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Kim Gordon Writes About Nirvana’s ‘Charismatic’ Live Shows in New Memoir

The former Sonic Youth member says she felt "very big sisterly, almost maternal" toward Kurt Cobain

Shortly after publishing an excerpt of her forthcoming memoir, Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon has released another portion of the book via the Guardian. In it, the former alt-rock icon details what it was like to see Nirvana play a 1989 show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, and then see them the next night at the Pyramid Club in New York City’s East Village. Also on the guest list for the Pyramid gig? Iggy Pop. “I guess he wanted to see what all the hype was about, too,” Gordon writes.

Later, Gordon describes what it was like to tour with Nirvana in 1991, and reflects on her friendship with Cobain, toward whom she felt “very big sisterly, almost maternal.” Read the full excerpt here, and grab Girl in a Band when it hits shelves on February 24.  

The first time Thurston and I saw Nirvana was in 1989 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. Bruce Pavitt, who founded the label Sub Pop, told me that if I liked Mudhoney, which I did, then, I’d “love Nirvana.” He added, “You have to see them live. Kurt Cobain is like Jesus. People love him. He practically walks on the audience.”

As a performer, Kurt was both incredibly charismatic and extremely conflicted. One minute he would be playing a pretty melody, and the next he’d be trashing all the equipment.

Maxwell’s could be sleepy during the week, and there weren’t a lot of people in attendance the night we showed up – maybe 10 to 15. The next night, we went to see them again at the Pyramid Club in the East Village. The club was practically full. I was surprised to run into Iggy Pop, but I guess he wanted to see what all the hype was about, too. Kurt ended up trashing the drums and almost knocked an amp down the spiral stairs on the stage leading to the dressing room below. Thurston and I agreed it was an amazing show. Iggy wasn’t quite as impressed.

We later went backstage. Kurt told us he’d just fired his guitar player and his drummer. Standing in front of me, Kurt seemed small, close to my height, though he was actually 5ft 9in to my 5ft 5in. He had big, watery eyes, slightly hunted looking. I’m not sure why, but I felt an immediate kinship with him.

When Nirvana toured with us in 1991, before Nevermind broke, no one in Europe knew who they were. Kurt was funny and fun to be around, and soaked up any kind of personal attention. I felt very big sisterly, almost maternal, when we were together.