Nirvana’s Legendary ‘Live And Loud’ Concert: The Stories You Don’t Know

Behind the scenes at Nirvana's 'Live And Loud' show, as told by the people who witnessed history.

On December 13, 1993, Nirvana performed at Seattle’s Pier 48 for MTV’s “Live and Loud,” a concert that would more than live up to its name.

Sets were destroyed, cameras spat upon, and, at the end of 70-odd minutes, amidst all the carnage, Kurt Cobain invited the hometown crowd onto the stage, resulting in pure chaos. To this day, it remains one of the most raucous, raw performances ever captured by our cameras … a definitive Nirvana show that has never been seen in full.

That will change on September 24, when “Live and Loud” is released both as a standalone DVD and as part of the deluxe, 20th-anniversary reissue of In Utero . And in celebration of that, MTV News is bringing you the never-before-known stories behind the now-legendary show, as told by the folks who made it happen (and for a minute there, it looked like it wouldn’t.)

This is the oral history of Nirvana’s “Live and Loud.”

Eddie Vedder Gets The Flu
Beth McCarthy-Miller, director: “It was going to be this big hometown concert, with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, the Breeders and Cypress Hill on the bill, it was our big New Year’s Eve show. We were going to shoot it in New York City, but Pearl Jam wanted it in Seattle, so we found this awesome warehouse right on the Puget Sound, and we were all set until the day of the show, when almost everyone from Pearl Jam showed up, except for Eddie Vedder.”

Amy Finnerty, director of talent relations: “Actually, I had been traveling with the guys before we got to Seattle, and the night before that Seattle show was the night they played in Minneapolis, where Kurt and Kurt Loder smashed up the hotel room. And the next morning, I found Kurt and I told him, ‘We have to get out of here before the hotel calls the police!’ So we took his credit card and bought plane tickets to Seattle!’ And then Eddie ends up getting sick. I think he had the flu; he wasn’t trying to pull out of the show, he was genuinely too sick to perform.”

Salli Frattini, executive in charge of production: “When Eddie didn’t show up, there was this huge standoff that happened. I remember people were freaking out, because he backed out. But MTV was like, ‘Well, if he’s going to back out, let’s get Nirvana to step up.’ ”

McCarthy-Miller: “Again, it was a hometown crowd and people were freaking out, and in the middle of all the panic, Kurt offered to play a longer set, and it turned into what ended up being ‘Live and Loud,’ which was pretty much a discography of Nirvana. And he was just, I think, in a zone; he couldn’t have been more helpful and lovely to me; during sound check, he was just awesome, just asking ‘Beth do you need more?’ ”

Finnerty: “I remember that, when Eddie backed out, that’s when I got the phone calls from Courtney [Love] and Kurt. Courtney was freaking out, yelling ‘He’s not playing the show!’ so I had to go over to their house, to see what was happening. But, to be honest, there was no tension. To Kurt, it was no big deal, he was only concerned that the Breeders would still get to play and were taken care of. He didn’t want it to just be ‘The Nirvana Show.’ That’s how he was.”

Dave Grohl Goes To 7-Eleven
McCarthy-Miller: “We shot this pretty soon after Nirvana did ‘Unplugged,’ and I think that was a big moment for the band, and how they related to the channel. Before, maybe they had been a bit standoffish — when we did ‘Unplugged’ Kurt was not that approachable — but [for 'Live and Loud'] he was very gregarious, he was very easy to work with. We had these big trailers for all the bands, and I remember that he had [his daughter] Frances with him all day, just playing with her. I think he was very happy we were doing this in Seattle, that he could see his old friends. It was very relaxed.”

Finnerty: “After they did sound check, I was with with Dave Grohl, and he had his car because I think he was still living there. But we left and went to 7-Eleven to get hot dogs, just ran around Seattle together for a while. And both of us had somehow lost our backstage passes, so when we came back [to Pier 48], the security guards would not let either of us in. Dave was standing there, like ‘I’m actually in the band’ — he said he sounded like such a jerk for saying that — and then he told the security guard ‘I play this song; dun-dun-dun …’ you know, just did the opening chords to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ and the security guard was like ‘Oh, you’re that guy!’ And he let us in. It was really funny.”

Frattini: “You know, over all, I don’t remember there being that many bad things, and, given how many productions I’ve been on, and how many budgets I’ve had to worry about, I basically only remember the bad things. What I do remember is being, like, seven months pregnant at the time, and having to go buy a Patagonia jacket because I was so cold. Oh, also, I remember feeling really fat and angry.”

Kurt Cobain Puts On His ‘Rap Jeans’
Finnerty: “At the time, I was starting to work with a lot of hip-hop artists at the channel, and Kurt would tease me about it; he’d called me ‘Rap Amy.’ So before the show, I was over his house, in his bedroom, and there was just piles of clothes everywhere, and he’s going through them, tossing clothes everywhere, and I’m asking him ‘What are you looking for?’ And he was like ‘I’m going to wear my Rap jeans!’ So, if you watch the performance, he’s wearing these jeans with these huge pockets in the back, because they were his ‘Rap jeans,’ and he was making fun of me.”

McCarthy-Miller: “I think the ‘Unplugged’ performance really helped them become a four-person band, instead of a three-person band, and ‘Live and Loud’ was the pinnacle of Pat [Smear] being part of the band. They were just incredible that night. Recently I was in the edit, watching the iso [shot] I had of Dave [Grohl] on drums, and he was amazing. And Kurt was having so much fun that night and was being pretty animated; there’s a shot where he walks up to the camera guy on stage, a guy named Charlie Huntley, and I’m in the booth directing, telling [Charlie] ‘Stay with him!’ And the Kurt ends up spitting in the lens. It was a moment.”

Finnerty: “I was standing on the side of the stage, it was an incredible view, the way they built the set the fans were able to get really close, so, at the end of the show, Kurt was grabbing their hands and pulling them onto the stage. I’ve seen them trash a lot of stages, and they did it again here, but that one was pretty amazing because the audience was just so close to it all.”

McCarthy-Miller: “You know, at the point, I was getting used to that kind of chaos. I had done this premier party for [the movie] ‘Singles’ with Pearl Jam and everyone was crazy. It was actually pretty dangerous. ‘Live and Loud’ was just [Nirvana] having fun. I will say Kurt was never, like, out of control, he was having a good time.”

Nirvana Achieved
Frattini: “I knew that he was a true artist; people loved Kurt Cobain, fans and people at MTV. I always thought there was something about him that reminded me of the Beatles, and obviously at the moment, I remember thinking that the band did an awesome job. But I never could have predicted it would have become something legendary; who would have ever known we had gotten one of his last shows?”

Finnerty: “Afterwards, I remember we stayed on the site and hung out for a long time, because it was in Seattle, and there were a lot of people there; Mudhoney was there, the Breeders were there, and we all just kind of hung out by their trailers. Someone was taking pictures, and one of them is that famous one of Kurt wearing a garland and tinsel around his neck.”

McCarthy-Miller: “I can’t pretend to have known Kurt all that well, but I do think he was a little bit of a tortured soul. And every once in a while, he had those moments where he enjoyed himself, and this was one of those moments. I think everyone knew this show was something special. It started when Kurt said ‘I’ll play a longer set,’ and went all the way through. When you watch it, it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and it ended on such a high. It really still feels like we managed to capture this special moment with Nirvana.”