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Dave Grohl Writes About That Nirvana Fracas at Trees

He devotes nearly an entire chapter of The Storyteller to that wild night.

Dave Grohl has himself a new book out titled The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music. So far, I’ve read just one chapter. It’s the one where he describes what happened on that night in 1991 when blood was spilled on the stage at Trees, in Deep Ellum. This was just as Nirvana was breaking out with Nevermind and becoming A Big Thing. You remember Brian Sweany, that guy who used to work at D Magazine? Brian was there that night. He wrote a short piece for us in 2004 about the discovery of a long-lost video of that performance. Grohl adds a bunch more detail in his book. Some of this chapter is about what it felt like to be in the band just as it was becoming huge. You’ll have to buy a copy to get that context. Here is a taste of the blow by blow at Trees:

By the time we reached Dallas, we had no idea anymore what to expect. But there was a particular electricity in the air that night, magnified by an unusually swampy humidity that further heightened the tension in the room, like a short fuse on a handmade bomb. As we stepped onstage to play, the crowd was already spilling over the floor monitors and onto Kurt’s and Krist’s guitar pedals, with the band’s even hitting. a single note. Imagine being backed up against a wall by a mob of 600 alcohol-fueled adrenaline junkies waiting to tear you and the entire place to shreds, multiple that by 10, and you’re getting close to what it felt like to in Nirvana that night. …

Four songs later, after a noisy, technical-difficulty-riddled version of our otherwise gentle acoustic song “Polly,” Kurt snapped. Turning to his left, he took off his guitar and started smashing the monitor engineer’s soundboard to pieces, chopping at it over and over, sending buttons, knobs, and shrapnel flying across the stage. Kurt had had enough. Not just of this show, but of everything that had led us to this night. The weeks and weeks of intensified chaos had finally boiled over, and Kurt’s frustration was now being released in a furious display of violent rage. …

[W]we soldiered on, continuing to play as the monitor engineer hilariously placed a wood pallet over his mixing desk for fear that another thrashing was inevitable. Nothing could save him now. This speeding train was already off the fucking rails, on a collision course with everyone and everything in its path.

Grohl goes on to describe how Cobain smashed his guitar over a security guard’s head. He doesn’t name the security guard, but it was, of course, Turner Scott Van Blarcum, who knocked Cobain to the floor with a punch to the jaw. The band somehow managed to go on playing and finish its set, but Van Blarcum and “his misfit friends” (Grohl’s words) waited by the back door of the club to get their revenge. He punched out a window of a cab in which Cobain made his escape.

Brady Wood owns Park House now, a bit of an upgrade. He owned Trees back in 1991 (co-owned, whatever). I asked if he’d read Grohl’s book yet. Nope. Via text, though, he wrote back: “I was standing next to the cab when Turner punched through the cab window, and the broken glass didn’t even slow his fist down until it reached about 3 inches from Cobain’s smiling face. Turner’s arm wasn’t long enough to reach that far. He then kicked a huge dent in the cab door. The cab gunned it, took a right on Elm, and the band was home free. The tour manager then met with me in the office, happily paid cash for the cab damage, the smashed monitor mix board, and said, ‘That was one of the greatest shows in rock and roll history.’ ”

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