Smells like Husky spirit: 30 years ago, Nirvana made history at the HUB

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Smells like husky spirit: 30 years ago, Nirvana made history at the HUB

Three decades ago, this iconic photo was taken at Nirvana's final UW performance. 

Thirty years ago, Jan. 6, 1990, Nirvana, the now infamous grunge band from Aberdeen, Washington, played its last show at the UW. While the Seattle-based band had played at the HUB before, the Jan. 6 show was their final and arguably most chaotic performance.

It is extensively rumored that, because of the night’s destructive events, Nirvana was banned for life from all UW venues. Kurt Cobain, Nirvana’s lead singer and guitarist, along with Krist Novoselic, the band’s bassist, reportedly destroyed all of their equipment as well as damaging the HUB stage. 

Paul Zuchowski, the associate director of the HUB at the time, claims that the ban is simply an "urban legend."

"Nirvana was not banned from performing.... There was a ban, but it was directed at stage diving," Zuchowski said over email. "There was never a discussion of a ban, as I would have been part of it."

At the time of their last UW show, Nirvana had not yet experienced the mainstream fame that would come with the 1991 release of their highly successful album “Nevermind.”

Nirvana’s performance at the UW came as a part of ASUW’s “Four Bands for Four Bucks” series. That night, Nirvana was accompanied by the bands Tad, The Gits, and Crunchbird. 

The concert began at 8 p.m. and was held in the HUB’s East Ballroom. The tiny venue was packed with audience members.

Karl Braun, a UW alumni who attended the concert that night, remembers the evening being “crazy.”

“The crowd was really into it,” Braun said in an email. 

An infamous photo from the concert, captured by grunge photographer Charles Peterson, himself a graduate of the UW, shows a member of the audience flinging himself off of a speaker and into the sea of students below. 

Thirty years later, Peterson still vividly recalls the moment he took what he refers to as his most iconic photo. 

“My most specific memory from that evening is when that guy got up on the PA right next to me, and I actually was pulling on his pants leg kind of indicating to him like, no don’t do it, don’t do it,” Peterson said. 

When it was clear that the person was intent on jumping, Peterson remembers thinking, “OK, screw it,” and setting up for the shot. 

About the concert itself, Peterson remarked, “It was kind of a watershed show of its time.” 

The atmosphere of the concert can perhaps be best summed up by Cobain himself. In a bootleg recording of the night, Cobain can be heard addressing the audience.

“You guys are a bunch of f---ing maniacs, man,” Cobain said laughing.

Updated on Jan. 9: A previous version of this article suggested that Nirvana's ban was a confirmed event. After Zuchowski reached out via email, the article was changed to reflect his testimony.

Reach contributing writer Zoe Luderman Miller at Twitter: @zozozaira

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