Out of the Closet

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

A couple of minutes later I saw Novaselic come back through the front door, his body covered in Van Blarcum's blood. He told me to call an ambulance. I begged him to get back onstage and that I would make sure we would take care of our employee. Krist was pissed at Kurt, but he was willing to finish the show anyway.

Now where the fuck was Cobain? I looked everywhere, wading through the hundreds of arms and legs and bodies sprawled all over the place, and finally found him in a closet upstairs in the very back of the club. He was in there with this long-haired creep who was trying to give him smack. Kurt was trying to hand-roll a cigarette, but he could barely move. I took it out of his hands, rolled it in about three seconds, then put it in his mouth and said, "You come with me."

I dragged Cobain through the crowd and pushed him back onstage. The three band members stood there looking at each other for more than five minutes. Nobody wanted to start playing. I made it back up to the DJ booth, where Robert Wilonsky from the Dallas Observer was waiting for me. "Man, what are you gonna do?" The crowd was getting anxious. It was almost as if the band had brought them there to take their money and insult them to their faces.

The calendar currently outside Trees is devoid of concerts in 2006--and Dallas will know by week's end if that will change.
The calendar currently outside Trees is devoid of concerts in 2006--and Dallas will know by week's end if that will change.
Nirvana establishes Trees as Dallas' hottest music venue of the '90s with an unforgettable, oversold concert. Below: Trees' old T-shirts touted musical dominance that has been unmatched to this day.
Nirvana establishes Trees as Dallas' hottest music venue of the '90s with an unforgettable, oversold concert. Below: Trees' old T-shirts touted musical dominance that has been unmatched to this day.

We both spied my CD copy of Nevermind. Wilonsky was thinking the same thing that I was thinking--whatever it takes to get this train back on track.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" came blazing out of the PA at full volume. The crowd went bozo--throwing bottles and chairs, people diving on top of each other, all kinds of crazy shit. Monte the Mullet came running into the DJ booth. "WRONG SONG, ASSHOLE. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!?!"

I looked him and said, "I think the question is, what the fuck are you doing? That guy has already destroyed a monitor console, attacked one of our employees and now they're just going to stand there and make fun of the audience? MAKE THEM FINISH THE SHOW, MOTHERFUCKER."

He ran back down the stairs, climbed onstage and begged the band to start playing again. Somehow, they got it together. The rest of the show was great, and the audience stumbled out of the building feeling like they had witnessed a real once-in-a-lifetime event.

Still, there was the matter of getting the band out of the club. Van Blarcum was waiting for Cobain outside and was hell-bent on beating his ass. I called a taxi service and told the dispatcher to have a car come to the back door of the venue. The taxi was there less than five minutes later, and I shuffled the band into the back seat (Grohl and Novaselic still shirtless from the show). I told the driver, "Get these guys the fuck out of here," and they took off down the alley behind Trees.

Monte the Mullet chased after them. "They don't know what hotel we're staying at! They don't know where to go!" Fuck.

The cab stopped and made a left into the parking lot by the side of the building. The driver was oblivious as to what happened inside the club and pulled up right to where, holy shit, Turner was standing. Van Blarcum spotted them and broke the glass out of the cab's back window with his fist. By the time I ran over there the three guys in the back seat were freaking out, covered in jagged shards of glass, and the driver was screaming, while trying to pull Van Blarcum away from his cab, "Who is going to pay for this?" By this time, there was a huge mob of people watching it all go down. It took an improvised police escort to get them out alive.

Van Blarcum went to Baylor Hospital to get his head sewn back together. Mullet Monte had to extract the cost of a new monitor console (about $5,000) out of the band's pay that night, so he wasn't very happy as he left the building. I found out later that this type of thing had happened a number of times on the tour.

I've run into Grohl a bunch of times since then, and it's always, "Dude, even if I retired tomorrow, I'll always have that show at Trees to tell my kids about." So will everyone else who made it inside 2709 Elm that night.


During the '90s, Trees was the heart of the neighborhood. The club was never tied to one particular style of music, so the audience was filled with fresh faces every night. Shein had always instructed our staff of security people (before the Nirvana show, anyway) to treat every customer gently and humanely. Jessica Clarke did an incredible job of creating a public profile for the club in the local media and later became the manager for both House of Pain and Cypress Hill.

Other club employees went on to start their own record labels, music-driven Web sites, jobs at recording studios and even bands of their own. Trees was the place where we got on-the-job training that inspired us to make a music career for ourselves.

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