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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 ‘Nirvana’

EMP to feature Nirvana exhibit in 2011

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Hundreds of rare Nirvana artifacts will be on display next spring as part of an exhibit at Experience Music Project titled Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses.

The exhibit, scheduled to open April 16, 2011, will be the world’s most extensive Nirvana exhibit according to museum officials and unoffically marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of Nevermind. It will be on display for two years and was curated by EMP senior curator Jacob McMurray.

Krist Novaselic, Dave Grohl and Courtney Love were involved in the creation of the exhibit, which is meant to tell the public and personal story of Nirvana within the context of the independent, underground music scene that evolved throughout the 1980s and culminated the 1991. Two hundred pieces of memorabilia and artifacts will be in display including:

  • Kurt Cobain’s never-before exhibited, high school painting of two aging, Reagan-era punks in the post-apocalypse, informally known as “punk American gothic.
  • The Teac reel-to-reel tape machine owned by Mari Earl, Cobain’s aunt, on which a young Cobain recorded material for his early bands, Organized Confusion and Fecal Matter.
  • Cobain’s handwritten lyrics for Nirvana songs including “Spank Thru” and “Floyd the Barber.
  • Numerous instruments, including pieces of the first guitar Cobain destroyed onstage (a Univox Hi-Flyer); Dave Grohl’s Tama Rockstar-Pro drum kit; and Krist Novoselic’s
  • Guild acoustic bass guitar and Buck Owens American acoustic guitar used during the recording of “MTV Unplugged.”
  • The yellow cardigan often worn by Cobain between 1991 and 1994.
  • The winged angel stage prop featured on Nirvana’s In Utero tour.
  • Candid snapshots capturing the band’s early years, from their beginnings in Aberdeen, Wash. to the media frenzy that erupted after Nevermind.

As part of the exhibit there will be video confessional booths where fans can talk about the impact Nirvana has has on their lives. Clips from the confessionals will be interspersed between various Nirvana clips shown throughout the exhibit. There will also be oral histories by Novaselic, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, Steve Albini and others talking about the importance of the band on display. Steve Fisk, who co-produced Nirvana’s BlewEP created a soundtrack of ambient sound that museum visitors will hear as they walk through Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses.

“It’s great that there will soon be a collection that celebrates that contribution to music and culture. There’s a story with Nirvana at its center, but it’s a story that also includes the many people, bands and institutions that make up a music community. The show is a celebration of Northwest music,” Novaselic said in a news release announcing the exhibit.

Although Kurt Cobain died nearly 17 years ago his reach is still widely felt by musicians worldwide and interest in his life and Nirvana’s music has not subsided since the days of grunge. The EMP exhibit marks the second museum gallery dedicated to Nirvana in as many museums in Seattle in the past two years. The Seattle Art Museum’s Kurt explored the influence Cobain had on artists in various disciplines in 2010.

The exhibit will be housed in the space where the Northwest Passage currently resides. That exhibit explored the history of music in the Northwest dating from the 1940s to 2000. It has been on display since the museum opened in 2000 and has received minimum, if any noticeable, updates in the past decade.


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?


Nirvana’s 1992 Reading festival to be released on DVD May 4

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Over on Ear Candy the Web site there’s a story about Nirvana’s 1992 Reading Festival gig being released on DVD. It will contain the full 27-song set from the band.

Click here for more details.


VIDEO: Weezer covering Nirvana’s “Sliver”

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Last week I posted a few vids of Harvey Danger and Schoolyard Heroes covering Nirvana songs. Today, on the 17th anniversary of the release of “Nevermind,” here is a video of Weezer covering “Sliver.”


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.


VIDEO: Harvey Danger covering “Very Ape”

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Here is some video from the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee’s Lounge Acts 2008


VIDEO: Harvey Danger covering “Aneurysm”

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Here is some video from the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee’s Lounge Acts 2008


VIDEO: Schoolyard Heroes covering “Territorial Pissings”

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Here is some video from the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee’s Lounge Acts 2008


Harvey Danger, Schoolyard Heroes to cover Nirvana at Kurt Cobain tribute

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

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?
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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.