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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.
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Harvey Danger, Schoolyard Heroes to cover Nirvana at Kurt Cobain tribute

September 10th, 2008 by travis hay

As mentioned earlier this summer the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee is holding its second annual Lounge Acts concert. The concert is a benefit for the committee with proceeds going toward building a youth center in Cobain’s name as well as other Cobain-related community projects.

The concert is happening Saturday at the 7th Street Theatre in Hoquiam and it is well worth the drive south down I-5. Headliners include my buddies in Schoolyard Heroes and the always excellent Harvey Danger. Each band will perform at least one Nirvana cover, and a little bird told me that one of the aforementioned bands will play “Tourette’s” or “Drain You” or possibly both.

Aside from hearing some great Nirvana covers, you’ll also get to see two bands with some of the best hair in Seattle. Put Sean Nelson, Jonah Bergman and Steve Bonnelll in a room with the dudes from SHIM (who are not on Saturday’s bill) and you’ve almost got more hair than human.

All hair jokes aside (I’m just jealous because I can’t grow rock star hair), tickets for the all-ages show cost $20 and can be purchased by clicking here. The concert, which also features openers Black Top Demon (from Aberdeen) and Gebular (also from Aberdeen), starts at 7 p.m.

I zipped an e-mail over to Jeff Burlingame, one of the organizers of the event, and asked a few questions about Kurt, Aberdeen, the committee and the concert. Here is what he had to say:

Tell me a little bit about the committee. How did it get started, what are its goals, how close is the committee close to achieving them, who are the members and how can people help or donate if they are interested?

The committee was formed in 2004, after myself and my co-founder, Aberdeen City Councilman Paul Fritts, decided to finally do something to honor Kurt in his hometown of Aberdeen. We were prompted by a newspaper article written by three Aberdeen High School students who wondered, on the 10th anniversary of Kurt’s death, why nothing had been done to honor him. So our goals, in general, are to memorialize Kurt. Specifically, we are now working on the goal of building an artistic youth center.

Our committee is made up of community members who also believe Kurt needs to be memorialized in Aberdeen. Most prominent among them is Kurt’s grandfather, Leland Cobain, who has built quite a cult following for himself by interacting with Kurt’s fans across the world. He is proud of his grandson and one of our more active members. He even went to England to fundraise. The rest of our committee are professionals in the community. You can see their names on our myspace or kurtcobainmemorial.org. How someone can donate is also there. Everything is tax deductible.

How did the idea for Lounge Acts come about?

The idea to hold a concert to honor Kurt was a natural fit with what we are trying accomplish and what Kurt did for a living. Countless fans of Nirvana and Kurt constantly come to town looking for a way to pay their respects and a place to gather and mourn. This gives them that once a year. Our youth center will give them that on a daily basis. I created the name Lounge Acts as a play off Nirvana’s song, “Lounge Act.” I think it fits perfectly, although the name will continue to grow more ironic as the quality of our acts continues to improve. And, no matter how big Lounge Acts gets, we will always have a spot for a local band, or bands, on the bill. That’s the true spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish.

What were some of your highlights from the first Lounge Acts?

There were several. Those include seeing a large crowd waiting in line to get in; the tears I saw in a woman’s eyes when the first band, local teen group Clouded Minds, opened the show with a very solid rendition of “In Bloom,” and how nervous and excited those kids were prior to the show; the positive comments all the bands had after the concert; seeing the smile on the face of Kurt’s grandfather, who was thrilled that so many people came to honor his grandson. Being a big fan, the whole event was a highlight for me.

I read that a band from Europe traveled to Aberdeen for the opportunity to play at first Lounge Acts last year. Did you think the event would be so well received?

I was hoping it would be, but you never know. The story of the European band was an interesting one. A group from Belgium came to see the show last year. They approached me in the afternoon and said they would be honored if they could play for a few minutes. So we let them use the opening act’s gear and they played prior to the official start of the show. Another highlight.

For readers like myself who have never been to Aberdeen, could you please describe the city?

Aberdeen once was one of the richest cities on the West Coast. But as the area’s logging jobs began to fade in the 1980s, so did much of its wealth. Many were forced to move to find jobs. The economy became depressed. Kurt grew up during this economic downturn and, I believe, his music was very much a product of that environment. Many of Kurt’s complaints about Aberdeen centered around there not being anything to do. But the area will rebound and our group has been a leader in that movement. There are shows every weekend. There are dozens of bands. We had 15 perform in June at our Road to Lounge Acts battle of the bands competition. So many people attended that we had to turn people away. Our opening acts came from that competition, which was pretty intense.

I’ve read in a lot of places that based on where Nirvana originated that it seemed unlikely they would be poised for worldwide success. How do you think a band from a place like Aberdeen was able to become so successful so fast?

It’s because Nirvana’s music is real rock and roll. Kurt’s lyrics are real poetry. Together, they are real art. And you can create art anywhere. The main problem with being from a small town like Aberdeen is lack of opportunity, something has begun to help remedy. Still, Aberdeen has had more than its share of great rock and roll bands: Melvins, Nirvana, Metal Church, which I believe could have been bigger than Metallica. There are plenty more that could have “made it,” had they received the same breaks Nirvana did.

You wrote a book about Kurt Cobain. What are a few things you were surprised to learn about him during your research?

As a fan and former acquaintance of Kurt’s, I had been “researching” him for two decades before I wrote a word of the book. So I didn’t expect to discover many new facts during research. But I did. The most interesting to me, as a diehard fan, was the story behind the infamous quote given by his mother when she was told of Kurt’s death. It was the quote about him going to “join that stupid club” of musicians who had died at age 27. The partial quote made his mother sound somewhat insensitive, when she was anything but. Some have written about that after I did but no one ever did before. I know this because the reporter that gathered the quote hadn’t told anyone his story. The complete story is so sad and shows how much Kurt’s mother was devastated by his death.

Schoolyard Heroes and Harvey Danger are the two headliners for this year’s Lounge Acts. How were they chosen and do you know which Nirvana songs they will perform?

Harvey Danger was high on our list of bands to perform at last year’s show, we just didn’t connect. I haven’t spoken to the band about this but my gut is that we needed to prove ourselves before anyone established would come to Aberdeen or Hoquiam and play. Known bands don’t play shows in Aberdeen. Not anymore, at least, because it’s off the I-5 grid and the population base isn’t there. But last year’s turnout was excellent and the venue is fantastic. It has a state-of-the-art sound system and, even then, we are supplementing it. Schoolyard Heroes was requested by several of the area’s youth. I’d been listening to and following them for a few years and knew they’d be a good fit.

We do know which Nirvana songs they will perform but are keeping it hush until the bands play. I will say that some of the choices were surprising to me and will be very interesting to hear. Those who attend can even expect to hear some acoustic.

The last Lounge Acts was released on DVD. Are there plans to do the same for this year’s concert?

We are again bringing in a professional film crew to document the show. What we do with it beyond that is to be determined. I hope we can release another DVD.

Lastly, why do you think Nirvana’s music means so much to so many people?

Because it’s good and has aged well. It is incredible art, delivered with a passion people will always relate to. I frequently receive e-mails from across the globe from people who want to share their stories about how Nirvana’s music has changed their lives. In some cases, how it has saved their lives. Those stories come from people of all ages, including ones who were born after Kurt died. I know people — professional adults included — who have moved to Aberdeen because Kurt was born there. On the surface, you might think they are a tad obsessive, but when you hear their reasons, you kinda say, “I understand.” And I really do.

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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.