A great concert really can change everything. Whenever I walk through the doors of a venue, pushing through the churning crowd to get to the bar, I’m always struck by that palpable sense of anticipation: the nervous energy bouncing around the room when it feels as though anything could happen.
While eager fans carve out niches for themselves front and centre, outside, hushed conversations about the night’s acts mingle with the smoke from countless cigarettes. Despite that long build-up, most of us tend to know if we’re going to have a good time within minutes of the music starting; sometimes, we know immediately. It seems that Hole’s Courtney Love had one such instantaneous reaction when she went on watch one of the most iconic groups of the grunge era back in 1991.
The legendary guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and all-around icon sat down with Interview magazine back in 2019 to answer some questions put forward by her famous friends. Being a frequent attendee of high-profile fashion shows – not to mention Kanye West’s Sunday Church Service in the Valley – it’s no surprise that Love counts Lana Del Rey, Shirley Manson, Michael Kors, Tom Ford, R.E.M’s Michael Stipe and Kate Moss among her closest friends, the latter of whom asked Love to recall the best concert she ever attended.
Having made her name on the west coast alternative rock scene, Love likely had a lot of gigs to choose from. After thinking back, she named a “super-transcendent Whiskey a Go Go gig in, I think, ’91”. The Hope singer went on to remember that it was winter and that Nevermind by Nirvana had just come out: “‘[Smells Like] Teen Spirit’ was on K-Rock like 50 times a week,” she said. “It was a big deal, and nobody yet knew what it was going to become.”
This wasn’t the first time Love had set eyes on Cobain and company. She’d spotted the frontman performing with his band at a nightclub in 1989. She would later recall developing a crush on him almost immediately. However, the pair weren’t formally introduced until a year later, in 1990, when they found themselves in the same Seattle nightclub.
By the time of the Whiskey A-Go-Go gig, Love was completely infatuated. “My future husband Kurt [Cobain] came in,” she continued. “He was wearing this beautiful cowboy leather coat, and he just parted the crowd like Moses. I was on stage, with the original old-school Hole. We were messy, but when we went into the Velvet Underground’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’—I think we practised it once or twice—we did it flawlessly. It was amazing. We were this perfect band for about four minutes, and that’s it. That’s the gig: 1991 in Hollywood with my beautiful, creamy-blue-eyed boy Kurt. We rocked that whorehouse sky-high.”