Seattle Squid Row deep dive

It looks like, according to livenirvana.com, the band that would become Nirvana began going by the name Skid Row in 1987. There was another band in New Jersey that called itself Skid Row beginning in 1986. I think that Everett True mentioned Cobain was unaware of this other band and that seems likely to be true, especially back then.

So to recap, first I realized that Burdyshaw’s comment to Everett True about seeing Nirvana open for the Obituaries was false, and then, while trying to fact check this on Pacific Northwest Music Archives Facebook group, I watched Burdyshaw and others wriggle around trying to explain the error even though I wasn’t initially accusing them or Everett True (in this case) of lying – I just said it was likely a mistake and poor fact checking, though based on patterns and the fact that this easily correctable misstatement has been on the Obituaries Wikipedia page for 15 years, I always had doubts about this being a mistake. I also mentioned that these kinds of errors, when they’re not caught and corrected, are consequential because they are then repeated by other writers and false histories are created, and false histories often have negative consequences for real people. And then this other guy, an admin named Matthew Ward came in and shut the whole thing down, profusely thanking Burdyshaw for “clearing up a mystery” – and then after my next couple of posts to the group which I did not expect to be considered particularly controversial, I was deleted and apparently blocked. (One post was an Untouchables poster from 1980 and the other was the post about my family’s links to Jimi Hendrix.)

Of course that makes me think there’s more going on, like – if the statement about Obituaries opening for Nirvana at Squid Row in 1988 was not a mistake but a lie, why this particular lie? I may have accidentally found part of the answer when I explored the New York Times and saw Cobain’s 1994 obituary which featured a photo of Nirvana playing directly underneath the word “Obituaries.” So that likely largely explains the Obituaries part – but what Burdyshaw specifying Squid Row as the venue?

I started to follow that thread, first by looking into the venue itself. It was a hole in the wall dive that went through a lot of different businesses including, according to an 2007 article in The Stranger, Rebellious Jukebox (a record store run by Nils Bernstein 1989-92 – Bernstein later became VP of PR for Sub Pop, then did I think publicity for Matador and now is a New York based editor at Wine Enthusiast magazine described as an “exhaustive traveler” – I feel like he may have been someone I tried to contact in the past, trying to generate interest in a Boo Frog album), Righteous Rags (Jeffrey Ofelt), Squid Row, the Puss Puss Cafe, Tugs Belmont (a gay bar), Bimbo’s, the Cha Cha Lounge, Double Trouble, Lipstick Traces (early 2000s), Manray, Kincora, Bus Stop, and Pony.

I’m going to stop here because clearly this is a rabbit hole and I think the Stranger intends it to be that. In the Stranger article, two anecdotes stand out: a story about someone finding decomposing severed fingers in a crockpot, and a typical type of Courtney Love story.

poster for Sherlock Holmes Woman in Green
The Woman in Green 1945

With regards to the severed fingers, this was a theme in the 1945 hypnosis-themed Sherlock Holmes movie Woman in Green. It symbolizes murdering witnesses or potential witnesses. There’s another thing that it evokes as well which is the severed hand that appears in the Migos video for Stir Fry. The Stir Fry video seems to allude to the 1983 Wah Mee massacre that killed another Seattle club owner, John Loui of the Golden Crown. (It’s increasingly clear that many hip hop videos allude to backroom activities around grunge era Seattle. I believe it’s because the activities, issues, and people I’m writing about here about are so deeply interwoven with entertainment industry, US government, and high finance.) Also – this is worth its own entry – there seems to be something in the Migos Stir Fry video that I would call a smoking gun to tell you that Mark Lanegan, who died of COVID complications on 2/22/2022, was actually biomedically murdered. With regards to Lanegan’s death being a murder, there are actually a few smoking guns. So I will revisit this.

With regards to the Courtney Love story, it is told by (Cha Cha Lounge co-owner) Jeffrey Ofelt and takes place during the Righteous Rags era, probably around 1993. “Courtney Love came in to pick up a coat for Kurt Cobain that she had on layaway and was buying as a Christmas present. It was a leather trench coat or something. She came in to make a payment, and she wanted to use the phone, and she was smoking.” The coat was “a leather trench coat or something”? Was Kurt Cobain – or anyone in the early 1990s – ever seen wearing a leather trench coat? I mean, I’ve been wrong before, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say not.

This whole thing about combining two memories into one? That happens. But in this case, I suspect two garments were combined into one. This is another entry, maybe.

I did not expect things to get this complicated.

Back to Squid Row, specifically. That bar seems to have opened in 1986 (possibly) but really got going with live music in 1987. The only record I have of Chris Newman playing there is for Claudia Gherke’s 28th birthday in 1988, with Snow Bud and the Flower People. I’m thinking this venue might have been a bit small for him during that era, but he would usually play for people he considered friends who asked him to do special events like birthdays. He was even cajoled into reviving Napalm Beach for birthdays years after he swore he’d never play as Napalm Beach again.

