Nirvana, Reading Festival, August 1992
“Reading changed me. I grew up with it, so headlining was unbelievable. When I first joined Nirvana, like the day I fucking moved up [to Seattle], Krist [Novoselic, bass] was having a barbecue in his back yard, and Dan Peters, the drummer from Mudhoney was there. He was talking about just getting back from England, and I said to him, ‘What’s the biggest audience you’ve ever played to?’ He said, ‘About 35,000 people,’ and I said, ‘Where the fuck was that!?’ He told me there’s this festival in England called Reading, and it’s huge. Then I saw it on our itinerary in ‘91, that we’d be halfway up the bill with Sonic Youth and Iggy Pop, and from the day I saw that on there, to the minute I walked out onstage, I would wake up every fucking morning in a panic attack that I had to go and play in front of that many people.
“A lot happened after that. In the 12 months between Reading ’91 and Reading ’92 when we headlined, the band had exploded… and imploded. We went from being a three-piece band in a splitter van with a tour manager and a monitor guy, to selling millions of records, and a lot changed. It was a pretty chaotic 12 months. Kurt got strung out and wound up having to go to rehab. I remember we finished that tour in early ’92, and we had toured America, we had toured Europe, we’d been to Australia and Japan, and we ended in Hawaii. By the time we got there we thought, ‘Okay, we need to fucking chill out, because the world has gone crazy – not just ours but everybody else’s.’ So, we took a break, and in that time Kurt had a kid, and had his ups and downs. It was chaos.
“I remember showing up to Reading ’92 and there being so many rumours that we weren’t going to play, that we had cancelled. I walked backstage and some of my best friends in bands that were opening would see me and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I’d go, ‘We’re fucking headlining!’ And they’d be like, ‘You’re actually going to play?!’ I didn’t realise there was any question that we were going to play. I knew within myself I was questioning if we could play, but I knew we were going to try.
“The show was a really reassuring, genuinely magical moment of everything coming together at the right time. I think we had practised once, the day before, and I just didn’t know if we could pull it off. That happened a bunch of times in Nirvana, where you’d think, ‘God, this is going to be a fucking disaster,’ and then it would turn out to be something beautiful. So yeah, it went great, but it’s sad that that’s the last time we ever played England, because it could have been better. We just didn’t play England enough, I don’t think. The memory is somewhat triumphant but melancholy, because we never came back.”