Milk It: Nirvana in ’93 (Marking Another 20th Anniversary)

A couple of weeks ago, Geffen Records released a deluxe 20th anniversary package of Nirvana’s third and final studio album In Utero. It has been 20th Anniversary-Mania for music scribes, labels, and fans this year as every week seems to bring another waft of nostalgia.  Not only was 1993 the heart of the alterna-boom, it really did produce some classic and career-defining albums. As “modern rock” exploded I was fortunate enough to have a great vantage point from both the music retail trenches and the beer-soaked floors of the shows as we watched our favorite bands go from underground heroes to MTV regulars.  In July of 1993,  I ventured to New York City for the New Music Seminar with a buddy — we’ll call him Rick. I chronicled this vacation road trip at length, and you’ll find more from that excursion and 1993 in general in future posts. For now here’s an excerpt detailing one memorable night:

Tonight was a “surprise” show from Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard at Roseland.  Announced only two days prior, this was the event of the week.  We figured it would be the only chance to see them in such a small venue, and we could hear them perform material from their long awaited forthcoming LP In Utero.  Nirvana in N.Y.C. — maybe something to tell the kids someday.

Anticipation was high for the show as epitomized by a Swedish tourist whom we met at the front of the stage. He had paid $75 to a scalper for his ticket just to see the Jesus Lizard and was equally eager to see Cop Shoot Cop on the following night. Shrugging off the price he paid, he summed up our week well.  “You know,” he said, “it’s New York. Everybody wants to take your money.”

The Jesus Lizard was phenomenal.  They thumped it out as tightly as ever as vocalist David Yow chain-guzzled cans of Bud.  We had staked out some ground near the stage and helped Yow stay afloat during his many sojourns into the crowd.

When Nirvana hit the stage, we were bounced back to the “old guy section” even though we were wearing sensible shoes.  The only escape from the rampant teen spirit of the N.Y.C. youthful would have been the special guest area above us that seated the Kurt Loders and Courtney Loves.

Anyway, the barrier-breaking trio turned in a set that was musically better than what I had experienced on ’91’s Nevermind tour.  Included were new ones like Heart Shaped Box and older faves like School,  and they also debuted their female cellist friend for some quieter moments.  The show was a classic example of what Nirvana was all about, characteristically sloppy at points and brilliant at others.  Kurt Cobain ended the show on the floor, drenching us with and basking in his guitar’s feedback.

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This magnet just showed up on the refrigerator one day a couple of years ago. (Audrey picked it up at Big Fun in Cleveland.) The realization eventually hit me that I was actually at the gig commemorated on the magnet. Note Pat Smear (pictured lower left) had become a touring member of the band which I failed to mention in the brief review.

Nirvana would swing through our Northeast Ohio Region about three months later for a Halloween show at Akron University with their upstart labelmate Beck and their heroes, the Meat Puppets. I decided to sit that one out as my tastes leaned almost exclusively to smaller underground club shows.  It turns out that that would be Nirvana’s last Northeast Ohio appearance.

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