Celebrating the live and times of 101.7 FM, Boston's only true alternative radio station
SEPTEMBER 23, 1991
THE GIG PUNK BROKE: NIRVANA AT WFNX'S EIGHTH BIRTHDAY PARTY
It was the day before Nevermind hit the streets. I hung out with the band for two days. I had met Kurt [Cobain] and Krist [Novoselic] before, but this was a lot cooler. We went to dinner the night before the show; we hung around all day while bands were doing sound checks. Kurt and Dave [Grohl] were reading the bios from the other bands, and we were just goofing off. I also had to drive the Smashing Pumpkins, who were the opening band, from the hotel to Axis. We were cranking music in the van, cruising around and having a great time. They were not really famous then. Later I interviewed Nirvana on the air, and Cobain was being a smartass. I asked him why his name had been spelled so many different ways, and his response was that he'd just learned how to spell. That night, of course, it was Nirvana mania. The line stretched far down the street.
-- Kurt St. Thomas, writing in the Boston Phoenix, 1998
When they went on, the audience and the band ignited. The big-time production values of Nevermind were stripped away to reveal the raw, bleeding bones of Kurt Cobain's songs. People were flying through the air. Every 15 or 20 seconds another body would be propelled over the crowd's heads as if squeezed from a tube, be caught, and then slip back safely into the masses. There were too many people for anyone to fall straight to the floor. And it wasn't only the audience. From the first chord Cobain was like a superball — he seemed to ricochet off the floor into the air, off the audience back to the stage, off his amp to the front, and back again. His feet hardly touched the ground. Yet somehow every song came through with teeth-gritting perfection.
Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan was also a commanding presence. The Pumpkins played so loud their set had a hurricane-like force. But there was a deep emotional resonance embedded in that wall of sound — an annex of what Jimi Hendrix called "the electric church." The headliners were local outfit Bullet LaVolta, one of the greatest Boston bands of the '80s. RCA released two of their albums that year, and they seemed poised to be, well, maybe what Nirvana became. Leader Yukki Gipe lived up to the first part of the band's name at Axis, firing off the stage into the fans at the blisteringly hard, fast, loud set began. Even if LaVolta's raw blend of hardcore and pop eventually couldn't compete in the hookier world of alt-rock grunge, that night anything seemed possible.
-- Boston Phoenix, 2006, naming this No. 2 on the list of "The 40 Best Concerts in Boston History"
If Big Black, Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth had all gotten hits to load the bases, Nirvana had just crushed the pitch and hit the grand slam with Nevermind. This was their moment in history. The Geffen execs at the show knew it. The radio programmers knew it. The fans knew it. Nirvana knew it, but didn't give a fuck. . . . Sometime around "Drain You," I looked around the room and noticed that everyone had this dough-eyed yet-wide-awake look on their faces; that they were reallyseeing something important, or reallybeing a part of something important. It was hot, sweaty, loud, and reckless. And quite literally the precise moment in musical history when that weird glitch in the cassette tape took place; when good music became popular. . . if only for an instant.
Bullet LaVolta drummer Todd Philips, recalling the gig for the Boston Phoenix's On the Download blog, 2012
PLAY WFNX: Listen to the historic recordings of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins performing at the eighth WFNX birthday party, and watch video of the bands playing Crisco Twister backstage.
DECEMBER 31, 1991
>> PLAY WFNX The WFNX Top Songs of 1991, recorded live and on the air at Axis.