Nirvana – Live At The Community World Theater: Tacoma, WA 3/19/88

Nirvana - Live At The Community World Theater: Tacoma, WA 3/19/88

Here we have Nirvana in their prime. You could argue that Live At Reading 1992 is the best of the best. Or their set from the MTV Studios in January of 1992, but I’m going the other way with this one. The Community World Theater performance was Nirvana’s 5th show ever and the first where they we’re actually called Nirvana. Their set list is rife with early songs but the one’s that stand out are stellar versions of “If You Must”, “Beeswax”, “Pen Cap Chew”, and a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”.

The show begins with a soundcheck of “Floyd The Barber” and “Big Cheese” and unlike their 3/8/87 show at a house party in Raymond, WA the crowd actually claps and cheers. Kurt Cobain is 21 and his voice is as intense as ever, much like that of someone gargling broken glass. We do have the original line-up here except for the drummer. As you may or may not know, Nirvana was notorious for going through a few drummers in their time before landing Dave Grohl. Manning the drums on this recording is Dave Foster, who rips through these songs in such a fashion that I can only wonder about the reasoning behind why they kicked him out. According to the Michael Azzerad book Come As You Are: The Story Of Nirvana, Cobain stated that Foster was too much of a jock to fit in with their punk rock, DIY ethos. Regardless of band politics, Foster stands out on this recording and serves these early songs at a time when some of them we’re still being constructed.

This is point number one that makes this show so special – being the only known recording of Foster on drums as well as the only recording of “Bad Moon Rising”. We also hear the earliest known versions of “Big Cheese” and “Blew”. I am amazed that recordings such as these even exist. Who would of had the forethought to record Nirvana’s first show ever, so that 23 years later we can still listen? And, with this 1988 recording we can sit back and gaze at the glory of the CCR cover finally coming to light. I remember reading way back in 1993 about Nirvana covering “Bad Moon Rising” and here it is, I only had to wait 17 years.

Point number two on the specialty meter of importance concerning this show is that we have an alternate recording of “Raunchola,”a song which has never surfaced other than as a live recording. The only other recording of “Raunchola” known to exist can be found on the definitive source for all that is holy, the With The Lights Out box set. This newly surfaced recording from NirvanaLive At The Community World Theater: Tacoma, WA 3/19/88 is garnished as an amazing soundboard recording from an early form of a truly phenomenal band.

I believe that with all the later recordings that do exist from 1993/1994 something was lost. It seems as though Cobain has had enough and he’s simply going through the motions due to his contractual obligations. All of that aside the 3/19/88 show is a culmination of what Nirvana means to me. Having first heard Bleach back in 1991 when I was 14 it breathed a new life into my body. Of course, and I’m hesitant to admit, it was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that pushed me over the edge and into the world of this thing we call Nirvana. Over the span of 19 years I’ve accumulated 118 Nirvana CDs. They range from the 6 officially released discs as well as interviews, singles, and live shows. There are only a handful of recordings that I cherish more than the rest and this is by far among my top 5. I was saddened to hear the recently released Live At Reading 1992 CD was edited, but luckily other recordings are available which include the between song banter. In the underground we bow to those who have gone out of their way to bring us these rare glimpses into our favorite bands.

Nirvana is my favorite band – they have been since I was 14 and they always will be. Music comes and goes throughout our lives and I think people pay too much attention to the hits and the charts to be able to appreciate a band for their entire output. I feel it just isn’t done these days. In America a band that is considered a “one hit wonder” excels in other countries. Take the case of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. In America, “Bang A Gong” is considered their one hit. Little do we know that in England, Bolan’s country of origin, he actually had  five #1 hits. My point is, is that it’s up to us to weed through what the majors tell us to buy, like and listen to and decide for ourselves. Nirvana is and was a truly great band, and not just because of a handful of hits. It’s in recordings such as these where the passion can be heard and that is what prevails over all of this media fed jargon being forced down our throats.

Brad Tilbe About Brad Tilbe

I am 35 years old. I was born and raised in Central New York. I currently reside in Seattle, WA.