Down on the Bleach
Sounds, June 9, 1990
PAGE: 2 | back

THIS IS what it's like selling yourself in America. As Galaxie 500 and countless others have stated, it's tough. With the exception of a couple of weeks either side of last year's European tour with labelmates Tad, Nirvana have been on tour promoting 'Bleach' for almost nine months solid. The crucial difference between the Eurotour -which was undertaken in an atmosphere of fun and enthusiasm with all the bands travelling together, and which played to large, highly motivated audiences -and the band's current American tour is that, by and large, the Americans seem unaware of what's lurking on their own doorstep.

"America may be the land of the free," says Kurdt, "but there are definitely more ignorant people here. Most of the population are semiretarded."

"Most Americans are drunk," explains bassist Chris Novoselic, "drunk on their goodies. It's like some kind of tribal thing, marking out your territory, the guy with the prettiest beads or washing machine is respected in the tribe."

"And it's really easy to play that game too," says Kurdt. "It's easy to be ignorant and not accept anything aside from your own tribe and your own values. It's weird, but it seems Europe is much more open minded, at least towards music and the arts."

Nirvana's American tours have been backbreaking. Sure the hip and trendy may turn up in New York, but the venue's still the size of The Falcon in Camden, small and sleazy.

New York does Nirvana no favours. The sound, delivered by an in-house 'sound expert' is appalling. Kurdt's guitar and vocals are buried beneath a slurry of bass and drums, while onstage none of the band can hear what's going on. But if the performance is dreary to the point of embarrassment then the audience reaction is even more pitiful. There's no applause for 'School', the best song that evening, and precious little response to anything else. Most make up their minds straight away and leave. At least hipsters like Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth stay to the end to see Kurdt trash the band's equipment in an orgy of frustrated violence.

I don't blame them," says Chris, "if I had lived in New York for most of my life I'd be the same. They're all burnt out, they see shit all the time, anything that could have been done probably already has and they were probably there at the time. If we had blown ourselves up onstage they wouldn't have blinked an eye."

"I wasn't frustrated by the audience at all," explains Kurdt. "That has nothing to do with why l was mad. I just felt we were playing really badly and I' wanted to kill the other members of the band and myself. Afterwards I went into the van, lit a cigarette and said for the 30th time, I'm quitting."


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