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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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Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Cobain’

Modern art makes me want to rock out: Seattle Art Museum’s Cobain-themed ‘Kurt’

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Earlier this week I attended a media preview of Seattle Art Museum’s “Kurt” exhibit which focuses on the impact Kurt Cobain’s life had on the lives of others. Below is my unedited take on the exhibit that I wrote for Crosscut.

During “Modern Art,” a song by British rock group Art Brut, Eddie Argos exclaims “Modern art makes me want to rock out.” That statement more or less sums up how I felt after spending nearly two hours viewing Seattle Art Musuem’s “Kurt,” an exhibit that celebrates Kurt Cobain’s worldwide influence on the world of pop culture and art.

Curated by Michael Darling, who will be leaving SAM in July to be the chief curator at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, “Kurt” perfectly bridges the worlds of pop culture, music and art. This is an exhibit not just for fans of fine art. Anyone who has been touched by Nirvana’s music can find something to appreciate here. The installation, which opens today and can be seen until Sept. 6, features nearly 80 works of various mediums ranging from sculptures to paintings to photographs and more, each expressing different aspects of Cobain’s life and how he impacted the lives of others.

“Kurt” isn’t a collection of memorabilia like you might find at the Experience Music Project, (which will have its own Nirvana exhibit in 2011) and it isn’t a display of Cobain’s own artwork. “Kurt” is an exhibit that takes a very public and tragic figure and humanizes him in a way his own music never could and like all good art, almost every piece on display makes you think.

The danger and tragedy of Cobain’s life is represented throughout “Kurt” with two of the more effective pieces being Jordan Kantor’s 2006 painting “Untitled (Forensic Scene)” and Banks Violette’s “Dead Star Memorial Structure (on their hands at last)” from 2003. The former is an oil painting that harkens memories of the infamous photos of Cobain’s dead body inside the greenhouse where he killed himself. The latter is what looks like a devastated drum kit dipped in black tar. Pieces of the kit are deconstructed and strewn across a platform and pointy stalagmites poke through the floor. It conjures feelings of darkness, volatility and despair, all of which can be heard in Nirvana’s music.

There is also a remarkable audio collage that attempts to loosely tie Cobain’s death to the loss of innocence in the 1960s. The work by Sam Durant  is part of a larger piece that includes graphite portraits of Cobain, Robert Smithson and others. Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black),” part which Cobain quoted in his suicide note (“It’s better to burn out than to fade away”), plays from one pair of speakers while “Gimme Shelter” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” play from two other pairs. The speakers are connected to stereos underneath a replica of Smithson’s “Partially Buried Woodshed,” which he built after the Kent State massacre. Initially it is a bit jarring to hear the three songs played simultaneously but once your ears adjust your mind makes the connection between the songs and their separate meanings to different generations it all comes together quite nicely. (more…)


VIDEO: Kurt Cobain to be a playable character in Guitar Hero 5

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Like playing Guitar Hero? Like Kurt Cobain? Wish you could play Guitar Hero as Kurt Cobain? Well, you’ll soo be able to do that when Guitar Hero 5 is released Sept. 1.

The game features a playable Kurt Cobain and includes "Lithium" from the band’s 1992 Reading Festival concert and "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The vitural Kurt was approved by Courtney Love, Dave Grohl and Universal Publishing, the three owners of Nirvana’s music. The in-game Cobain looks pretty authentic thanks to the involvement of C-Lo. Kurt’s even wearing a Daniel Johnston shirt.

But you’ve got to admit it’s a little odd watching the above video and not seeing Krist Novaselic or Grohl on stage with Kurt, but then again it’s not Band Hero (which is an actual game in production believe it or not), this is Guitar Hero we’re talking about. I’m guessing if Krist played the game he wouldn’t be very good at it unless his skills with a guitar game controller have improved since he wrote this 2008 Seattle Weekly column.

