On December 1st, 1991, members of Nirvana played a stealthy acoustic gig in a Scottish bar. The group’s second album, Nevermind, had been released a few months prior and was steadily increasing in popularity. The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video was all over MTV, and the band were consistently covered by the rock music press. It was in this moment that Nirvana were asked to play a benefit show in Edinburgh. Recently, after 26 years, audio has surfaced from this historic performance.
Nirvana was in the midst of a U.K. tour when they played Calton Studios in Edinburgh, Scotland on November 29th, 1991. Scottish group Captain America, led by Eugene Kelly of the Vaselines, and Shonen Knife opened. Kurt Cobain was ill, and the gig was nearly called off when a doctor advised Kurt not to perform. But Kurt blew off the suggestion and loaded up on painkillers prior to show time.
Dave Grohl and Kurt during the Calton Studios gig.
Edinburgh band the Joyriders had asked Nirvana if they’d like to join them for a December 1st show, which would benefit a local children’s hospital. The event would take place at a nearby bar. The group agreed, and after Nirvana’s Calton Studios performance, the Joyriders passed out handbills for the upcoming benefit, noting the appearance of “very special guests.”
The night of the show, a large crowd assembled inside the Southern Bar. Since it was only a rumor that Nirvana would appear, many eventually split, leaving less than 30 in attendance when the band walked in.
Kurt and Dave set up on the bar’s small stage for an acoustic performance. For reasons unknown, bassist Chris (now Krist) Novoselic didn’t take part, though he was present. Rather than play the drums, Dave borrowed Chris’s acoustic bass. The duo was introduced as Teen Spirit.
After some amusing pre-show banter with the rowdy locals, they launch into “Dumb,” then an unreleased tune (it would turn up on In Utero), followed by a Nevermind number, “Polly.” The third and final song on the audio recording is the Vaselines’s “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”, which Nirvana had been opening their shows with, and would be played during their 1993 performance for MTV Unplugged (as would the previous two songs). Unfortunately, it fades out before completion. Witnesses have noted that they also played Shonen Knife’s “Twist Barbie,” (the band members were in attendance) and one or two more. Hopefully, a complete recording will emerge one day.
As a bonus, we’ll end with the audio from the Calton Studios show.
Friday, news broke of the Southern Bar audio on the Live Nirvana Facebook page. The day the recording was uploaded marked the 26th anniversary of the show.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Watch Nirvana sabotage Buenos Aires stadium show, opening with (still) unreleased song, 1992