05 Apr

A memory

On April 8, 1994, I posted the following post to the newsgroup alt.society.generation-x:


In 1989 I gave Calvin Johnson of K Records a call. Calvin and I both went
to Evergreen at the same time, back in 1983-85, and every so often we say
hello. Calvin told me that his band, Beat Happening, was about to play a
show out on Steamboat Island, 10 miles or so away from Olympia, WA, and
he’d put me on the Guest List if I wanted to go. Beat Happening would be
opening for the Melvins.

Well, it sounded like a fun evening out, so I drove my Mazda down from
Seattle with my friends Heather and Rick. It was about an 85 mile drive.

We reached Olympia, then turned onto Hwy. 101, west toward the ocean
beaches. We turned off the highway a few miles later, and drove through the
woods for what seemed a very long time, until we found a grange hall in
the middle of nowhere.

We parked and went in, to the overheated room packed with black
leather-clad kids. We had to spend the evening going between the hot room
and the very cold outside, just to stay at a tolerable temperature.

Beat Happening opened, and they were fine and funny as always. BH are an
acquired taste, but most of the crowd there had acquired it and bounced
around agreeably.

Then their set finished, and I climbed up onto a table at the side of the
room to watch the next band, a band I had heard of but never seen, Nirvana.

Nirvana amazed me. I had expected just another Sub Pop “grunge” noise
band, and I’d never really been into that side of the Seattle scene. I
preferred the PopLlama bands, groups like the Posies, Young Fresh
Fellows, and the Fastbacks. But Nirvana was just great — powerful,
intense, loud, melodic, and more. I was really impressed.

That was the only time I ever saw them live.

The Melvins played after them, and, frankly, didn’t impress me. In my
mind, Nirvana stole the show that night.

One more quick memory:

We got a new “alternative” radio station in Seattle in August 1991. A few
weeks later, I was driving to Tower Records, when the dj announced
“here’s the first song from Nirvana’s upcoming album.” Then the
now-familiar chords from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” began, and it just cut
through everything that had been playing. It sounded so good that I
stopped the car in Tower’s parking lot and sat and listened to the whole

Kurt, r.i.p.


It’s been 10 years, and Nirvana’s music still “cuts through everything” else on the radio. I still miss those days of the late ’80s and early ’90s, when it seemed as if Seattle musicians ruled the world.

10 thoughts on “A memory

  1. it seems a lot of times that everything still centers around olympia – but that could just be because i live here. the kurtness in the newspapers this morning, the way their unplugged album was randomly in my stepmother’s cd player. . . sleater-kinney is tentatively booked at evergreen for just more than month or so from now, which is almost surreal, like kimya dawson coming back to play on kaos and then downtown olympia. . . i don’t know, these are rambles that don’t really belong to your post. but thank you for it, the post, anyhow.

  2. 20 years ago, it would have been hard to imagine Olympia as the center of anything, wouldn’t it?

    Incidentally, I just edited the post above, as it seemed to imply I had posted my Kurt epitaph before he even died. The date is correct now.

  3. Kurt still rules and seeing Nirvana live was definitely a long remembered experience. I still wonder what his sound would be like if he was still alive. I smoked cigars in his memory today. Most of the radio stations around the country played his music all day long. What a tribute

  4. I wish I were old enough to have the memory of when Nirvana invaded the radio waves. When I finally grew old enough to step away from my Dad’s musical taste (Frampton, Dylan, Beatles, etc), it was the late 90s, when Bush was still cool, Matchbox 20 was new, and indie/emo was beginning to be born.

    I missed out on all the good stuff! If only I were born a decade earlier.

  5. Now I feel old. 🙁

    One of my students a year or so ago was complaining that I had all the great music in high school and his high school music sucked. I guess I didn’t realize I was living through some kind of Golden Age.

  6. Don’t feel old! You’re the cool generation! I can’t wait until I’m 5-10 years older. Life is boring now, all trying to figure out who one’s self is and whatnot. All the cool stuff starts going on later in life. And, you get to really appreciate it, because of the maturity with age.

    Anyway, that’s totally unrelated to the thread at hand, and I’ll stop now.

  7. My first Nirvana memory. Im not a fan huge fan as my musical tastes changed as I got older. But here is mine…

    I was 15 and really into skateboarding. I lived in Nebraska and visisted a local skate park. There were maybe a total of ten people there that day. Damn cold day. Anyway word started to spread that some pro skater was about to hit the half-pipe. Dont remember his name, but I do remember what song he skated to, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

    The opening riff hit and the guy dropped in and hit a huge 720. Something I’ll never forget.

  8. Our first few years here in Iowa, Sharon would show “Hype!” to her Rhetoric students. At one point, they asked her, “So, were you a Grungy?” — She stopped showing the movie. I also pointed out to her how showing Hype! was like our Evergreen profs always showing “Berkeley in the 60s”

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