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Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989 is Bruce Pavitt’s account of this pivotal period of contemporary culture. As the visionary founder of Sub Pop – first as a hand crafted zine, then a series of cassettes, music columns, and radio broadcasts – Pavitt was in a peculiar position to chronicle the tour that cemented grunge as the soundtrack of a generation. Through journal entries and candid photographs, Pavitt follows Nirvana, TAD, and Mudhoney at a momentous stage of a movement that almost didn’t happen.
The dramatic eight days covered in this book, from November 27 through December 4, 1989, represent a turning point for Nirvana. In this brief period, the young band goes from breaking up in Rome to winning over the influential music press in London at Sub Pop’s LameFest UK showcase, setting the stage for their imminent popularity.
On November 27, 1989, when Pavitt and business partner Jon Poneman arrived to meet the band in Rome, they were almost finished with a grueling six week tour of Europe. Although determined to promote their grungy, riff-heavy debut album, Bleach, their travels with fellow Sub Pop act Tad had left them exhausted. Providing label support, Pavitt and Ponemon did their best to revive the spirits of a frustrated and downcast Kurt Cobain, who then managed to continue to London where Nirvana played the biggest and most important show of their career to date.
LameFest UK, held at the 2,000-capacity Astoria Theatre, featured three Seattle Sub Pop acts: Nirvana, Tad and popular headliners Mudhoney. Although Nirvana opened the show, their heart-pounding performance won over the crowd as well as the powerful British press, who went on to proclaim that Nirvana was, “Sub Pop’s answer to The Beatles.” It was then that the world’s attention began to focus on the band that would become the biggest rock act of their generation.