Trees has been giving Deep Ellum memorable performances and iconic moments from its beginnings in 1990. Nothing, however, can compete to the venue’s first major show that both Dallas and fans all over the world are still talking to this day. It’s that infamous night 28 years ago that put the live music venue on the map.
Trees was able to book the iconic grunge band, Nirvana, to play in Dallas on October 19, 1991. A month earlier, the band release Nevermind – so how could you prepare for that? Of course, the album and the band were white hot in the US and across the world. It was somewhat humid and warm that night, which was a bit unusual for October. Inside the venue, the air conditioner was cranked up to 11, but it wasn’t doing much to beat the heat at a sold out show.
The crowd made its way inside to watch what would be one of the most legendary performances of Nirvana. Trees seemed to be a bit unprepared to handle the frenzied fans. And there’s an unmistakable sense that something bad was about to take place.
It was very, very hot inside that building. And there were as many people outside the building as inside. Jeffrey Liles, Artistic Director at Kessler Theater (source: The Dallas Observer)
The concert was going to take place to promote the release of Nirvana’s breakthrough album, Nevermind. It’s the second album of the band, which hit the market on September 24, 1991.
Smells Like Teen Spirit, has been on the playlist of both the radio and MTV constantly. The song, which remains the anthem for teenage angst today, features a bizarre yet cool music video.
No doubt, Nevermind catapulted Nirvana to stardom. And to date, people still sees them as one of the best bands to ever come out of Seattle grunge scene.
I was at Trees that night. I had heard about the band from the first record, but the new one was freaking everyone out. I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. It was actually the last time I ever slam-danced. I lost my hat during my slam-dance swan song. – Murry Hammond, Old 97s bassist (source: The Dallas Observer)
Something Is Bound To Happen
Trees can accommodate around 1,000 people. But with Nirvana’s sudden popularity, the venue suddenly seems too small for the band and their followers. Thousands of fans came out to watch and hear Nirvana perform their new songs live. And the place was simply not big enough to hold the sold-out crowd. There were even hundreds of people outside attempting to get in. But the place was already full, so they were told by the police to just go home.
There’s also no barrier to protect the band on stage from the crowd. So at the last minute, their tour manager requested the Deep Ellum venue to heighten their security by hiring additional security guards.
Aside from this, there were even problems before the band did their soundcheck. Nirvana’s management team has around 40 posters to give the fans that the band members has to sign. However, Kurt drew weird things on it instead of signing. People knew at that point that it’s going to be a challenging night.
There was this frenetic excitement at Trees. Everyone understood that this was the last time a band like this was ever going to play at a venue this size ever again. – Lance Crayon (source: The Dallas Observer)
Welcome To The Fight Club
Turner Van Blarcum was part of the additional security guards. He was appointed on stage to control the fans. Nonetheless, once Nirvana began their unforgettable set, the crowd started to become unruly. Additionally, Cobain motioned the fans to come closer to the band even as security tried hard to push them away.
Kurt then jumped and stage dived into the sea of crowds and off of the back of Van Blarcum. But as the security guards, including Van Blarcum, attempted to pull him back on the stage, the frontman used his guitar to hit Van Blarcum in his head. The bouncer did not like this and retaliated by punching Cobain in his jaw. This lead to other Nirvana members confronting Blarcum and the crowd breaking into madness.
The club was too small for the band and there was a bad vibe all night. – Gary Floyd, former singer for Sister Double Happiness (source: The Dallas Observer)
All’s Well That Doesn’t End So Well
At this point, Kurt stayed on stage, creating noises with his guitar for about one minute. He then threw his guitar in the drum set of Dave Grohl. The staff of Trees Deep Ellum approached Dave and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, who were already backstage. They asked them to return on stage to which they agreed. Likewise, they need to find Kurt, who was sheltering himself inside a broom closet.
When the show was done and over with, the band went into their cab. However, Van Blarcum was still seething. So he went to their cab and punched its window, smashing its glass all over the band members.
At the end of the day, Nirvana settled things by paying the damages on the venue and Van Blarcum’s medical bills.