This week's CityBeat features Bill Furbee's profile of writer/musician Peter Aaron, who currently lives in New York and recently co-wrote a book with Richie Ramone about the Punk musician's storied life. Aaron's own storied life included a stint booking early Punk, Alternative, Hardcore, Post Punk and Indie Rock shows around the Greater Cincinnati area in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
By coincidence, the poster art promoting one of those club shows was recently put on a T-shirt and is being sold to raise funds for the local Women Helping Women organization.
We Have Become Vikings is selling shirts featuring Aaron's show flyer for one of his most notorious bookings — Nirvana's first appearance in Cincinnati in 1989, when the group was touring behind its debut album, Bleach. The band (pre-Dave Grohl; Chad Channing was behind the drum kit) played Murphy's Pub on Clifton Avenue, near the University of Cincinnati. Opening Nirvana's first Cincy concert was local band Grinch, which was led by Bill Alletzhauser, who went on to play with The Ass Ponys and form great local bands like The Hiders and Ruby Vileos.
The Cincinnati design/print shop is donating $5 from each shirt sold to the org; in the product description on WHBV's site, Aaron says of the benefit's concept, "Kurt would have liked that.”
Click here to see the different shirts and hoodies available (and act fast if you want one — there's no way they'll last too long).
In 2014, Aaron wrote about his interactions with Nirvana when booking those early Cincinnati shows for Hudson Valley, New York's Chronogram, where he's the music editor. In the piece, he remembers Nirvana being just another band among the groups on indie labels like Amphetamine Reptile, Touch & Go and Sub Pop who he'd play on his WAIF radio show or book into area venues like the Top Hat and Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky or Murphy's and Shorty's Underground (near Bogart's in Corryville) in Cincinnati.
That first Nirvana show was actually a make-up date. The band was supposed to play Top Hat earlier in 1989, but apparently they broke up and canceled the tour while on the road. The show still went on, with co-headliners and Minneapolis band The Cows and local openers Blue Othello (full-disclosure: that was my first band!) playing. The Cows were amazing that night — singer Shannon Selberg had both of his arms in casts and was still bouncing off of the walls and tabletops of the small club.
Nirvana got back together, obviously, and the Bleach tour hit Murphy's Pub on Oct. 6, 1989. The cover charge, as noted on the show bill, was $3.
"Nirvana was even better live than on Bleach," Aaron wrote about the Murphy's show. "Just unrelentingly brutal, and incredibly loud. They opened with that album’s 'Negative Creep.' I stood listening in the middle of the not-quite-half-full room as its crunching riff rattled my abdomen and made the hairs on my neck buzz. I remember Krist Novoselic wearing a Tad t-shirt and prowling the stage, his bass slung lower than I thought humanly possible. Chad Channing was the drummer then (he’d be replaced by Dave Grohl later) and along for the ride as the merch man was the group’s short-serving second guitarist, Jason Everman (depicted on the Bleach cover and listed as playing on the album, even though he didn’t). Everman was visibly frustrated that the band had asked him to sit out the tour and was still hopeful he’d be asked to rejoin (he wasn’t)."
In Aaron's remembrances, he estimates there were about 30 people in attendance at the Murphy's Pub show. I missed it, but did see Nirvana when Aaron brought them back in 1990 for a show at Shorty's. He remembers "75 or 80 max" at that show (I'd say 50, by my memory is not great).
"I remember Kurt almost hitting his head on the stage’s ceiling, which was very low," Aaron wrote of the Shorty's show. "Krist had to hunch down even lower than he normally did when he played."
Nirvana would never play Cincinnati again after that 1990 show.