LIVE: Kurt Cobain’s 20th Anniversary Tribute

kurt1April 5th 1994, the day we lost Kurt Cobain, one of the most influential and captivating musical artists to have ever graced a stage, but last night, 20 years on from this tragic loss, I and others witnessed firsthand how his memory and songs well and truly live on. The Queens Students Union held host to a tribute gig in memory of Kurt Cobain on the 20th anniversary of his passing, a gig that saw a number of Northern Ireland’s best and brightest bands come to together and play through the Nirvana albums, while also raising £890 for PIPS Suicide Awareness on the night, overall this really was a fitting tribute to the man we lost too soon.

The night was kicked off by The Last Generation who had been coupled with the daunting task of performing tracks off Nirvanas debut album Bleach. From the very first chord cheers broke out within the crowd, instantly people who had been sitting down stopped their conversations, grabbed their beer and filled the dance floor in front of the stage hoping to be blown away by the music, and they were not disappointed. From gut shaking bass lines given to us by Cathal O’Kane to the excellent vocals from Jude Mullan that suited the requirements for the Bleach albums heavy tracks, the whole band came together perfectly and made it look seemingly easy to cover such massive songs, arguably their best was saved for last as they performed a gutsy and brilliant cover of Negative Creep that ended their set on a grunge infused high that let the crowd know they were in for a great night ahead.

Next up was Bellos to play through Nirvanas most popular album, Nevermind. This three piece band showed clearly that they knew how to rock the minds of a crowd as from the very beginning with their brilliantly executed version of ‘Breed’. I and those fortunate enough to have been at this gig witnessed as Bellos fired out track after track with solid distorted powerful riffs accompanied by a roughened vocal performance that suited the anger filled grunge sound that Nirvana were so known for. Their rendition of ‘Lithium’ was one of the highlights of the entire night, best showing off the bands immense talent to be able to cover such hugely influential songs and do them justice in every way shape and form, while listening to Bellos blast through their set, it was as if rather than sitting in the Students Union, I was instead back in the 90’s and sitting in a bar somewhere in Seattle witnessing the birth of grunge first hand, while surrounded by heads uncontrollably banging, guts shaking and seats vibrating.

Once Bellos had left the stage, leaving in their wake a flood of most certainly satisfied members of the packed crowd, PigsAsPeople entered the show. This three piece band played through ‘Incesticide’, from the offset the band hit us all with the powerful guitar riffs that this album so brilliantly has to offer us, which set very well with this excited crowd on the night, as now more and more people had begun to let loose and get more involved, craving the sounds of Nirvana. The band showcased some of the best tracks from this album and delivered them with a level of passion that sucked the crowd in and got them to feel every guitar string that was rung and every drum beat that engulfed and destroyed any possibility for moments of silence, which helped to keep the crowd pumped up and crave more for the music to come their way. During their brilliant set the band really impressed when they covered ‘You Know Your Right’, one of the most notorious Nirvana songs of all time, the song allowed Chris Leckey, Steve Lennox and Wilson Davidson to showcase just how good of a band they really are with methodical drumming, precise guitar riffs and addictively pleasing bass lines that wowed the audience. Another highlight of their performance was when we got to see just how pumped up the crowd really were, as a stage invader jumped up to head bang in front of those there to the hard hitting ‘Aero Zeppelin’ that the whole place captivated throughout.

Chocolate Love Factory headlined the event.

As a break from the gut crunching blistering pace of the gig that had kept the crowd on their feet for so long craving more and more of the amazing songs that Kurt Cobain had left us, three acoustic sets then took place, each performer singing one track each to give the head banging a break and people a chance to regain their breath all while still enjoying the musical genius that was Nirvana. Although all three performers were brilliant, I could not help but be blown away by Junior Johnson, who turned out to be one of my highlights of the night. Junior played for the crowd ‘Heart Shaped Box’; he delivered this cover with nothing short of pure excellence, having arms swaying and members of the crowd singing along to the classic Nirvana song.

Finally it came to the headliners of the night, Chocolate Love Factory, and having already seen this band before and previously done a review on them, I knew we were in for one hell of a show. As the music began to ring out, each member entered the stage dressed in drag, just as Kurt Cobain had done himself many times throughout his career. To top the look off Rory Dee, lead singer of the band coupled his dress with a blonde wig to make it even more like watching the late great man himself on stage. The place was packed, the crowd were craving more music, and Chocolate Love Factory conjured up the crunching energy filled album ‘In Utero’. Throughout the entire set the packed crowd went crazy as mosh pits developed, crowd suffers dared the jump and heads uncontrollably began to relentlessly head bang, from start to finish this set was flawless, a trait in which I have come to expect now from this band. The four piece delivered the album ‘In Utero’ with nonstop electrifying energy, playing through some of the most well known tracks having the crowd singing and clapping along to their favourites. Chocolate Love Factory closed the show with a brilliantly executed version of ‘All Apologies’ that further showed off the bands commanding stage presence and ability to blast out songs with a sense of real enjoyment for what they do.

Overall this night was one nonstop fuel injected pure and simple exhibition of the raw talent in which the bands around Northern Ireland have to offer us, not one song on the night was delivered with nothing less than pure passion for the legacy in which Kurt had left behind him. The night was a fitting tribute to the memory of Kurt Cobain 20 years on and I cannot help but feel if he was still around, and happened to be there last night, he too would have loved every moment of it, as I’m sure every single person who was there did. Niall Donnelly, GiggingNI.com