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Anything for a Weird Life

Tape World 005: O.K. Let’s Rock with… Nirvana

(unofficial compilation, year of release unknown)

Kurt Cobain is now thirty years gone.

I was a senior in high school in April 1994 as word spread. The date of his passing was not clear at first. I was getting back from Easter break when another student, in conversation with me at lunch, did the math and then said. Oh… ha! Happy birthday! Probably?”

For I was a teenage Nirvana Boy.

Nicknames stick when you don’t want them to, and that was mine.

My fandom of the band went past the usual appreciation. A certain circle of friends and I proved our devotion to the band by buying and then trading bootlegs. We also made mixtape compilations of B-sides and compilation tracks. Before In Utero was released, we speculated as to which tracks we had heard that would wind up on the album. We were right about a few, and wrong about many more.

I don’t know how the above tape came to be part of my collection, but somehow, in some trade or another, it did.

It distinguishes itself by being clearly homemade, but with a bit of a professional air. It does not appear listed on Discogs, as some of the more famous bootlegs do.

But Side A was a famous one in our circles. Nirvana was recorded live at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor,Michigan on April 10th, 1990. I have had a copy of it on vinyl, seen it around on CD. Clearly crowd recorded but of enough quality to make it worth a listen. The crowd really wants to hear Negative Creep”. Yes, I know what happened during that set like the back of my hand… Krist complaining about the dixie cup” drink sizes, someone in the crowd getting really mad at a photographer…

At this point you may be drifting off, losing interest. If so, I completely understand. The world of those who listen to and collect Nirvana bootlegs is fairly niche, despite the bands continual popularity and ubiquity. I could turn on the radio right now and feel fairly certain the local RAWK station will play Nirvana now or soon.

This tremendous popularity and success during the band’s lifetime was a problem for me and my friends. How could we further distinguish ourselves from those who Kurt Cobain had admonished to stay away? One way was to pass around these cassettes, priding ourselves on having heard D7”, a Wipers cover from one of their Peel Sessions that did not wind up on the Incesticide compilation.

It is a sort of pride that the Internet has completely taken away, of course, all tracks a click away no matter how obscure, the IP holders both letting the fans trade and upload while mining the better/pro live recordings for new releases, making box sets and special limited editions out of the pile we surreptitiously mined, each new cycle of Record Store Days and holiday seasons bringing something official out of the murk of the bootleg haze.

I think the anonymous compiler of O.K. Let’s Rock With…, in making a compilation from different sources on Side B, does what we were trying to do; show our devotion to a band that was making a jarring noise in a big way. For a moment, it seemed like things were really going to change in the world of mainstream music.

But they didn’t.

So, back to the underground we went.

Tim Kabara

IG: @kim_tabara

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