WETA's local DC history website, Boundary Stones, posted a cool piece in 2016 for the 25th anniversary of Nirvana's breakout record, Nevermind, and about the show they performed at the 9:30 Club on the eve of the their (and grunge's) meteoric rise into the mainstream.
Voice of a generation, musical genius, rock legend, sellout … Kurt Cobain was none of those things when he arrived in D.C. with bandmates Krist Novoselic and Northern Virginia's own Dave Grohl in early October 1991. His band Nirvana had achieved a mostly regional but loyal following after the release of its first album Bleach on Seattle-based independent record label Sub Pop, which sold about 35,000 copies after its initial release in June 1989. The record label had gained some national attention as the main purveyor of bands playing the "grunge" sound — an alternative fusion of hardcore punk and heavy metal — but none of its original stable of artists (among them Soundgarden, Mudhoney and TAD) had achieved any sniff of mainstream success.
All of that was about to change however — in a massive way — within weeks of Nirvana's scheduled gig at the original 9:30 Club located on 930 F Street NW. Nevermind, Nirvana's second album and first for a major label (Geffen), was recorded in about two weeks in May 1991 at Sound City Studios in California, with an initial budget of just $65,000. The album was released in the U.S. on Sept. 24, 1991, with Geffen Records shipping a modest 46,251 copies across the country. The record company hoped that Nevermind would sell around 250,000 copies in total. However, in the interim, something happened that changed both the trajectory of the band and rock music itself — the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" debuted on MTV's late night alternative rock showcase "120 Minutes" on Sept. 14. Within a few weeks, the video proved so popular that MTV began airing it during its regular daytime rotation. College and modern rock radio stations also placed the single in heavy rotation around this time, and a definite crossover mainstream buzz was beginning to build behind the song and the band.
Read the rest.
Hear the show: