It is the 'Heavy Metal Parking Lot' of grunge.
What a glorious time the 90s were. Flannel was a more coveted material than silk, apathy was practically a form of currency, and the most popular album on the planet was Nirvana’s Nevermind. The album was released in September of 1991, with very low expectations from its record label. But in only a year, the band had exploded, selling four million copies and becoming international superstars. But back home in Seattle, the locals who had been with the band from the beginning had mixed feelings.
September 11, 1992: Nirvana, the prodigal sons of Washington, returned to play a homecoming show at the Seattle Center Coliseum with Helmet and Fitz of Depression for 15,000 fans—their first show in the area in nearly a year. WashedUpEmo’s Tom Mullen has unearthed the above unaired footage which MTV recorded outside the venue before the show, featuring interviews with fans, friends, and relatives.
On the surface, the interviews are a hilariously nostalgic walk through the grunge-loving streets of the 90s. Plaid shirts and mushroom haircuts run rampant. Shoulder shrugs are tossed out like candy. Four years later, these types of concert-goers would be brilliantly captured by the “Are you being sarcastic, dude?” characters on The Simpsons’ “Homerpalooza” episode. There are some cringeworthy one-liners, some horribly outdated fashion choices (unless military berets and Kelly-from-90210-style bangs are still your thing), and some casual homophobia. Truly, it is the Heavy Metal Parking Lot of grunge.
MTV News' interview with the band the day of the show
But under the inherent Gen X goofiness that lies on the surface, there is some serious rock history behind this video. Although half of the people in the interviews claim to be Kurt’s cousin, or Krist’s cousin, or Kurt and Krist’s cousin (guys, you can’t all be Kurt’s cousin), Kurt’s real mother Wendy does make an appearance in the video. She is asked about her son’s success. “I have mixed emotions about it,” she says. “I’m glad he made enough of a success to make a living but some of it is too much for him, I think.” And while not featured in the video, Kurt’s estranged father Don also showed up to the concert with his son, Kurt’s half brother Chad. According to Charles R. Cross’ book, Heavier Than Thou, Don talked his way backstage by showing a security guard his driver’s license. It was his first time meeting Courtney Love and their three-week-old daughter Frances Bean and the first time he’d seen Kurt in seven years. They had an explosive and emotional reunion just minutes before Kurt took the stage—the same one where he witnessed his very first concert ten years prior, seeing Sammy Hagar.
The interviews are also telling about how the band was perceived in their time. While today, we tend to romanticize Nirvana as effortlessly changing the face of alternative music, in 1992, fans reacted to the band’s newfound fame with a bit more skepticism, especially in the band’s hometown. Many people interviewed expressed their appreciation for the band’s success but also hinted at dismay at the band becoming too big to play the smaller clubs or how they don’t play their “older, heavy stuff” or how they cut their hair or their “BS commercial hype.” It’s the rock ‘n’ roll tale as old as time—fans love band, band gets big, fans start to turn on band.
Less than two years later, Kurt Cobain would take his own life. Twenty-two years later, Nirvana would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the video, a man playing hacky sack (because of course) brilliantly sums up Nirvana, their fans, and the entire sarcastic 90s MTV generation in a single quote. Asked what he thinks of Nirvana’s success, he barely takes his eyes off the hacky sack to say: “It sucks. That’s why they’re cool.”
Live footage from the show
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