Experiencing Nirvana is a photo journal, grunge rock micro-history, and an inside look into a crucial eight-day period in the touring life of Nirvana. In the last days of 1989, the young band goes from breaking up in Rome to winning over the influential British music press at Sub Pop’s LameFest U.K. showcase in London, setting the stage for their imminent popularity. At the end of a grueling six-week European tour to promote their Bleach debut, the band was exhausted and Cobain frustrated and downcast. Despite a stolen passport and an attempt to leap from a 14-foot speaker tower, Cobain managed to continue to London. Opening for Tad and Mudhoney at the Astoria Theatre on November 27, 1989, Nirvana’s heart-pounding performance won over the crowd. The powerful London music press proclaimed that Nirvana to be “Sub Pop’s answer to the Beatles.” Within two years, the band would become the biggest rock act of their generation. This is the photographic story of the breakthrough that almost never happened.
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About the Author
Bruce Pavitt was born in 1959 in Chicago. At the age of nine, he sold Christmas cards door-to-door in the summer heat, earning enough money to buy his first record playerand soon after, his first record, “Revolution,” by the Beatles.
In 1979 he enrolled at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. He spent time as a DJ at KAOS-FM, and in 1980 started his own zine, Subterranean Pop, aka Sub Pop, which reviewed hard-to-find independent rock recordings. Bruce moved to Seattle in 1983 and started writing the Sub Pop music column for The Rocket. He hosted a Sub Pop radio show on KCMU, and in 1984 co-founded Fallout Records, the first indie record store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district. His complete zines and Rocket columns, an unrivalled document of American independent music during the 1980s, are collected in the book Sub Pop U.S.A.: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 19801988 (Bazillion Points).
In 1986 Bruce launched the Sub Pop record label with the release of the Sub Pop 100 compilation, featuring bands including New York’s Sonic Youth and Seattle’s U-Men. With business partner Jonathan Poneman, Bruce opened the doors in 1988 to the Sub Pop offices at First and Virginia in downtown Seattle. By the early 1990s Sub Pop had released recordings by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Mark Lanegan, Beat Happening, Tad, the Walkabouts, and Steven Jesse Bernstein, and had helped initiate a global interest in Seattle area music.
After 17 years living on Orcas Island, Bruce Pavitt is back in Seattle, living with his family. He remains active in music by speaking at conferences and festivals, consulting with artists and music labels, and working as a DJ. A true music fan, Bruce continues to study music history in every genre.