A Look Back At Nirvana's Legendary Gig At The Metro, 25 Years Later

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 12, 2016 8:20PM

2016_10_nirvana.jpg
Nirvana press photo from the 'Nevermind' era.

There are memorable shows, and then there are legendary shows. Nirvana's performance at The Metro on Oct. 12, 1991 firmly falls into the latter category. The band had played the venue twice before—on Sept. 30, 1989 and April 1, 1990—but their third appearance would be the one everyone still talks about. Nevermind had just been released the month prior, meaning the date was booked before the group's explosion into the mainstream; so it was already an oddity that the band was playing such an intimate space. It was also the night that a certain power couple by the name of Kurt Cobain and Courney Love would start dating.

We talked to Bill Termunde of Live Nirvana about some of the more noteworthy points of an evening.

2016_10_nirvana_at_metro_ticket_stub.jpg It was the 20th show of the Nevermind tour.
"The tour actually began before the release of Nevermind" Termunde says. "And this was the first time Butch Vig came to see Nirvana after recording Nevermind, a short trip for him from his home in Madison, Wisconsin."

The band stayed at the "Rock & Roll Days Inn."
The Days Inn on Diversey has seen its fair share of famous guests over the years. Located just a few blocks from The Metro, it has long been a go-to spot for groups looking to crash after (or before) a show, and Nirvana chose it as the place to stay while in Chicago.

Dave Grohl demolished his Tama Granstar drum kit.
"The kit was beat-up by the time they rolled into Metro, but Nirvana's tour manager wouldn't buy him a new one for whatever reason," Termunde says. "So, Kurt and Dave spent the better part of 10 minutes at the end of the show completely trashing the kit. Then they handed it out to the crowd so the tour manager would have no choice but to buy him a new one." Grohl supported this story during a 2014 appearance on The Tonight Show.

It was the night Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love started dating.
Courtney Love flew into town that morning to visit her then-boyfriend Billy Corgan. At the time, Corgan was the leader of an up-and-coming little local combo named The Smashing Pumpkins. Unfortunately she walked in on Corgan with another woman, so she decided to hit up the show at Metro later that night, where she caught the drum-demolishing segment of Nirvana's set. Charles Cross' Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain reports that after the set she made her way backstage, and the evening ended with her and Cobain back at The Days Inn.

It wasn't just by chance that Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain started dating.
We talked with Rick Remaley, who owned Crash Palace—the dive-bar destination for much of the Chicago rock scene in the late '80s and early '90s—about the day of the show. He said, "I was at the Crash Palace, setting up the bar. It was about four or five in the afternoon, and we didn't open until eight. But the door was open, and the Babes in Toyland gals came in with Courtney Love, whom they introduced me to. I knew Hole, of course, but didn't really know Courtney.

I told them we weren't open yet, but I'd be happy to serve them if they didn't mind my cleaning and setting up. So I set them up and went about my business, but I could hear them talking pretty intently. Of course there was no music playing, and no one else in the bar. I wasn't paying that much attention, but I definitely caught that they were making 'war plans' with Courtney. I had no clue who the lucky guy was, and it was only much later that I understood the significance of that conversation they were having."

The party went on late into the night.
Nirvana, Love, and Babes In Toyland all went to Crash Palace after the show. Remaley detailed some of the events of the evening since he was working that night. "The crowd from the Metro show was spilling into the bar, and so I gave "Teen Spirit" a spin. Shortly thereafter, Kurt and Krist [Noveselic] walk up and start talking to me. I asked them if they wanted to come into the DJ booth—really, just a little closet-like space behind the bar—to get out of the crowd." The duo flipped through Remaley's albums, and signed his Bleach LP and Nevermind CD.

Remaley continued, "They just came from playing this show to a packed audience, and now they're half in the bag in another packed and very loud bar, with everyone's attention on them. You might be a little worked up, too. Eventually, they went back out into the bar, disappearing into the crowd, and I went back to work spinning records. After the Crash Palace closed for the night, Kurt, Courtney and others made their way to Marie's Riptide where the party continued well into the night."

On a final note, it's worth looking back on Nirvana's setlist that night, because it was amazing.

"Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam"
"Aneurysm"
"School"
"Floyd The Barber"
"Drain You"
"Smells Like Teen Spirit"
"About A Girl"
"Breed"
"Polly"
"Sliver"
"Pennyroyal Tea"
"Love Buzz"
"Lithium'
"Been A Son"
"On A Plain"
"Negative Creep"
"Blew"
"Endless, Nameless"