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An Oral History of Nirvana’s Lone, Near-Riotous St. Louis Show at Mississippi Nights 

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Eyster: It wasn’t until the opening riffs of the second song, ”Aneurysm,” when the place went batshit. It was one of those times where I was being lifted off my feet merely from the fact that I was crammed between hundreds of people pogo-ing at the same time.

Utz: The one thing I remember the most from the show was when they went into “Aneurysm.” It’s still goosebumps.

Hagin: Back in those days things were a little rougher around the edges.

Joe Poole, fan: The crowd, for Mississippi Nights’ standards, was a little bit rowdier than usual. I was up, rolling around in the crowd. I think it was probably a song off Bleach like “Floyd the Barber.” I flipped over onto the stage. My wife says that when I went to stand up, Kurt helped me up. I don’t completely remember. The next thing I know I got slammed in the back by security. I was pulled backwards past the drumset and thrown outside.

Tommy Wieprecht, former Mississippi Nights security and bartender: This kid gets on stage. He gets in the front of the stage a little bit off center. Kurt Cobain was the center guy. The kid’s on stage jumping around, dancing around on stage left. One of the other security guys, he goes out and grabs the guy by the arm and says “Let’s go.” He gets him in a bear hug and they start scuffling. Somehow they both fell face first on the floor. Kurt Cobain was watching it and all the sudden he stops and says, “What the hell are you doing? Let that kid go.” Kurt looks at the crowd and says, “Fuck security. Everyone on the stage now!”

Poole: Security just got steamrolled.

Wieprecht: We ain’t going to win this one. There were only six or seven of us [on Mississippi Nights security]. We went out the back door. We took our staff shirts off and turned them inside out. [We didn’t want our] staff shirt showing because these people were going fucking crazy. They were, like, possessed. All the sudden everyone was up on stage. We walked down the alley and went to 2nd Street and popped into another bar and got a beer really quick. By the time we got back the cops had got there. When we got back in Mississippi Nights there were probably 100 people on stage, just milling around.

Eyster: The security at Mississippi Nights started getting particularly hostile with the crowd and throwing kids out of the show. Kurt was displeased, and eventually as an act of defiance, he invited the crowd onto the stage. I didn’t go up, but I watched the chaos. The scariest part was watching the PA stacks almost topple over, but Krist Novoselic managed to talk everyone down and the show started again.

Crone: When the band invited the audience members up, it seemed like all the equipment was going to get wrecked or all the cords and cables were going to come undone. From a mechanical perspective it seemed like it was going to be over. It’s pretty wild that any part of that show took place after.

A Mississippi Nights advertisement in the pages of the RFT the week before the show. - VIA RFT ARCHIVES
  • VIA RFT ARCHIVES
  • A Mississippi Nights advertisement in the pages of the RFT the week before the show.

At a Foo Fighters concert at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on July 20, 2008, Grohl reminisced about his former band’s Mississippi Nights experience as pre-song banter before the twee jangle with the memorable Mentos-inspired video, “Big Me.”

Grohl: I’ll tell you a Mississippi Nights story. A long, long time ago. In a galaxy far, far away. I was in a band way back in 1991. And we had just made this fucking record that we didn’t think was a big deal, but evidently a lot of people from here did because too many people showed up to the Mississippi Nights show. So we fucking roll into town and we were on tour with a band called Urge Overkill. Actually, the night before, we had played a show and my drum set was all fucked up the whole tour, because the guy that played fucking lead guitar and sang in that band used to chop at it every night with his guitar. Right. So there were holes in my drum kit.

So we thought, the night before we played here, at the end of the show let’s fucking destroy the drum set. Like really destroy it, so I got to get a new one. So we did. After the last song, we said, ‘Hey y’all, you can leave if you want, but we’re going to just bust the drum set up.’ So we did, and the next day was a Sunday. All the drum shops were closed, so I was fucked. Shit out of luck. So I had to borrow the drum set of the opening band, who were called Urge Overkill. So we come to Mississippi Nights, Urge Overkill plays and it’s great. We come along and I’m borrowing their drum set. We play a couple songs and the security guys were being kinda rough with the kids. So, the singer guy says, ‘Hey motherfuckers, if you don’t cool it we're going to fucking stop playing.’ We play a couple more songs, and they don’t stop. We stopped one more time and say, “Hey, if you motherfuckers don’t cool it we’re going to stop playing.” We played a couple more songs and they were still rough. We stopped and said “OK, you know what? Everyone on stage!” And the whole fucking club got on stage at Mississippi Nights! It was this radical, fucking kick-ass riot that was happening.

So I fucking split. I went backstage. I don’t want to get my ass kicked by someone I don’t know. I get back to the Urge Overkill dressing room, and I’m like, "Dudes, you got to get out there! There’s a fucking riot going on." And Blackie [Johnny "Blackie Onassis" Rowan, drummer of Urge Overkill] says, “What about my fucking drum set, motherfucker?” Oh, shit. So I spend the next fifteen minutes gathering up his drum set from all the assholes that were looting the gig. Then we put that shit back together, and we finished playing the gig. Of that tour, that was one of the most memorable nights of my fucking life. It’s good to know you can go anywhere and still find a little bit of fucking kick-ass, freaky drunk-ass rock & roll wherever you go.

In an excerpt from the book In Their Own Words — Kurt Cobain & Courtney Love, Urge Overkill’s drummer Blackie Onassis confirms the experience.

Onassis: We were doing a show at the Mississippi Nights club in St. Louis on the Nevermind tour, and the whole day there had been this running joke in the Nirvana camp about how Guns N’ Roses had just had that big riot there. Kurt mentioned that he’d like to start a riot, too, but I don’t think anyone took him seriously.

Nirvana needed to use our gear that night because the previous evening they had just trashed everything. It was only twenty minutes into their set and Dave runs in and says that Kurt just invited the entire club onstage because there was so many kids stage-diving. We realized our gear was up there, so we all went running on stage to save our equipment. We found Krist and Kurt sitting on the edge of the stage, totally bewildered, with 500 kids swarming all around them. The whole place was going crazy, the owners were calling the cops. The police showed up and Krist gave this long speech [about] how everybody needed to get along, and he talked everybody back into their seats and the cops agreed not to arrest anybody. Nirvana started playing again and they kept the club open late so they could finish their set. Even the cops stayed and watched the show. What started out as total mayhem ended in peaceful resolution. That’s how badly people wanted to hear Nirvana.

Wieprecht: Only a few bands can possess a crowd like that. The crowd were like zombies. That was probably the most impactful show I ever worked.

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