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Cobain in Clubland

Recollections of Nirvana's three Houston shows

"That was by no means the best song on Nevermind, and it wasn't even a big deal when they played that," Walker recalls. "It was just their single, just a song, not a torch for something that would arguably end up changing music as we had known it -- at least in the mainstream eye."

Walker says Nirvana tore it up that night. "It was a precious time to see them then -- Nirvana didn't owe anyone anything yet, they were just a band that was doing well. The kind of band we weren't used to seeing do well, mind you, but still Kurt Cobain wasn't yet the tragic figure we'd end up knowing him to be, and their music hadn't quite made the impression it would begin to make for years to come. In the months that followed, the mainstream would come to them. When the show was over that night and we all poured out into the street in the cold October air, none of us knew we had all seen something so significant -- we just knew we'd seen something great."

Brennan, a couple of decades older than Walker, remembers it differently. "I was kinda perplexed," he recalls. "I remember thinking it was odd that out of all the stuff that was out there, this was the stuff that was really hitting home with all these people. I guess after them the next one was Green Day, and again, you were kinda like, 'I wonder why them?' "

In Utero tour, December 6, 1993, AstroArena. Shonen Knife and the Breeders were also on the bill.

Nirvana was on top of the world at this show, even as Kurt Cobain was spiraling toward his death five months later. The mainstream had found Cobain, and he was not happy about it. "Are y'all enjoying your new Pearl Jam record?" he cryptically asked the crowd.

"My strongest memory of that show was nonmusical," says Blue Corn Music director of sales and marketing Greg Ellis. "I remember this girl was being passed around over people's heads, and some guy grabbed her tit. Chris [Novoselic] stopped the show and told that guy to cut it out. About six weeks later I was at a Pantera show at the same place, and the same thing happened. Phil Anselmo was like, 'Hey, dude, pass her on up here so I can get some of that action!' "

In four years, Cobain had gone from just another guy in just another band to a guy who drew in the sort of people who used to beat him up in high school. A huge portion of the AstroArena crowd -- chief among them the tit-grabber -- were simply not his people. He had to fake it for those people, and he called faking it "the worst crime I could think of." And right after he wrote that, he shot up a load of heroin, picked up a shotgun and blew his brains out.

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