Arts Devo

Nirvana lives

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Here we are now, entertain us This Saturday, Sept. 24, marks the 25th anniversary of Nirvana smashing a guitar in the face of the music industry with the release of Nevermind. And to boldly celebrate the occasion, local alt/pop-punk cover band Radio Relapse will perform the entire album from start to finish on Saturday night at The Maltese.

It trips Arts DEVO out to look back at the timeline of the band’s success and realize that the year before the release of Nevermind, Nirvana played a show to a smattering of barflies at the old Blue Max nightclub (where Herreid Music is now). The KCSC-sponsored show (Feb. 21, 1990) also featured fellow Sub Pop artists/grunge pioneers TAD. I was living here then, but if memory serves I didn’t go because I wasn’t that into TAD (and I know I wasn’t hip to Nirvana yet). (I also wasn’t 21, not that that kept me from getting into shows at the Blue Max, with its easily replicated red smiley-face hand stamp.)

Six months after the Chico show, I did see Nirvana live—twice! I still had yet to listen to them, even though the band’s early recordings were already floating around my circle of friends. I was there at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento (Aug. 20, 1990) to see the headliners, Sonic Youth, but after witnessing the unhinged one-man mayhem of Kurt Cobain—who at one point flung himself toward the audience, only to fall short and land back-first on a support beam connecting the stage to a crowd-barrier, then writhe on the floor for a moment before hopping back up to rejoin the song—I was all-in.

In a typical display of the “fuck it” model of fiscal planning to which we subscribed in those days, my crew followed the tour to S.F. and relived the Sonic Youth/Nirvana/STP bill at The Warfield the following night. (We also caught a free Sonic Youth show in the parking lot of Tower Records in the City earlier in the afternoon.)

The following summer, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would break Nirvana and punk into the mainstream, and my 21-year-old brain got all snobby and shunned them for a few years for daring to be successful. Thankfully, I got over it, and thankfully I have those two epic nights to hold onto.

Radical partnership The Pageant Theatre is teaming up with local anarchist publishers AK Press to present a new Subversive Cinema film series at the local art-house theater. The first monthly installment is this Sunday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m., and features the 1983 feminist sci-fi experiment Born in Flames. Future selections will include John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic, They Live; Sidney Lumet’s 1975 bunker bank-heist drama, Dog Day Afternoon (with Al Pacino, of course); and Charlie Chaplin’s notorious caricature of Adolf Hitler in the 1940 political satire, The Great Dictator.