When Grunge Broke into Phoenix

“Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure shit!” – Mike Arm

Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is a fusion genre of alternative rock, punk rock, and heavy metal and a subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the Pacific Northwest U.S. state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns – wikipedia. 

As a Generation Xer (the MTV generation), I grew up during in the grunge area. It never was my favorite term for this style of music, but it had a profound effect on my life in the early 90’s. In early 1991, I was really heavy into glam rock music (Def Leppard, Van Halen, Warrant, Poison, etc) and quite a concert junkie. I graduated from Tempe High school in May of 1991 and started dating a girl who change both my music and clothing taste. She introduced me to Alternative rock music (another term I’m not a fan of). At first I was resistant, but later would find myself listening to R.E.M., Depeche Mode, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Violent Femmes and U2. She helped me expand my music taste and it freed my mind to be more open to new things. My parents just divorced and I was officially on my own. I was an angry teenager as the result of the brokeness in my family and was suffering from a lack of self-worth. MTV, booze, girls and music were a big outlet for me. I was a frequent visitor to both Zia Records and Tower Records and built myself a huge collection of CD’s. The concert scene was big here in the Valley of the Sun, but people were unaware of what was going on with the music scene in Seattle. Even though a year earlier on February 19, 1990, an unknown band by the name of Nirvana opened for Tad in a small club in Phoenix, AZ (Nirvana’s first AZ show was actually at the Sun Club in Tempe in 1989 – video below of Cobain outside the club). The story goes that when Nirvana played this gig in Phoenix, the cheap-ass owner of the Mason Jar charged them a rental fee for some of the equipment that they used.

Music history would change forever on August 27, 1991 when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves. I caught on when the video premiered on September 29, 1991 on one of my favorite shows – MTV’s “120 Minutes”. I remember watching that video over and over for days. Being a glam rock fan, there was nothing glamorous about this band Nirvana. They were just regular looking guys that wore regular clothes that just wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll. The video was very simple as well and didn’t look like it cost a lot to make. I was instantly hooked onto this type of music.

At the time I worked at a Rally’s Hamburgers. A co-worker of mine mentioned how the Red Hot Chili Peppers were coming in concert in Tempe. Their song “Give it Away” was another huge hit on the radio at that time. He told me how Nirvana and some band called Pearl Jam were the openers. I remember wanting to go but for some reason I didn’t make the effort and regret it today. But what a killer line-up! The show was on December 29. 1991 in Tempe and it was heavily promoted on the radio. I remember everyone raving about the show as grunge music was taking the Valley by storm. I remember going to a huge rave party in the desert and somebody was blasting Nirvana on the radio. We were all standing in the back of someone’s truck drinking from a keg and singing to “Teen Spirit”. The girl next to kept going on about how much she loved Nirvana. It was such a crazy movement at that time. Nirvana played Saturday Night Live (another show I always watched) on January 11, 1992 which really thrust them into the spotlight. By this time, hair bands were slowly phasing out.

On January 31, 1992, I went to a Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusion” concert tour with a bunch of friends at Compton Terrace. This was back when GNR were being assholes and making fans wait hours for them to come on stage. It was a memorable show for me because I made out with this smoking hot girl from Scottsdale named Wendy Luckett in the back lawn area. Every dude in my group wanted her and I had bragging rights for some time after that. Anyway, a band called Soundgarden opened for GNR and I knew nothing about them. It took me some time to get into them, but they were hard core. I was really into “Outshined” when they played it. I remember they ended the show with Kim Thayil leaving his guitar on stage making feedback noise. This was the next grunge band I would get into after Nirvana. Looking back. I always wondered why they opened for Guns ‘N’ Roses. Apparently GNR felt Soundgarden were too serious of a band and nicknamed them “Frowngarden”. Ben Shepherd’s response was that they weren’t rock stars and were there to play music. I guess in the 2nd show (the night after my show), GNR decided to crash Soundgarden’s set by walking out in the nude with blow-up dolls because it was the final night of the tour. The band members weren’t too amused by this which shows you the vast difference in these two type of bands at that time. One took their music serious while the other one was just there to party.

the source/ deanna

 

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