Cobain playing The Forge in Victoria,

Nirvana in Victoria–the show (almost) no one saw

Cobain plays The Forge
Kurt Cobain in Victoria. Photos by Al Ford.
Nirvana in the early days
Nirvana in BC

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the idea for Save Me, Kurt Cobain was in part sparked by a 2012 news story in the Victoria Times-Colonist about Harpo’s, a cabaret where I used to see bands like The Dead Milkmen and 13 Engines. I even interviewed some of them as a student journalist. The bigger bands used to play Victoria on less than peak nights of the week before hitting Vancouver, as did a rising band called Nirvana in March of 1991. Harpo’s Cabaret was booked that night–and the managers couldn’t rejig the schedule–so Nirvana, a band many wise music gurus predicted were the Next Big Thing, played The Forge (a club I am sure I  also went to at some point, but I won’t be bragging about it). The club was uninspired, let’s say, tucked in the belly of a hotel–and is long gone. Attendance was sparse at the Victoria concert, which supposedly included an AC/DC cover band as opening act. This show became a key plot point in my novel.

I had seen  grainy online photos from the gig, but none with attribution until I noticed a post from Al Ford, who is now program director at Jack FM radio in Vancouver. Al, who met Nirvana and interviewed them back then, kindly gave me permission to run the photos on my website. I guess Kurt Cobain was learning his craft while we were learning ours, as journalists.

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  1. My friend got free tickets to the show from CFUV.
    The Forge had a diagonal path through it, with a diamond of tables and chairs on either side. Standing at the end of the path, at the bar, sipping our beers, we could watch the left side, full of now-almost-extinct metal heads, and on the right, proto-hipster indie rockers who I assumed were mostly UVIC students.
    Opening band was AC/BC. Good cover band. The left side roared with approval.
    Visually, the most vivid memory I have of Nirvana was that the two guitarists were bent over, like they were used to playing in a basement with low ceilings. I liked the raw sound, with a few minimal pedal changes (must have been SLTS?). I also remember thinking “I like this band. Too bad they will never make it. No band I ever like makes it.” Ooh, alas poor me.

      1. I was standing to the left of the stage – was my second time seeing them (first was in Toronto). Was in bad mood for some reason, perhaps the venue or only 20 people there to see them while the rest of the crowd seemed to be waiting for the dance club to open…. Anyhoo, about three songs in I notice that Dave Grohl had a big smile on his face looking at me – it snapped me out of whatever trance I was in and was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

  2. I listened to the show at the side / alley door with my dogs Bones and Winslow. One of my greatest memories

  3. Cool story Garb. Typical random Weird Kurt. I can’t believe you saw Kurt, in Victoria , outside of the concert. You are blessed to have that memory for life , Garb,

  4. Jerry, thanks for the post and thanks to Al Ford for being the guy that loves his job and loves live music. The band at Harpo’s that night was the Leslie Spit Treeo, Gary and Marcus could not move their date so they brought the act to the Forge. Just a heads up, till the pandemic the club was still open under the name Distikt and still doing a mix of live and nightclub DJ’s.

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