On October 30th, 1992, Nirvana were booked to play a major show in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were so big at that point in time that they just about sold-out José Amalfitani Stadium, which can hold nearly fifty thousand people. Prior to their set, Kurt Cobain witnessed the negative reception their hand picked opening act received, and was so incensed that he considered canceling the gig. Nirvana ultimately did perform that night, but they were sloppy and their set-list was more than a little unusual, as they purposely incorporated rare songs from their catalogue that they knew most of the audience wouldn’t be familiar with, including a couple of unreleased numbers. It ended up being one of their oddest shows, and it was all captured on videotape by a professional film crew.
Kurt later shared his memories of the gig:
“When we played Buenos Aires, we brought this all-girl band over from Portland called Calamity Jane,” Kurt recalled. “During their entire set, the whole audience—it was a huge show with like sixty thousand people—was throwing money and everything out of their pockets, mud and rocks, just pelting them. Eventually the girls stormed off crying. It was terrible, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, such a mass of sexism all at once. Krist, knowing my attitude about things like that, tried to talk me out of at least setting myself on fire or refusing to play. We ended up having fun, laughing at them (the audience). Before every song, I’d play the intro to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and then stop. They didn’t realize that we were protesting against what they’d done. We played for about forty minutes, and most of the songs were off Incesticide, so they didn’t recognize anything. We wound up playing the secret noise song (‘Endless, Nameless’) that’s at the end of Nevermind, and because we were so in a rage and were just so pissed off about this whole situation, that song and whole set were one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.” (from Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects)
Kurt in Buenos Aires
If you watch the show (which is embedded below), you’ll realize that Kurt was misremembering or embellishing a bit here and there. While they did unearth a handful of rarities from their odds-n-ends collection Incesticide (which hadn’t been released yet), as well as “All Apologies” (it later turned up on In Utero), they also played most of Nevermind (but not “Teen Spirit,” which they teased before two songs), and a few of the highlights from Bleach. One thing Kurt failed to mention that they most certainly did do to annoy the crowd, was open with a strange, jam-like number that those in attendance had definitely never heard before.
Unavailable on any of Nirvana’s archival releases and believed to have been performed at just this show, the track has come to be known by the most-excellent of titles, “Nobody Knows I’m New Wave”—though there is no documentation available to confirm its validity. The go-to source for Nirvana bootleg info, Live Nirvana, believes it is just a jam, largely due to official biographer Michael Azerrad’s assessment in his book, Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana:
“The first thing they played was an improvised jam, which deteriorated into a fifteen minute fest from Kurt, with breaks when he would stop to glare at the crowd.”
The circulating video of the show begins with “Nobody Knows I’m New Wave,” but lasts less than three minutes, so it’s difficult to know what Azerrad is referring to. Does the tape begin twelve-plus minutes after their set started? Or has Azerrad himself embellished or misremembered the event?
Though the majority of the lyrics were probably made up on the spot (including “I promise to shit on your head”; “I’m new wave/I’m old school”) and the racket they’re generating collapses after just a couple of minutes, structurally it does have a chorus, which makes me think it was somewhat worked out beforehand. Either way, this isn’t the sort of track most groups would start a stadium concert with.
In Come As You Are, Azerrad also notes that the band “had hardly practiced, their enthusiasm was low, and they played badly.” Regardless, there are some great moments, like the especially heavy version of “In Bloom” (though Kurt messes up a lot); when Dave Grohl brings a toy drum kit to the front of the stage for “Polly” (and Kurt cracks a smile); the aforementioned catharsis that is “Endless, Nameless”; and the intriguing opener. Is it a song or just a jam to piss-off the Argentineans? You decide.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Listen to ‘Montage of Heck,’ Kurt Cobain’s mind-blowing music montage—made years before his fame