Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain would have turned 52 years old today, and while the band split up after Cobain’s death, their memory is still alive worldwide.
Before the band hit the big time, pre-Nevermind, they played a show right here in Victoria at what was once the Forge, now called Distrikt. Andrew Murray, an assistant teaching professor for the department of English at the University of Victroia, was at the show on March 8, 1991 and recalls it well.
“I remember they played quite a lot of songs off their first album Bleach. I remember they played a Velvet Underground cover called Here She Comes Now, which I had never heard them play before,” said Murray.
Murray had already seen the band play once before in Vancouver, but says the low ceilings and grunge feel to the Forge made it a pretty unforgettable show. Murray was born the same year as Cobain and said he felt a special connection to the lead singer.
“In a weird way I felt not like a peer of his, but at least a contemporary for sure.”
He recalls how Kirst Novoselic, who played bass in the band, almost couldn’t stand up straight because of the Forge’s “basement-like” interior.
“He couldn’t really bounce like he wanted to because he would hit his head on the ceiling if he did, whereas Kurt Cobain was a very small man so he was quite comfortable,” said Murray.
According to Murray, the band played for about an hour, calling it a “proper show” even if it was just before the band’s big break that would come later with the release of their second studio album, Nevermind.
“It was a really really good show … but you could tell they had the power and the charisma of a great rock and roll band,” said Murray.
Murray still has his ticket stub from the concert in Victoria, although he describes it as a simple 50/50 raffle ticket with no band names on it.
“They were a ferocious band, they really were,” said Murray. “What was different was at the later venues the mosh pit and dancing was bigger, but the band always played with real energy.”
With the release of Nevermind in September 1991, the band’s fan base grew exponentially almost overnight, but according to Murray they always played a good show — having seen them play a total of four times in his life.
“Victoria was the smallest one so it was cool to be a part of that and feel like you were on the ground floor of something — but it wasn’t like they were so small that nobody had heard of them. You went to the show knowing their songs … we loved it.” he said.
Murray still holds on to a lot of the memorabilia that he got during the climax of Nirvana’s fame.
“It wasn’t a time when you took photos or recorded parts of the show, you were just there and lived it and then it was over,” said Murray. “It was ferocious and energetic — a young band really hitting their stride. You could see Kurt Cobain had a charisma, that he was a rock star that hadn’t become a rock star yet.”
In celebration of Cobain’s 52 birthday, Lucky Bar will be holding a special event featuring Nirvana’s music and other ‘90s inspired grunge music along with a video tribute that will take place from 11:30 p.m. to midnight.