I always enjoy visiting King Tuts Wah Wah Hut and as I approach my 34th birthday I have realised that I've been visiting Tuts for half my life; 17-years!
Thursday 21 January 2010
I've watched some outstanding gigs and had some amazing nights out during that time. Without wanting to sound like James Murphy in 'Losing My Edge'; I was there for Beck in 1994 when 'Loser' was breaking and I've got ticket number 4. Other highlights would be Arthur Lee and Love in his comeback gig after being released from prison using instruments borrowed from Belle and Sebastian - you could hear a pin drop during 'You Set The Scene', the White Stripes breaking through with Jack Whites guitar playing literally leaving the Glasgow indie crowd open-mouthed and a version of 'Jolene' that left my spine tingling, Brit-poppers Menswear romping through a short set and somehow living up to the incredible hype created by Melody Maker and NME, Teenage Fanclub on their Mellow Doubt tour with the crowd joining Norman Blake on the whistling section, Money Mark walking through the crowd to the stage while beatboxing, an extremely drunk and funny Arab Strap, a double-header of Supergrass and The Bluetones…the list goes on.
One night I will always remember is April 8th 1994. I'd only attended Tuts a handful of times beforehand and I had the week off work for Glasgow's Sound City Week. It was quite a week and I caught a youthful Oasis supporting the Boo Radleys at the Tramway in Glasgow prior to the release of their debut single 'Supersonic', also going to see The Charlatans at the same venue with support from Pulp just before their big breakthrough. Pulp were late replacements for Courtney Love's Hole, who pulled out after Kurt Cobain's overdose in Italy.
However on April 8th at Tuts, local indie legends The Pastels were playing with support from a Glasgow Riott Grtrl band called Lungleg. Being a slightly innocent 18-year old I still remember going up to the singer of Lungleg after their set and saying 'that was great I really enjoyed your set' causing the singer and Courtney Love wannabe to smile, before I ruined it by asking 'was that your first gig?' It was lovingly shambolic punk pop! The singer was slightly taken aback!
It was probably just after that conversation when my friend Grant and I first heard the rumours circulating around King Tuts - Kurt Cobain was dead, he had committed suicide. Now you have to remember that back in 1994 only the very rich had mobile phones and the internet was in its infancy. Rumours at gigs and festivals happened regularly - so and so is going to make a guest appearance, so and so hasn't turned up, blah blah blah.
I was a huge Nirvana fan at the time and the band were really pushing forward with their sound. The Unplugged album and performance was truly outstanding. The energy coming out of their latest album In Utero was fearsome. To say I was looking forward to seeing the band at the SECC later that month (admittedly not a very Nirvana like venue) was an understatement.
I'd queued for 2-hours at the old Virgin Records in Union Street to get my ticket for the gig, a ticket I still own. So the rumours going round were more than a little worrying. Yet nothing could be confirmed. My friend Grant and I tried to dismiss it as yet another gig rumour, but with Cobain's recent health and mental state strongly publicised and the general atmosphere upstairs in King Tuts, I think we both knew that something horrible had happened.
The lights went down and The Pastels took to the stage. My memory fails me slightly but I think Stephen Pastel said something like 'tonights for Kurt Cobain' and played their set with little or no between song chatter. 'Thank You For Being You' my favourite Pastels song was a jangly guitar highlight that might have momentarily caused me to forget about the rumour circulating.
After the gig Grant and I went straight to my car - well my Mum's car that I had borrowed. A terrible red Fiat Panda that had an engine size of 950cc! We turned the radio on to John Peel's show, hoping to hear John, a real champion of Nirvana, talking as normal. However we just heard 3 Nirvana Peel session tracks in a row with no introduction between each track. And then there was the announcement that tonights show was dedicated to Kurt Cobain.
Our reaction was one of shock and horror. We were/are both Nirvana fans and when a group like that comes along at that time in your life (Nevermind was released in 1991 when we were both 15) they tend to stay with you through your life. So although I've had so many memorable nights at King Tuts and there will be many more to come, it is that night back in April 1994 that I'll always remember, sadly for all the wrong reasons.