There’s some new public art in Aberdeen: the mural “Nirvana and Aberdeen,” created by lead artist Erik Sandgren (a professor at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen), with assistance from Anthony James Cotham, Dominic Senibaldi, Jason Sobottka, and David Wall as contributing artists. The mural is on the side of the Moore’s Interiors building, at 201 S. Broadway in downtown Aberdeen
Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic dropped in for the mural’s public dedication on September 20; while there also he met up with Aaron Burckhard. And who’s Aaron Burckhard? Why, Nirvana’s very first drummer, who played with the band in 1987. And here’s some other Nirvana-related trivia, all tied in to the mural:
1. The KAOS in the mural refers to the call letters of Evergreen State College’s radio station. On May 6, 1987, a budding Nirvana, then calling themselves “Skid Row” (and featuring Burckhard in the lineup), made their first radio appearance, playing a 10-song set during a live KAOS broadcast. Three tracks from the session later appeared on Nirvana’s box set “With the Lights Out.”
2. The mural features a number of names of bands who have a Nirvana and/or Aberdeen connection. While names like Soundgarden and Bikini Kill are surely familiar to most alternative rock fans, who heck were Nisqually Delta Podunk Nightmare? Well, the now defunct outfit was an Olympia, WA-based punk band who featured Slim Moon and Dylan Carlson in the lineup. Moon later introduced Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain to the music of Leadbelly, and founded the label Kill Rock Stars (Nirvana’s “Beeswax” first appeared on the label’s debut 1991 compilation, also entitled “Kill Rock Stars”). Carlson, who became a close of Cobain’s, later formed the drone metal band Earth; Cobain appears on a few of Earth’s recordings.
3. Walk three blocks west of the mural on Wishkah, turn right on S. M St. and walk one block, and you’ll be at 107 S. M St., former location of Maria’s Hair Design, the beauty parlor owned by Novoselic’s mother; Nirvana used to practice upstairs. Maria’s is depicted in the mural, the side of the house morphing into an accordion, an instrument Novoselic played during Nirvana’s “Unplugged” appearance.
4. The mural is also located one block west of the D&R Theater (at 205 S. I St.). The theater, which recently closed, is where Novoselic made his first public performance, joining the Melvins when they opened for Metal Church at the theater on May 4, 1984.
5. If you look closely to the left of the main center part of the mural, you’ll see a billboard with the words “Think of Me.” This refers to a billboard for Think of Me tobacco that used to stand on Aberdeen’s highest hill, leading to the slope being nicknamed “Think of Me Hill.” Think of Me Hill was where Novoselic first lived in Aberdeen when his family moved there in 1979, and its high location enabled him to pick up radio stations as far away as Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
6. The Texas-based Butthole Surfers are another band name-checked on the mural. Nirvana opened for the band on October 28, 1988 at Seattle’s Union Station. Just over five years later, the Surfers opened for Nirvana at the band’s last US show on January 8, 1994 at the Seattle Center Arena.
7. The word “Chaka” that appears on the bass drum on the right side of the mural is taken from the Dave Grohl’s drumhead as seen in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video; Chaka is the tagging name used by West Coast graffiti artist Daniel Ramos.
8. The only reference to a Nirvana song in the mural is an illustration of a box in the shape of a heart, for “Heart-Shaped Box.” A guitar neck pierces the box, bearing the name of the album where the song appears: “In Utero.” The name of Nirvana’s first album, “Bleach,” is on another guitar neck, while the floating baby references Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album.
9. What’s the logo for Nestle’s Quik doing in the mural? Cobain said that Strawberry Quik helped settle his stomach.
10. The man in far left corner of the mural is a real person: Tori Kovach. Kovach is the local resident who cleaned up the area around the Young Street Bridge, one of Cobain’s hangouts, removing the brambles and brush, transforming it into “KC Riverfront Park,” a pleasant area with commemorative signs and statues as well as picnic tables. Kovach is known for appearing around town bearing handheld signs; on September 20, he carried a sign reading “Welcome to Grungeland.” The artists elected to show Kovach carrying a sign with the name of one of Nirvana’s album: “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah.”