Personally I’m not quite sure how I feel about video game Kurt Cobain. I suppose it’s cool for kids to rock out as the leader of Nirvana, but having lived through the grune era in Seattle, attending the public wake after Kurt’s suicide and having some pretty close, personal memories attached to Nirana’s music, I’m a little torn about such a sacred (to me at least) rock icon being marketed in a video game. However, he’s not the only dead rock star in Guitar Hero 5. Johnny Cash and Jimi Hendrix are in the game as playable characters along with other living rockers including Muse’s Matt Bellamy and Garbage’s Shirley Manson.

Since I am undecided on my feelings toward virtual KC, I ask you dear readers: What do you think about Kurt Cobain in Guitar Hero?


Post #1,000: Smoking Cobain’s ashes in a joint

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I’ve only dropped 105 posts here in three months, but over on my other blog I just penned (can you pen something on a keyboard?) my 1,000th post. It has to do with a German artist who plans on smoking a joint made of Kurt Cobain’s ashes and hash.

Read it here.


Photo gallery: Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee’s Lounge Acts

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

As you likely noticed, I took a little time off last week. So here is the gallery of photos from the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee’s Lounge Acts concert I mentioned prior to taking my brief vacation. These photos were all taken by Steven Friederich.


What you missed at the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee’s Lounge Acts 2008

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Last weekend the unplugged Endfest, featuring Bad Religion, PUSA and others, as well as the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee’s Lounge Acts concert featuring Schoolyard Heroes, Harvey Danger and others, were happening at the same time on the same day. Two great shows happening at conflicting times on the same day happens a lot in Seattle because the music scene is just so rich and abundant with awesomeness in the Emerald City. It’s one of the only bad byproducts of living in such a cool place.

Anyway, a friend of mine had an extra ticket to Endfest and I was almost compelled to trek over the hill to check out the unplugged event. However, instead of making the five hour round trip drive to Seattle and back, I chose to stay home for the weekend (which is a rare choice for me). And since I decided again driving five hours to Seattle you know there was no way I was going to make the eight hour trip to the Aberdeen area.

But just because I wasn’t out and about doesn’t mean I am not able to report what went down in Hoquiam at Lounge Acts 2008.

So if you weren’t there, here’s what you (and I) missed:

* Aberdeen band Black Top Demon covered “Smells Like Teen Spirit” but it wasn’t your typical “Teen Spirit” cover. KISW (99.9 FM) radio personality The Ricker joined the band on stage and sang the song while the Aberdeen High School cheer squad did their pom pom thing as the band performed, recreating a scene straight out of the iconic music video.

* Harvey Danger kicked off their set with “Aneurysm” during which singer Sean Nelson was wearing a red mask over his eyes. After the song, in a very Cobainian move, the band abruptly left the stage and came back five minutes later to finish their headliner. The set also included a great cover of “Very Ape.” Check back in about 10 minutes for videos of both performances.

* Nelson and Schoolyard Heroes’ Ryann Donnelly performed a duet of “All Apologies” during sound check. However, that is not the song they performed together during the concert. Donnelly joined Nelson and the rest of Harvey Danger on stage for “Heart Shaped Box.”

* Schoolyard Heroes covered “Territorial Pissings” and “Drain You.” Again, come back in a few minute for the video.

Also, expect to see a photo gallery from the show soon. And a massive hat tip goes to my good buddy Steven Friederich for the rundown of the show and for the pics and videos.


Cool show alert: Kurt Cobain memorial concert featuring Schoolyard Heroes and Harvey Danger

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

If you’re up for a little road trip in September, the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee has announced part of the lineup for its second annual Kurt Cobain memorial concert.

This year the concert will feature the scary kids of Schoolyard Heroes and the lovable geeks of Harvey Danger. Both are fixtures in the Seattle music scene and should put on great sets to honor Cobain.

The concert is being used to raise money for a park and youth center in Cobain’s name. Currently the only real acknowledgment of Cobain in the Aberdeen area is the city’s welcome sign, which reads “come as you are.”

The concert is scheduled for Sept. 13 and will take place in Hoquiam at the 7th St. Theatre. Tickets cost $20. You can read more about the show here.


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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.