This is partly why I’ve focused so hard on Squid Row – because Chris was asked to play first as Napalm Beach at the Vogue for Claudia’s 27th birthday, and this was right before the Vogue started doing Sub Pop Sundays – and then he was asked to play Claudia’s 28th birthday at Squid Row as Snow Bud – and both those times, a Sub Pop super group known as Bundy Creature opened for him. It was like some weird book end.

I did not know (or remember, I suppose I’d read it) that one of the names for Nirvana, in early 1987, was Skid Row. According to livenirvana.com, that name lasted about three months between April and June, and they played around four shows under that name. They played Tacoma’s Community World Theatre on June 12, 1987 as Skid Row but on June 27, 1987 they played the same venue as Pen Cap Chew. June 27 is an important date because June 27, 1988 was the day Bret Bowman was hit by a car, it was the day that Sub Pop Sundays ended, and I know that date was picked out for Bret to be hit at least June 27, 1987, a year ahead of time, because I’d recorded a predictive dream that night. But it’s possible, and I’ll have to look into this more deeply – by June 1987 Kurt Cobain was also already on the creep store murder menu.

Cobain stands out among other musicians because of his willingness to distinguish, from my perspective, right from wrong, with regards to what Chris and I were being put through. Thus, the symbolism of a severed finger (accusation).

With regards to Cobain using the name Skid Row – the history of the term Skid Row is interesting and I didn’t know that a lot of sources trace it directly to Seattle. Basically, in the early days of Pacific Northwest logging, lumberjacks were faced with moving these giant trees out of the forest by pulling them with horses (usually) or oxen. The easiest way to do this was to pull them downhill (obviously) so that’s how they logged – they’d build a flat “road” into the woods, and skid the trees down the road to the mill. The road was called a skid road. Lumber camps or tent cities were built along these roads, and the tent cities were eventually called “skid row.” I think the reason that the name Skid Row is associated with Seattle is because there was a large and maybe famous or semi-permanent skid row area in Seattle back in those days. This links to me. How? Where I grew up, in Humboldt County, we had the same thing going on. I grew up at the edge of a redwood forest that had been logged in the late 1800s and again in the early 1900s and right behind our house in the woods was a skid road. We called it “the old logging road” but it was a skid road. I played in that area a lot as a child and I have reason to believe there was surveillance around our favorite spots – probably wireless cameras attached to trees feeding data to hidden drones. In addition, in the summer of 1986, Bret Bowman and I both worked at the Samoa Cookhouse, an old logging camp cookhouse in Eureka that catered to tourists. He was a dishwasher and I a hostess and I’m sure there was surveillance in there, too.

Also, my assertion is there was always a plan to leave Chris and I impoverished, as others grew wealthy from exploiting us and spreading damaging lies about us. It was no accident that by the late 1990s Chris became homeless, living in “tarp town” San Francisco, a modern skid row. Finally, it’s possible that Nirvana’s temporary band name was a direct nod to the Squid Row tavern, because clearly the Vogue was important with regards to an agenda around Chris, and like I said, 1987-88 were bookended by Chris playing with Sub Pop’s Bundy Creature first at Vogue, and then at Squid Row.

Bars seem to be important with regards to the structure of this surveillance-linked exploitation, probably because they are gathering places, and exchanges of money, goods, or backroom deals can be made without drawing undue attention. And squid are sea creatures known for having large eyes, excellent vision.

Sometime between June 27 and August 9, 1987, according to livenirvana.com, Cobain played a house party in Raymond, Washington called the Green House. Other sources, like Charles’ Cross’ Heavier Than Heaven, say their first show was at a Raymond, Washington house party. on March 7, 1987. So there’s some conflict about what was going on in these early days, but I’m putting all of this here because Cobain killed himself in a greenhouse, because the Seattle police, when they released suicide photos in 2014 filtered all the photos to have a green tinge.

Photos of Cobain suicide scene released by Seattle police are tinged green.

Raymond is a small town, a half hour drive from Aberdeen. According to the Charles Cross biography, the March 7, 1987 show was set up by somene named Ryan Aigner. Cross’ claim that this was Nirvana’s first show conflicts with the information posted on livenirvana.com which has him playing as early as December 1985 as “fecal matter” with Dale Crover on bass and Greg Hokanson on drums. None of this online stuff is sourced, so I don’t know where the information comes from but maybe over time I’ll figure it out. If I were a writer being paid to write a book about Nirvana, I’d definitely want to chase down these leads. I’m guessing this has been addressed somewhere in a more recent book.

I want to also draw attention to this name “Bliss” which shows up briefly as an August 1987 proto-Nirvana band name and say that, like Heck being a name from my family tree, Bliss a name from Chris’ family tree, on his mother’s side. They were descended from the brother of a famous hymn writer named P.P. Bliss who had died along with his wife in a train crash (Ashtabula River railroad disaster).

Squid Row Info Sources:
http://www.projectroomseattle.org/programs-content/2014/1/these-streets-squid-row
https://www.thestranger.com/features/2007/11/29/449526/beerly-deloved

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published.