Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Cleanse your brain palate and watch Nirvana play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time

With everything happening this week, your annual remembrance of the first time Nirvana played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” probably fell through the cracks. Take a five-minute break from the live-action Michael Bay movie we’re all living through right now and relive music history, when Nirvana debuted an early version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to close a show at Seattle’s OK Hotel on April 17, 1991.

Also debuted at that show, according to this set list, “Pennyroyal Tea.” (They also covered Naked Raygun’s “Libido.”) That same night, Singles was filming Alice In Chains “across the street,” according to Truly frontman Robert Roth in Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History Of Grunge by Mark Yarm. (The OK Hotel also served as the central coffee shop in the movie.)


“That show at the OK Hotel was legendary!” says Fastbacks guitarist Kurt Bloch in that book. “There were a few genre-defining shows, and certainly that was one of them. I remember standing next to [former Sub Pop publicist] Nils Bernstein, and then ‘Hey, here’s a new song, blah blah blah.’ They started playing ‘Teen Spirit,’ and Nils and I looked at each other like, ‘Holy fuck! This song is unbelievable.’”

Sure is. The performance was also included on the DVD for the Nirvana box set With The Lights Out.

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