State of Nirvana: Epic concert footage unveiled

Ryan Wood

Referred to as the Seattle sound, the distorted, electric guitar-driven sound of early grunge bands like The Melvins, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam opened up a whole new era of music.

Long hair and flannel shirts replaced even longer and hairspray-saturated hair and ratty concert T-shirts. The grunge rock movement began to take off. This was a sigh of relief for many, including Marky Ramone, the drummer from the legendary punk rock band, The Ramones.

“I think (punk rock) is a genre that got overshadowed by disco and stadium crap rock when we played. Then heavy metal came along,” he said. “All I can say is thank God for Nirvana.”

Nirvana’s music still resonates today. High school kids wear the infamous black Nirvana T-shirt, the one that shows the band’s name sitting above what looks like an elementary school kid’s drawing of a yellow face, crookedly smiling, tongue hanging out to the left side, and with Xs as eyes.

Now, 20 years after the release of the band’s first studio album, "Bleach," Geffen/Universal Music is releasing a limited-edition "Nirvana Live at Reading DVD-CD Deluxe Edition." This never-before-released package includes 25 songs, nearly all of the band’s "Nevermind" album plus two songs, “Dumb” And “All Apologies,” which later appeared on the "In Utero" album.

On Monday, Fuse, quite possibly the only national music network that still airs music videos, was scheduled to televise the worldwide premiere of "Nirvana Live at Reading," the concert of Nirvana’s headlining slot at the epic UK Reading Festival.

Fuse TV’s Steven Smith, an on-air host of handful of shows, is stoked about the network’s Nirvana night. Monday night, Fuse also will air "Loaded Nirvana," a half-hour of Nirvana’s top music videos, prior to the live performance. The Live at Reading DVD officially comes out Tuesday.

“I’m pretty excited,” Smith said. “It’s a very interesting time for cable, but we can say that it will be on this date, and then we'll air the s*** out of it.”

Ask any music fan about Nirvana, and you're bound to get some sort of reaction. Many remember exactly where they were when they first heard the epic trio of Kurt Cobian, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.

“Right when "Nevermind" came out, I was driving with a friend of mine to Delaware from Virginia," Smith said. “We got a CD player in the car. He played it, and we listened to it over and over again. "Bleach" is my favorite record. It’s bonkers.”

Clare Pproduct, the bassist for the UK glam punk band Antiproduct, was at the 1992 Reading Festival and watched Nirvana’s set.

“I grew up near Reading, and if you were under 14, you got in free as long as you had a grown up with you,” said Clare, who was only 11 years old when she got into the concert. “So we would find a grown up who would pretend to be our parent and get in. That year I had managed to get backstage passes somehow, too. I thought that for the show, Kurt seemed a bit disconnected. The crowd loved it, and the band sounded great, but it just lacked a vibrancy, which I had hoped they would have. It will be very interesting to see it again on the DVD, all these years on from a totally different vantage point of my life.”

Nirvana, Clare said, had a huge impact on her from the moment she first heard "Nevermind" when she was 10 years old.

“'Smells Like Teen Spirit' was all over the radio, and it was a great song,” she said. “I had been into the Pixies before and found Nirvana to be just a little bit too similar, but nonetheless, there is no denying that Kurt Cobain was an awesome songwriter. Nirvana did a great thing with killing off all the dinosaur hair band guitar solo wank bull****. They were the start of a new era."

Ryan Bray, from the music blog Drowned Sound, recounted his first interaction with Nirvana’s music.

“Watching the band play 'Lithium' live at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1992 (when Krist Novoselic famously clonked himself on the head while trying to catch his bass in the air) was the singular experience that turned me into the smug, argumentative, borderline psychotic music fan I’ve since grown into so many years later,” Bray said. “For the past 15 or so years, music has been the engine that drove me, and Nirvana was the first band to slam its foot on the gas. It started with "Nevermind" after which "In Utero," "Incesticide" and "Bleach" were bought up in quick succession. I think I frightened my parents a little with my obsession. It truly changed my life.”

Stephen MacDonald of the Boston-based indie folk-rock band Stephen MacDonald and The Okay Win, didn’t fully appreciate Nirvana until he fully got into music. He was only in middle school when "Nevermind" came out.

“The first time I heard Nirvana I was still relatively young, and I pretended to like it,” MacDonald said. “My musical taste back then was influenced by what I thought I should like, which in turn made me go through a period of hating Nirvana during my teenage years. A few years ago while in college, I had a class where we read Kurt Cobain’s diary. It was interesting to see into the psyche of someone that many people considered a legend. I decided to start listening to Nirvana again, about eight years after I had stopped. Maybe it was the fact that I had matured, or maybe I never really hated them at all, but I finally got what was happening and I loved it.”

MacDonald quickly grew an appreciation for Nirvana.

“I went on a Nirvana binge and really started missing that feeling of music in the '90s with bands like Pavement and early Built to Spill,” he said. “I’ve had a weird relationship with Nirvana. To me they feel like someone I went to school with when I was younger but never bothered to know for dumb reasons. Then I run into them 10 years later and think, ‘Oh yeah, I remember you. Why weren’t we ever friends.’ They aren’t my favorite band in this genre, but I definitely am a bigger fan now than ever.”

Although it’s been 20 years since Nirvana’s debut album and more than 14 years since Cobain’s death, Nirvana still gets radio airplay, and its songs remain consistent downloads on music Web sites.

“While my fanaticism has since waned more toward a healthy appreciation and respect over the years, I still in a lot of ways hold Nirvana as the standard by which I measure other bands, songs, etc.,” Bray said. “Every time I hear a new band or go to a show or buy a new record, I’m essentially searching for the next thing that gives me that over the top, exuberant feeling Nirvana did the first time I heard them. I guess in summation they’re like a first crush, something you let go of with time but never truly forget.”