I’ve talked to a few crusty hippies in my day and whenever the subject of music arrives there’s always the inevitable shift to the ‘band that got away’. It goes something like this “oh man, I can’t believe I never saw Zeppelin” or “I missed the chance to catch the Grateful Dead gosh darn it’. It always gets me thinking; that every music fan has their ‘white whale’, the ‘band that got away’, it’s the band you’ll never see or catch, the musical Moby Dick.
For some poor souls it’s multiple bands but usually its one in particular that just sticks in your craw. That band for me is Nirvana. They toured Australia only once, in January of 1992, they played two gigs in Sydney, one at the now shut down Phoenician Club in Ultimo, the other at this brand new music festival called the Big Day Out.
That year I was 22 and in full tennis mode, January is right in the heart of tennis season and even though in the next few years I would go to multiple Big Day Outs this one went through to the keeper, probably because it was the very first BDO and I had ‘tennis on my mind’.
I had heard of Nirvana, my cousin Paul had told me about them weeks earlier at our family Christmas shindig, he even showed me his cassette tape of ‘Bleach’, their first album. Their second album, you may have heard of it, ‘Nevermind’ was released a mere 2 weeks before they arrived in Australia and worldwide domination was brewing.
But as with most things music, I’m late to the game so I never got a ticket to the Phoenician Club gig or the BDO. They never toured Australia again and in all my tennis travels over the next two years I was never in the same city in America where they toured and on April 5, 1994 Kurt Cobain shot himself to death, well supposedly.
What’s worse I’ve heard the stories of people at that ’92 BDO gig, which was played in a jam packed Hordern Pavilion, and a buddy of mine, Jason, actually saw them in Seattle before they hit it big, his words “they were a bit all over the shop”, alluding to a few ales the band consumed beforehand.
If only I had one of those stories but that’s just part of every music fans’ life. Stuff happens, bands break up, lead singers die, you’re in Bali with the boys when ‘insert band here’ are in Sydney, you plan ahead and name a wedding date only for ‘insert band here’ to announce a gig on the same day or you even buy the ticket and get the night wrong and miss the band completely (that one did happen to me).
Nirvana may be at the top of the list but other bands either through my own laziness, I was overseas or I was just too young that I’d missed out on that I would have loved to have seen are Led Zeppelin, Joy Division, Prince, Bowie, early KISS, Queen and Van Halen with David Lee Roth.
It’s a depressing list but I’ll console myself with the gigs that I have seen that will always warm my cockles, Rage against the Machine in Hollywood, Stone Temple Pilots in Daytona Beach, Soundgarden at BDO ’94, Rob Zombie in Hollywood on Halloween night, in the mosh for Slayer in Sydney, Nine Inch Nails at the Hordern in ’07 and The Prodigy at the Hordern in 09. But alas, Nirvana will always be my Moby Dick.