Out of the Closet

With Trees' fate nearly sealed, we look back at its brave beginnings--and, of course, the blood

Still, none of those ever matched the show on October 19, 1991.


We were offered Nirvana in August of that year. The group was still relatively unknown at the time, but they had established a cult following in the Northwest, and Geffen Records was really excited. Their booking agent was asking for $3,500, which was a lot of money for a new club to be shelling out for talent--we'd have to sell 450 tickets just to break even--so I told Mark Lee I'd get back to him.

That afternoon I called promoters around the country and asked what they had been offered. The buzz was apparently on; in most cases, the amount was between $5,000 and $10,000, so we in Dallas, a smaller market for concerts at the time, were getting a bargain. When I called back a few hours later, Nirvana's agent already wanted more money, but we worked out a damn good deal.

Two weeks after signing the paperwork, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" blew up everywhere. The agents wanted to move the gig to a larger venue, but I told them it was too late--I had booking exclusivity with Trees, and we had already sent out publicity material to the local press. But most importantly, I was adamant because we needed the show--this would be our first chance at real credibility.

And we got it: There were as many people outside of the club as there were stuffed inside. When the band arrived for sound check that afternoon, Monte, their mullet-headed road manager, went ballistic because there wasn't a barricade in front of the stage. It was too late to build or rent one, so we put security guards on the stage.

Dave Grohl and Krist Novaselic were really nice, cooperative guys. Novaselic seemed a little tired, but Grohl was on fire, just hilarious. Meanwhile, Kurt Cobain had drunk an entire bottle of cough medicine and was basically being led around by the nose by the local Geffen promo person. He was barely able to walk around or even stand up.

When Trees opened that night, a huge push of people bum-rushed the front door. This sent Monte the Mullet into another panic attack. The line of people stretched all the way down to Good-Latimer Expressway. Cars on Elm Street were honking their horns and blasting Nevermind.

By the time Nirvana took the stage, almost 1,000 people (including the guest list) were packed into our club. The smoke was dense, and it was hotter than hell itself. Five biker-looking bouncers were positioned in front of the band, so you could barely even see Nirvana. Still, lunatic kids managed to climb onstage and jump into the raging mosh pit. There was no controlling this crowd at all.

During the third song, Cobain threw a temper tantrum--he took his guitar off and slammed it into the monitor console at stage right. Kurt had destroyed the console and left the band without a monitor mix onstage, so they couldn't hear a thing. Creighton Curlee, the monitor engineer and owner of the console, stood there with a look of shock. He had never really heard of Nirvana until that night.

At this point, the security guys had become more sympathetic to Curlee than the band. One of those guys, a tattooed behemoth named Turner Scott Van Blarcum, turned around and looked at Kurt just as he waved his arms and implored the audience to jump onstage. He gave Kurt the finger and yelled, "Fuck you, dude." The band started playing the next song, and Kurt used Van Blarcum's back as a diving board to leap into the mosh pit.

As the crowd pulled Kurt in every direction, he motioned to Van Blarcum to help pull him back onstage. Turner was having none of it and pushed Kurt back further into the crowd. Cobain swung his guitar around and slammed it into the side of Turner's head. Blood flew everywhere, and the audience finally pushed Kurt back onto the stage. He fell to his knees and struggled to get back up. As he rose, Van Blarcum slugged him in the side of his head, knocking Kurt about 10 feet across the stage. Grohl jumped straight over the front of his drum kit, and Novaselic tried to tackle the guard. There were bodies strewn everywhere, beer bottles flying towards the stage and total mayhem in the audience.

After a few minutes, an off-duty police officer escorted Van Blarcum outside. Novaselic climbed off the stage and went out front to look for the security guard to make sure he was OK. Grohl wandered off toward the back of the club. Cobain stood by himself onstage for five minutes making a screeching and horrible noise with his guitar, seemingly waiting for his pissed-off band members to come back and finish the show.

Finally, he heaved his guitar into the drum set. This was not good. A four-song set is not a full concert, and five more minutes went by before I realized that unless I got the guys playing again, I would have 1,000 very pissed-off audience members. They started chanting: "BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT!" I scrambled downstairs and found the shirtless Grohl leaning on the pinball machine. I begged him to get back onstage. He said, "No problem. Find the other guys. I'll be right there."

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