Nirvana spearheaded the grunge revolution, a movement that subsequently re-shaped culture and made it possible for bands like Green Day to soar in the way they later did.
While both groups began to make their move into music around a similar time, it took Billie Joe Armstrong’s boys longer to assert themselves on a national scale, and their paths crossed at a time when the two groups were hellbent on making their names in the world.
Although they had no vast ambitions of global dominance, all the members of Nirvana and Green Day really wanted to was play great shows. Green Day would play any venue they were booked in exchange for beer tokens, and it didn’t matter how many people were in the crowd.
One particular excursion took them to Kurt Cobain’s native Washington, but it wasn’t at one of the area’s famed venues, bizarrely taking place in the dorms of Olympia University. The show couldn’t have been any more DIY, and it epitomised their punk ethos to a tee.
It was 1991, Nirvana’s fortunes were on the cusp of changing as they geared up to release Nevermind that same year, and Cobain could enjoy a veil of anonymity that he’d soon grow to miss. Armstrong was well aware of Cobain’s identity. For Green Day, it wasn’t initially a significant deal at the time that he, Dave Grohl, and Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna were in attendance. However, the gravitas of the situation later sunk in when Nirvana went stratospheric.
“We were playing Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, like in 1991 and him [Kurt Cobain] and Kathleen Hanna were up front getting drunk,” Armstrong later reminisced. “We were playing, like, someone’s house, like a co-op or something. It was before Nirvana blew up. At that point, they put out Bleach and a couple of singles from Sub Pop.”
While Cobain never publically gave his thoughts on Green Day, on the 20th anniversary of the singer’s death, Armstrong hailed Nirvana as “our Beatles”, which encapsulates the regard he holds him in. “You know, the guy just wrote beautiful songs. When someone goes that honestly straight to the core of who they are, what they’re feeling, and was able to kind of put it out there, I don’t know, man, it’s amazing,” he told AP.
“I remember hearing it when Nevermind came out and just thinking, we’ve finally got our Beatles, this era finally got our Beatles, and ever since then it’s never happened again. That’s what’s interesting. I was always thinking maybe the next 10 years. OK, maybe the next 10 years, OK, maybe. … That was truly the last rock ‘n’ roll revolution”.
Following Nirvana’s tragic demise, there was a gaping hole in the scene, and the release of Green Day’s Dookie helped fill that void by keeping the sacred spirit of grunge alive.