Throughout their meteoric rise, Nirvana never had anything handed to them on a silver platter. They worked their way up the ladder from toilet venues to selling out arenas in every city in the world. Their organic growth gave the band an affable charm, a very real sense of reliability and, with stories of a deliberately smashed up drum kits, is there any wonder?
The show in question took place just a matter of weeks following the release of Nevermind and, even though the group had just released one of the all-time seminal records, they continued to play in small venues. A year on from this performance in 1991, the band would have received as many drum kits that they could ever dream of. However, at this moment in time, budgets were tight. In order to ensure Dave Grohl had a shiny toy, the band needed to get creative.
“We were on tour in Chicago,” Dave Grohl remembered while appearing on Jimmy Fallon in 2014 alongside Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic. “Kurt had been chopping at my drums all tour, and my drums had holes in them. They sounded like crap because they had holes in them, and I kept asking our tour manager, ‘Can I please get a new drum set?’
“This was before we were playing big places and we were in clubs. He was like, ‘Wait another week’. Then he chopped more holes into it, and it was, ‘Wait another week’. So finally I said to Kurt, this was at The Metro in Chicago, I said, ‘Hey man, at the end of the gig we have to smash my drum kit to splinters’,” Grohl recalled.
Novoselic then revealed that a mogul from the record label at the Chicago gig was in attendance with the magic card that could secure Grohl a new drum kit. “We spent half an hour breaking those drums,” Grohl added. “We told the audience you can go home. It’s all good. Then the next day the drum place was closed,” the Nirvana drummer revealed.
The gig at the 1,100 capacity Metro in Chicago on October 12th, 1991, was one of the final times Nirvana would play clubs before graduating on to bigger things. Within two months of the show, Nevermind was selling 400,000 copies every week, and there would be no shortage of funds for instruments.
Seeing Nirvana in the flesh on the Nevermind tour, a time when it seemed inevitable that they were on the verge of becoming a household name and the mightiest group on the planet, was undoubtedly an out of body experience. The lucky crowd in Chicago that night weren’t just treated to a performance they’ll never forget, but they also got to witness Nirvana rip Dave Grohl’s drum kit to shreds for half an hour in a desperate plea for their record label to open their pockets.
Sadly, there’s no video from this show, but there is audio, which you can devour below.