Early Nirvana concert: 3/19/1988 @ Community World Theater, Tacoma, Wash.


One of the things I love about concert bootlegs is the rare chance to hear bands before they became swirled in a cloud of mythology, hype and overexposure.

It’s hard to think of Kurt Cobain nowadays as anything other than the tormented lead singer of Nirvana. Hard to imagine him as some punk kid playing guitar for the love of it, playing music because that’s what brought him solace in his life and ultimately derailed him. But look at that picture of him in 1988, chilling in the back of a van. He looks content, like he’d never want to be anywhere else, playing and singing as Nirvana’s frontman, with Chris Novoselic on bass and Dave Foster on drums (he predated Chad Channing who predated Dave Grohl).

This particular show is only Nirvana’s fifth live performance ever. They played two shows in 1987 and then two shows in January of 1988.

The only way to describe this show is heavy, raw and loud. You really don’t get the sense that this band would be the defining musical act of the upcoming decade. But that’s exactly the band they transformed into and that’s exactly what’s so great about concert bootlegs — the opportunity to hear the promise of a band.

The trio ripped through 16 songs during the show, including several Bleach cuts: “Love Buzz,” “Paper Cuts,” “Floyd the Barber,” “Big Cheese,” and “Blew.” Also, they rocked a great CCR cover “Bad Moon Rising” to close the show and even attempted Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” (though I don’t have that track on my bootleg).

Highlight of the show is without a doubt the rendition of “Spank Thru.” One only wonders what Kurt Cobain’s life would have been like if he was born 10 years later. Would the band have even been popular? There’s no doubt they would have found a loyal fanbase and been a touring animal, but would the pressures of a generation and celebrity weighed so heavily upon Kurt’s shoulders? No one can say for sure, but it’s unfortunate to think the one thing Cobain truly loved ended up destroying him.


  • Floyd The Barber [soundcheck]
  • Big Cheese [soundcheck]
  • Beeswax [soundcheck] {missing from recording}
  • Love Buzz
  • Downer
  • Floyd The Barber
  • Spank Thru
  • Paper Cuts
  • Hairspray Queen
  • If You Must
  • Beeswax
  • Aero Zeppelin
  • Mexican Seafood
  • Pen Cap Chew
  • Big Cheese
  • Blew
  • Raunchola –> Moby Dick Jam [Led Zeppelin cover]
  • Bad Moon Rising [Credence Clearwater cover]

ZIP FILE: Click here to download the entire show.

It is definitely worth it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Shnarfles February 15, 2011, 5:42 pm

    can you reup this?

    • jamesfurbush February 15, 2011, 6:04 pm

      Yeah absolutely! It might be easier for me to just upload and send you the link via email?

  • Luke July 24, 2010, 8:22 pm

    "Dave Foster on drums (he predated Chad Channing who predated Dave Grohl)."

    a bit late, but that IS Chad Channing.

    • jamesfurbush July 24, 2010, 9:03 pm

      Oh cool! Thanks for the update. Let me know if you want to me re-up the bootleg for download!