There isn’t much in 1992 that could top a bill which included Mudhoney, Pavement and Sonic Youth. That was the delicious prospect facing those attending a show in the small Californian town of Castaic—until Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain jumped on stage to give a rare solo acoustic performance.
A year after Nevermind had made Nirvana into one of the biggest bands on the planet, Kurt Cobain unassumingly got up on stage to not only join his friends Mudhoney for a rousing cover of Fang song ‘When The Money Rolls In’ but also drop a Leadbelly cover too. You can watch it below in the recently unearthed footage.
To witness a bill containing a large chunk of everything that was great about alt-rock in the early nineties is one thing, but to witness the ultimate icon of grunge performing a stripped back and impromptu set is truly something no amount of money could buy. We can only imagine the shriek of excitement people would have felt once they noticed that both Cobain and Courtney Love were in the building, let alone to see Kurt on stage.
The footage of the performance has recently been shared by Sacramento Music Archive‘s Shayne Stacy fully restored and offers up a crystal clear image of the artist Kurt Cobain was. While the camerawork is admittedly “crappy” Stacy confirms it was because “the entire place was just one huge, flat dirt field. There was no place to go. I should have just gone up on stage to film”.
As a precursor to Nirvana’s seminal MTV Unplugged performance, Cobain’s songs are deeply tender and without the fuzz and fuss of his band, his voice soars a little higher. As well as playing a few solo numbers Cobain also pulls out a cover of Leadbelly’s ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’, a song he also performed at MTV.
Leadbelly has always been a point of inspiration for Cobain, once saying: “[William S] Burroughs said that if you want to hear true, honest music with passion, then you should hear Leadbelly.”
“The songs are just amazingly heartfelt. Leadbelly was this poor black man in the early 1900s who went to jail a few times for wife-beating and robbery and getting into fights and bootlegging liquor,” he adds. “While he was in prison, he started playing the guitar, and he sang so well that the governor started to like him and let him out of jail.”
Clearly fascinated by the artist, Cobain’s cover stands out as the best song in this short set but all of the moments of that incredible night are worth remembering. You can revisit the night in the footage below.