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EXPERIENCING NIRVANA: Grunge in Europe, 1989, by Bruce Pavitt

$34.95 $24.95

“The book is amazing, and so perfectly representative of that time. I swear, looking through those pictures brought me right back to being in a cold, damp van with a bunch of smelly musicians, having the time of our lives!”—Dave Grohl

“Few people can lay claim to starting a rock ‘n’ roll revolution, but Sub Pop Records founder Bruce Pavitt can do just that.”—Paper Mag

At last, a Nirvana story with a happy ending. This intimate photo journal captures eight days in Europe with Nirvana, Tad, and Mudhoney in 1989.

ISBN 978-1-935950-10-3
Deluxe 208pp debossed hardcover
Foreword by Keith Cameron (Mojo)
Over 200 color historical images and diaries from historic 1989 tour of Europe by Seattle bands Nirvana, Tad, and Mudhoney
Special gallery of b/w LameFest UK live images by legendary photographer Steve Double
Extensive appendixes of breakthrough British and U.S. tour press
Dimensions: 9″ x 11″ x 1 1/4″ (230mm x 280mm x 32mm); 4 lbs. (1.8 kg)
eBook: Kindle | Apple iTunes Books

Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989, is a photo journal and a grunge rock micro-history; an inside look into a crucial eight-day period in the touring life of Nirvana, and two other Seattle bands, as seen through the eyes of Bruce Pavitt, the co-founder of Sub Pop Records, the Seattle label that first signed Nirvana in 1988.

The dramatic eight days covered in this book, from November 27 through December 4, 1989, represented a turning point for Nirvana. In this brief period, the young band went from breaking up in Rome to winning over the influential British music press at Sub Pop’s LameFest UK showcase in London, setting the stage for their looming leap in popularity.

On November 27, 1989, when Bruce Pavitt and his Sub Pop partner Jonathan Poneman arrived to meet Nirvana in Rome, the band was almost finished with a grueling six week tour of Europe. Although determined to promote their grungy, riff-heavy debut album, Bleach, Nirvana’s travels with fellow Sub Pop act Tad had left them exhausted. Pavitt and Poneman did their best to revive the spirits of a frustrated and downcast Kurt Cobain. Despite a threatened leap from a 14-foot speaker tower, soon followed by the theft of his passport and wallet, Cobain managed to continue to London, where Nirvana played the biggest and most important show of its career to date.

Nirvana’s breakthrough night at the 2,000-capacity Astoria Theatre in London featured three Seattle Sub Pop acts: Nirvana, Tad, and popular headliners Mudhoney. Nirvana opened the show, and their heart-pounding performance won over the crowd and changed the band’s fate. The powerful London music press proclaimed that Nirvana was “Sub Pop’s answer to the Beatles.” After that night, the world’s attention began to focus on the band that would become the biggest rock act of their generation.

“Sub Pop didn’t have much to work with. We knew Seattle was developing a distinctive brand of heavy, soulful, grungy rock, but we weren’t sure who our next bands were going to be. Then, everything unfolded. This is a Nirvana story with a joyful ending”—Bruce Pavitt

“For over thirty years Bruce Pavitt has been at the vanguard of popular culture advancing social and artistic trends, ideas, and movements within the community of the innovative and alternative. EXPERIENCING NIRVANA is part rock ‘n roll travelogue and part voyeuristic pop culture rubbernecking—an unromantic yet nostalgic glimpse into a rock social movement just prior to its explosion.”—Kim Thayil, Soundgarden

Bruce Pavitt started his Sub Pop zine in 1980, in Olympia, WA. In 1986, he launched the Sub Pop record label. In 1988, Sub Pop opened the doors to offices in downtown Seattle. By the early ’90s the label had released recordings by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Mark Lanegan, Beat Happening, TAD, The Walkabouts, Steven Jessie Bernstein; and helped initiate a global interest in Seattle area music. Bruce keeps engaged in music by periodically speaking at conferences and festivals, consulting with artists and music labels, and working as a DJ.

Steve Double’s work is held in the permanent collection of Britain’s National Portrait Gallery. He is old enough to know better.



Playlist 1989: Fifty songs Bruce Pavitt heard at shows and parties in 1989 (via Spotify)

This book helps support Seattle’s Vera Project.

Additional Information

Weight 4 lbs

“Few people can lay claim to starting a rock ‘n’ roll revolution, but Sub Pop Records founder Bruce Pavitt can do just that.”—Paper Mag

“With grainy, active snapshots and reflective descriptions, Pavitt is able to make this piece of Nirvana history feel direct and unmediated; the story feels within reach.”—Pitchfork

“For some strange and inexplicable reason, none of these photos from the tour have been published in print until now…. Put on your smiley-faced shirt with X’d out eyes, crank up Bleach, and enjoy.”—Vice Magazine

Experiencing Nirvana is an interesting and breezing read and a must-have for any grunge or Nirvana fan. It gives a unique perspective on the time period told through the words and photography of the people who were there.—Popmatters


“Excellent”—The Stranger

“Vibrant”—Seattle Times

“Fascinating”—San Antonio Current

“Amazing”—Danko Jones

“The book reveals a side of these bands that most fans have not seen: unknown, homesick, silly, and brimming with the unpolluted exhilaration of impending success. The result is a raw portrait that is free of the rock star mythologizing that kicked into gear as soon as Nirvana signed to Geffen Records.”—Forbes

“One of those perfect records of music history that galvanizes the pedestrian as easily as the aural devotee.”—Dangerous Minds

“The realities of life on the road – stolen passports, the blur of faces, the hanging out and around – are all present, but so too are the in-your-face excitement of a great gig and the anything-can-happen optimism of youth. You’ll think of your own throughout and wish you were there.”—RTÉ (4.5/5 review)

“Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt chronicles the long ride across Europe, documenting every victory and speed bump along the road to a vital but unsung event that would change the face of rock ‘n’ roll.”—Creative Loafing

“It’s nice to glimpse Nirvana—unsure it was doing the right thing and unimpressed by the Coliseum—before the madness of Rocky-like success enveloped the band.”—Paste

“After signing Nirvana to Sub Pop, Pavitt took the band on its first European tour in 1989, with opening gigs for label mates Mudhoney and Tad. With his Olympus pocket camera, Pavitt took countless shots on that eight-day Europe trip. Photos from venue stages and inside dressing rooms shed some light on a 22-year-old Cobain.”—CBS News

“Pavitt’s photos, taken on the fly with a pocket-sized Olympus, reveal a would-be superstar still in development. Experiencing Nirvana finds Cobain free of the burden of fame that would plague him only a few years later.”—Entertainment Weekly

“The previously unpublished photographs show a young Kurt Cobain, wild-eyed and volatile in some photos, shyly happy in others. The candid shots follow the group as they made their way from Rome to London.”—Rolling Stone

“It is one man’s document of the not so calm before the storm, a unique pictorial essay capturing a fledgling band developing into one of the most vital bands of our time… It doesn’t get much more intimate and authentic.”—Louder than War

“Required reading”—Sweden Rock Magazine

“Holy Sh*t… an inside look into a crucial eight day period in the touring life of Nirvana.”—Guitar World

“Experiencing Nirvana also provides another important aspect of that band’s early life: Nirvana as an independent act on an independent label. Pavitt’s words and photos effectively present this other side of Nirvana, to fans only familiar with the post-Nevermind version of the band.”—Stephen Tow, The Weeklings


  1. :

    Hey, I was wondering, has the book come out yet? I just found out about it and would like to get my husband, a big fan of Nirvana a perfect Christmas gift. My other questions are, do you ship internationally and how much is the shipping to the Czech Republic?

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