Just hours after their highlight gig at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear, along with multiple frontman fill ins played a secret Nirvana reunion show at St. Vitus, a tiny metal bar in Brooklyn.
The Barclays Center rocked out Thursday night, with its largest live audience ever, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its newest members, but what happened later that night shocked everyone. A 350-person-capacity dive bar in Greenpoint played encore for a show to friends and family of those performing and a couple hundred very lucky spectators.
Joan Jett, the 55 year-old rock guitarist, and St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, reprised their visceral versions of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Lithium,” that they billed on stage at the awards show, as well as rocking out to several other Kurt Cobain-penned anthems. Jett performed “Breed” and “Territorial Pissings,” and St. Vincent added “About A Girl” and “Heart Shaped Box.”
A big shocker came when John McCauley, Rhode Island native and singer-songwriter of Deer Tick, came on stage strapped with a Fender Jag-Stang guitar and belted out, in an eerily similar Cobain-esque voice, “Serve The Servants.” McCauley’s band, on occasion, plays under the name Deervana, a Nirvana cover group.
Kim Gordon, of Sonic Youth, went on stage last to sing “Aneurysm” and “Negative Creep,” ending with a crash as Pat Smear destroyed his guitar on stage. Soon after, he was informed that there was one more song to be done.
Sonic Youth first discovered Nirvana bringing them along some west coast shows and in 1991, months before the release of “Nevermind,” Nirvana’s second album featuring the iconic hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the young grunge band followed Sonic Youth on a European festival tour which was captured in the documentary “1991: The Year Punk Broke” by Dave Markey.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame awards ceremony which is normally a black tie, invite-only event, was opened to the public for the first time in history encouraging true fans to attend, even though they don’t get to choose who wins.
Inductees included Kiss, Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Cat Stevens (who now goes by Yusuf Isalm), E Street Band, Hall and Oates, and Linda Ronstadt.
Kiss, who has been eligible to be inducted since 1999, was expected to put aside current squabbles to reunite and perform at the event, but no such performance was to be had as the Hall only inducted the original members Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, snubbing Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer, or other former members.
The E Street Band induction took 85 minutes as Bruce Springsteen, the group’s leader who was inducted back in 1999, lead them in with a 20-minute speech and then their own individual speeches. A delay that left many shifting in their seats and led Kim Gordon to end the encore performance at St. Vitus with the exclamation “Bruce Springsteen sucks!”
Nirvana’s awe-inspiring performance at the awards ceremony included not only Jett, St. Vincent, and Gordon, but also a beautiful rendition of “All Apologies” belted out by Lorde, who was not even born by the time Nirvana broke up.
Their award was accepted by Grohl, Novoselic, and about a dozen friends and family of Cobain, including his widow – and executor of his estate – Courtney Love, who came out to overwhelmingly mixed approval when it was her turn at the podium including quite a few boos from the cheap seats.
This was the first year Nirvana was eligible to be inducted, and also the first time that Grohl and Novoselic had played a Nirvana song together since Kurt Cobain shot himself twenty years earlier.
Since Cobain’s death in 1994, Grohl stepped away from the drums and went on to play frontman for the band Foo Fighters. Novoselic has produced music through several other endeavours after Nirvana and is also a political activist for musicians, publishing a weekly column for Seattle Weakly from 2007-2010.
Multiple videos of the reunion show are going viral on YouTube right now, and the awards show can be viewed on HBO on May 31. The reunion at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the secret show in Brooklyn gave some resolution to the undying love fans have for Nirvana, and for the lucky few present at St. Vitus, it was sure to have been a show to be remembered.
Commentary by Cody Long