as a press man because I wasn't once

questioned by the Nirvana entourage about my recorder, which by this point I was

directing at people like a machine gun.

The baby reaches out for the recorder and Cobain encourages her.

"Throw it out the window," he says in his best talking-to-baby voice.

Cobain looks and speaks as if he's wacked out on smack. Having been in the

presence of at least a few junkies in my life, I try to size up the situation and come up

blank. I can't figure out if it's an act or not. The greasy hair, the 9 day growth, the putrid

sweater he's wearing, the Jeff Spicoli vocal inflections...

He puts the baby down and gives me his full attention.

"Ben," he says. "Ben Weasel." He sounds as if he's greeting a long lost friend.

I'm kinda sweating now.

"Mmmmm, no," I say. "Well, yeah, yes."

"Katie Smellie. Katy Odell."

"Are you an avid reader of Maximum Rock-N-Roll?" I ask.

"Avid," he answers. "The word avid."

"Do you read it a lot?"

"I used to." Now it appears he's gonna take me somewhat seriously. "Y'know, I kinda

forgot it existed for a long time but every once in a while, yeah, I look through it."

"Do you like it?"

"I think...ummmm...I'm really happy about the fact that it will decompose within about

ten years."

"I make some comment about that very scenario being Yohannan's apparent goal,

seeing as ho he doesn't ever save the originals for any of the issues.

Cobain is now getting a little worked up.

"I can't have a comment on Maximum-Rock-N-Roll, fuck that. I mean, those people

hate our guts. I would hate our guts too if I was a fifteen year old kid who only listened

to...or who only read Maximum Rock-N-Roll and only listened to punk rock bands."

"Were you ever that?"

"Yeah."

"And you felt that way?"

"Exactly. I was just as closed minded as those people."

I consider enlightening him about the fact that almost half of the staff at MRR was

writing about how great Nirvana was when "Nevermind" came out, but I realize that

like so many other stars, this guy only reads the bad press. And I'm kinda shocked that

he has such an obvious dislike for a magazine which in his world, doesn't mean shit.

Somehow, someway, MRR's validation of his efforts (or lack thereof) matters. This

amazes me.

The bass player interrupts our little session by informing the band that they have to go

onstage.

We leave the dressing room and I reflect on Cobain's statements. The whole thing

strikes me as being a little odd.

I've been told that the smack problems that he and his wife have had were made

public knowledge by one of his own publicity people (in fact, supposedly by the same

guy who used to work with Yohannana on MRR radio back in the old days). I ponder

his appearance and style of speaking, and still have trouble deciding whether he's a

perpetually stoned, developmentally arrested rock star or a fuck up like the rest of us

who's scared to death of all the hype and publicity surrounding his band. It's obviously

all thrown the guy into another world. His bandmates appear to be comfortable and at

peace with their situation; Cobain is still begging the teacher for another five minutes

to finish the test. He seems insecure as hell.

 

Just before Bill and I enter at stage right, we witness a shirtless kid, obviously fucked

up out of his mind, being tossed out by the bouncers. Nirvana is still in the middle of

their first song. The kid's pleading with them to let him stay. He pulls out a wad of bills

and starts counting, "20, 40, 60, 80, 100." The security guys are chuckling. They take

his money and he's allowed back in.

When Bill and I hit the stage, we immediately grab the M&M's from our pockets and

begin whipping them at Smear, who plays along by attempting to catch them in his

mouth while at the same time cranking out the hit single from the new Nirvana album.

Kurt Cobain is in another world. The rest of the band is jamming, occasionally smiling,

having a good time. Not once during my observations from the side of the stage do I

see Cobain make eye contact with his bandmates, let alone acknowledge their

presence. The band is tight, but there are long, uncomfortable spaces between songs.

Cobain is taking his sweet time, often heading over to the rack of over a dozen custom

made left-handed guitars to change instruments. The bassist tries to make some

wisecracks to the crowd and Kurt is not pleased. The crowd is oblivious; the band

could do Dead Milkmen covers at this point and no one would notice.

Bill and I decide to bail out from our stage right position after a few songs; nothing's

happening here and very time they start a new tune I could swear it was the one they

just played. As we turn to leave the stage, two kids run up the ramp and barrel past us,

diving into the crowd from the stage just like they've seen on MTV. When Bill and I

open the backstage doors, we see that the offending stagedivers are in the clutches of

two huge JAM security men who are quite close to beating the living shit out of them;

one of the kids landed on a fellow security man's head.

When the JAM guys see us, they turn, prepared to boot us as well. Once they see the

passes, they attempt to bring us into their nasty little circle. They're both shouting a

lecture-style denouncement of stage diving at the kids, pointing out the possible

damage they could cause to people. They occasionally look at us as if we're supposed

to nod in agreement. We're both silent, simply watching out to make sure the kids don't

end up in the hospital. Finally, the offended security guard walks in and is asked if he

wants to press charges.

"Goddamn right," he answers.

The kids, enjoying the effects of some type of drug or another, seem to have little idea

of what's going on, and as they're lead back through the crowd to be handed over to

the cops, I get the feeling that they think they're being let back into the show.

 

At the end of Nirvana's set, the crowd is pissed off. Their heroes have refused to play

"Smells Like Teen Spirit." Cobain reacts by diving off the stage into the crowd and

promptly loses his shoes. No security guards threaten to have him arrested.

 

As the crowd piles onto the street, Bill and Blake stand in front of the club hawking t-

shirts and CD's; to sell them inside the club would've meant that everything would've

been priced at an obscene level. A cop attempts to harass Blake about selling the

shirts. Blake waves him off and tells him he's in the band.

"Ok," says the cop. "But don't be a smart ass with me. I can still haul you in to jail."

The t-shirts are going like crazy. I get the feeling that these cretins would buy fresh

dogshit if there was a nice sign on it. From deep in the crowd, I hear a loud scream. I

can't make out the words. I hear it again, this time closer and clear as a bell.

"LEGALIZE IT!"

I hope he's talking about murder.

 

Before we head back home, Bill and Vapid plaster a couple of Screeching Weasel

stickers on the back of the Wave Dancer and the Blue Mirage. The evening has been a

success.

 

A few days later, Jim DeRegotas from the Sun-Times informs me that Cobain's junkie

appearance that night was probably due to the fact that he had taken a sleeping pill

earlier in the day. Still, I'm not surprised when, two months later, I see him on MTV

Unplugged wearing the same ratty sweater, sporting the same greasy hair and 9 days

growth and looking slightly spacey. Smear is still with the band, quiet and unobtrusive

off to the left of the stage.

 

That Friday, my band plays Janesville, Wisconsin. The promoter had attended the

Milwaukee Nirvana show that took place the night after their Chicago gig. He met up

with Blake, who gave him a present to pass on to me. The promoter hands me a pack

of Kools. Written on them in black marker is a message from Blake: SMOKE 'EM IF

YOU GOT 'EM. Yes.

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