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1988 saw Nirvana play one of their most infamous shows, and unquestionably one of the most important NIrvana live performances in the band’s early career in Seattle.

The live performance took place in Olympia and was a pre-Halloween party. Naturally, the band’s founders, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, made sure to dress appropriately, and blood was in abundance. With this horror-themed spectacle, the band took to the stage accompanied by Chad Channing on drums.

One of the bands that also performed that night was Helltrout. But who was Helltrout? Well, what’s important is that it was the new project of a former Nirvana drummer: Dave Foster. Foster had been Nirvana’s drummer for a few months between March and June of 1988, preceding Chad Channing, but he left the band after an unfortunate incident where he assaulted the son of the mayor of Cosmopolis.


The First Time Kurt Cobain Smashed a Guitar


When it finally came time for Nirvana to take the stage, the band played for only 25 minutes. However, it was enough time for a transformative concert, as they went from being the kids from Aberdeen to becoming one of the favorite bands of music fans in Olympia.

Kurt Cobain’s intensity was electric, and those who witnessed the concert couldn’t take their eyes off the guitarist. It was the first time Kurt Cobain was confident on stage, singing into the microphone, and this set the rest of the band to play as if it were their last day alive.

But it wasn’t just Kurt Cobain’s evident commitment to the concert that would forever change Nirvana. In the final minutes of this lightning-fast live performance, Nirvana played and closed with the song “Love Buzz.” During the performance of the last song, Kurt Cobain smashed his first guitar on the stage. His beloved Fender Mustang guitar was smashed on the ground with such violence that pieces of the guitar flew throughout the stage.

Kurt Cobain had never destroyed a guitar during a concert before, and considering the band’s financial difficulties at the time, essentially living off the girlfriends of Krist and Kurt Cobain, Tracy Marander, it was unthinkable to spend money on destroying an instrument that nobody had.


What DId Kurt Cobain Think About “Love Buzz”


Weeks after this concert, Nirvana’s record label Sub Pop finally had good news and informed Kurt Cobain that the “Love Buzz” single was finally ready. With a single in hand, Kurt Cobain could finally say he was a true musician. It was the proof he needed! It was the first single in the Sub Pop Singles Club and was limited to 1000 numbered copies. The first pressing of “Love Buzz” sold out, and it was the best moment for Kurt Cobain up to that point,

But Kurt Cobain had mixed feelings about the song “Love Buzz.” While he recognized its significance as a highlight of their live performances and its role in their early success, he didn’t have a strong affinity for it. Despite its popularity among fans and its importance in establishing Nirvana’s reputation, Kurt Cobain expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the song.

He viewed it as somewhat of a novelty and preferred to focus on other material that he felt better represented the band’s artistic vision. Ultimately, while “Love Buzz” played a crucial role in Nirvana’s early career, Kurt Cobain’s personal opinion of the song was lukewarm compared to other tracks in their repertoire.


Why Kurt Cobain Smashed His Guitars On Stage?


Kurt Cobain and the members of Nirvana also smashed guitars and other equipment at performances throughout the band’s career, ranging from the late 1980s through the early 1990s. Kurt Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, the frontwoman of Hole, also sometimes destroyed her guitars onstage, by smashing microphones, pushing over amplifier stacks, and dismantling drum kits.

Therefore, Kurt Cobain’s guitar destruction became a hallmark of Nirvana’s live performances, with several notable instances standing out in music history.

One iconic concert where Kurt Cobain famously destroyed his guitar was the 1991 Live at Paramount. During the band’s last song, after playing a particularly intense rendition of “ Endless, Nameless / Ending” Kurt Cobain proceeded to smash his Fender Mustang guitar to pieces. This moment captured the band’s raw energy and rebellion, cementing their status as one of the most influential acts of the era.

Another memorable guitar destruction occurred during Nirvana’s performance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1992. Following a blistering rendition of “Territorial Pissings,” Kurt Cobain launched into a frenzy, throwing his guitar into the air before smashing it against an amplifier. This defiant act shocked television audiences and further solidified Nirvana’s reputation as an anti-establishment rock icon.


Other Artists Like Nirvana Known for Destroying Their Guitars


The destruction of guitars on stage has transcended mere performance; it’s become an integral part of rock culture, synonymous with rebellion and defiance against the status quo. Among the pioneers of this audacious display were Jimi Hendrix and The Who’s Pete Townshend.

In 1967, during the Monterey Pop Festival, The Who famously won the coin toss and chose to play before The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The British band would go on to deliver an excellent concert, culminating in the famous instrument destruction on stage, but no one was prepared for what would happen next. Jimi Hendrix not only gave one of his best performances ever but also did something innovative: he set his guitar on fire, destroying it immediately afterward.

The legacy of guitar destruction didn’t end there. Bands like The Clash and Nine Inch Nails carried the torch, each in their own way. The Clash’s Paul Simonon famously smashed his bass guitar on stage during a performance in New York City in 1979, captured in the iconic photograph by Pennie Smith for the cover of their “London Calling” album. Meanwhile, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor channeled a darker, more industrial energy, incorporating destruction and chaos into the band’s live shows, reflecting the tumultuous themes of their music.

Beyond mere spectacle, the destruction of guitars symbolized a rejection of conformity and a primal scream against societal norms. It was an act of liberation, an expression of raw emotion that resonated deeply with audiences. These musicians, from Jimi Hendrix and Townshend to Kurt Cobain, The Clash, and Nine Inch Nails, cemented their status as icons of rebellion.


What Was Kurt Cobain’s Favorite Guitar?


Kurt Cobain had a distinct affinity for guitars, and one of his favorites was the Fender Jag-Stang. This unique instrument was Kurt’s brainchild, born from his love for two particular Fender models: the Jaguar and the Mustang. Renowned as one of the ultimate anti-heroes in electric guitar history, Kurt Cobain envisioned combining the best elements of both guitars into one, resulting in the creation of the Jag-Stang. This innovative blend of two classic Fender designs truly embodies Kurt Cobain’s pioneering spirit and musical vision.


See Below Nirvana Destroying Instruments Live at Paramount (1991)

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