While Nirvana’s landmark Nevermind album officially turns 20 this week, the celebration of all things Kurt and company has actually been going on in the band’s adopted hometown since late April. That’s when the “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses” exhibit opened at Seattle’s Experience Music Project.
The carefully curated compendium of all things Nirvana is a kind of holy grail for the band’s biggest fans, but according to curator Jacob McMurray, it’s also been a magnet for typically jaded locals who have grudgingly (or is it, sorry, grunge-ingly?) have dropped in and admitted that, yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
“For me, it’s been way more than I expected,” McMurray said of the thousands who’ve wandered in to gawk at such iconic objects as the band’s first recording contract and late singer Kurt Cobain’s first smashed guitar. “Every time I go into the gallery, even if it’s a Monday morning, it will be packed.” McMurray said visitor range from die-hard Nirvanaheads to people who wander in with no knowledge of the band and leave with a desire to delve into the region’s rich musical history.
At first, McMurray said he was worried about what the notoriously picky locals would make of the exhibit, which displays signposts of Nirvana’s rise from obscurity amid a larger picture of the local and national music scene that helped spawn them. He knew he’d done okay when he was giving a tour to some DJ’s from legendary hometown radio station KEXP and one of the jocks who was part of the scene that helped nurture the grunge explosion told him that she came in expecting to hate it and left totally digging it. “I felt like, ‘my job is done,’” he said proudly.
Members of Alice in Chains were there for the April 23 opening, along with Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and former Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagan, for what McMurray said everyone unofficially dubbed a “strange family reunion.” Enough time had passed, it seemed, that people weren’t “too northwest” about the celebration and had fond memories of that time.
Not only has there been a lot of love, but McMurray has gotten tons of “I was at that show” calls and offers for even more memorabilia, including one from a person in Olympia who has agreed to loan him a rare copy of the famed “Fecal Matter Demo,” which was Cobain’s second demo tape. And recently Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner dropped in and was so excited that he offered to cough up a piece of Cobain gold: a tape he got years ago from Sub Pop Records co-founder Jonathan Poneman credited to Kurt Covain (nobody knew who he was then) and Dale Crover of the Melvins that is one of the two tapes famed area producer Jack Endino made after he recorded Kurt’s first demo tape.
The exhibit will be on display at the EMP through April 16, 2012, at which point it will travel to other cities.
The EMP will celebrate the Nevermind anniversary on Tuesday (September 20) night with an all-star show benefitting the Susie Tennant Fund, set up to help one of the town’s beloved music community members – and former Nirvana radio rep – who is battling ovarian cancer.
“Nevermind Live in Sky Church: A Benefit Show for Susie Tennant” will take place tonight at the EMP and feature performances from Novoselic with The Presidents of the United States of America, Duff McKagan’s Loaded, The Fastbacks, Visqueen, Champagne Champagne, TacocaT, Crypts, Vendetta Red, The Long Winters, Ravenna Woods, Vaporland (ex-Love Battery, the Fluid, TAD), Valis (ex-Screaming Trees), and Campfire OK. After the groups play the legendary album, there will be a special encore set of Nirvana songs played by other local luminaries, including Young Fresh Fellows with Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Pigeonhed, Cobirds Unite, The Tripwires, Shelby Earl, SEACATS, Cali Giraffes, and Tom Price Desert Classic.