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On August 20, 1988, Nirvana and Soundgarden appeared on the same bill at the Capitol Lake Jam in Olympia, Washington. (Photo via @TheGrungeScene.) Here’s an excerpt from my book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge about that gig:
STUART HALLERMAN (Soundgarden soundman) Every summer, Slim Moon—who later had the Kill Rock Stars label going on—worked with the Olympia parks department and police department to put on a punk-rock show on an August afternoon in Capitol Park. The state capitol is above, the water’s right behind you, and they’d play on a flatbed truck. He’d hire me because I had my own P.A. system. My Name, Nirvana, and Soundgarden were the three bands in ’88. Soundgarden had just done the Fopp EP, so they played all the stuff that was on that.
BEN SHEPHERD (March of Crimes guitarist; later Soundgarden bassist) Soundgarden played a show in downtown Olympia, a signing party. I remember it was outside. I met Chris for the first time that day, right before they played. Kim introduced me to him. That was the first time I got to see Matt with them. It was like, Oh, now they have a real drummer, and it’s over the top. It was all golden, the sun was going down behind Matt’s blond hair, and all the hardcore kids, like our generation of musicians and fans of music, were there. And the cops were there, and they were allowing it to happen. Olympia cops used to be total fucking pricks. They were definitely scared of punk rockers. They tried to arrest March of Crimes a couple of times for playing there, just for being around: “What are you guys doing? Punker!” At this show, it was like, Wow, even the adults are all right with this. But they’re scared of us still.
STUART HALLERMAN I stepped back from the mixing board to see what it sounded like there. And on the sides of me are these parks department and police sponsors, these uniformed cops. I said to ‘em, “How do you like the show?” And one of the cops goes, “You know, I just thought this was gonna be awful music, but this band in particular”—and he’d liked Nirvana—”but this band in particular I thought it was all gonna be dirty lyrics, but it’s really clean, and they’re talented guys!” And we look back at the stage with smiles on our faces, and at the end of “Fopp,” Chris—instead of singing “Fopp and rock!”—is going, “SUCK MY COCK! SUCK MY COCK!” So much for being clean.
The grunge scene eventually came to have a P.C. cast to it, and I think a lot of that has to do with that Olympia influence, which kind of turned into that Riot Grrrl thing, a movement that had almost no music attached to it but had a lot of instructions for how you’re supposed to live your life. Whereas the not-famous Kurt Cobain might’ve chuckled at the Dwarves album cover with naked girls covered in blood, the famous Kurt Cobain felt he had to make a stand against those kind of things.