The time Nirvana got in a food fight with Sonic Youth (and then someone went and urinated in Ride’s champagne bucket)

Nirvana, group portrait, backstage at Nakano Sunplaza, Tokyo, Japan, 19th December 1992 AND Photo of SONIC YOUTH, 1992
(Image credit: Gutchie Kojima/Shinko Music/Getty Images/Krasner/Trebitz/Redferns)

From the outside, being in Nirvana looked like pretty heavy business. Have you read Charles R Cross’ ace biography of the band, Heavier Than Heaven? Everyone knows there’s not a happy ending, but there’s not a happy beginning or middle either. In a feature published in Classic Rock, though, Kurt Cobain told journalist Everett True about the time Nirvana got involved in that old staple of infantile high japes – a food fight. 

The band were on tour in Belgium, and preceded the battle of edibles with some warm-up juvenile behaviour, swapping the name-tags set up for a backstage dinner at a festival that meant 12 Ramones and friends were placed at a table of four and Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan was left on his own. “He was being spoon-fed Gerbers baby-food, because he couldn’t chew,” said bassist Krist Novoselic. “So we gave him a plate of apples.”

Here is where Kurt Cobain picked up the thread. “There were about 30 of us sitting in a party with Sonic Youth,” he explained. “Someone throws a carrot stick and someone throws a grape. Then someone else throws back some dressing and it turns into a huge food fight. We completely wrecked the food tent, but it was a lot of fun and if there had been televisions there, we would have wrecked them too.”

The carnage continued further afield: “We snuck into Ride’s trailer and stole their champagne,” Kurt revealed. “The guy who was with us peed in their champagne bucket. We stole all their flowers and candy too.” Taken to task on this seeming a little boorish, Kurt was unrepentant. “No one does this stuff anymore,” declared the singer. “They’re too scared. But that isn’t our point. We only do it cos we’re bored and we want to have fun. And we do – real sincere fun!” 

So it wasn’t all doom and gloom in Nirvana – there was some real sincere fun along the way too. And if this story tells us anything, it’s that you now have a new line to say to someone when they’re looking annoyed: “hey, who pissed in your champagne bucket?”

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer for The Guardian, Variety and Classic Rock, and co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former editors of Q magazine Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. Niall has written for NME, X-Ray Magazine and XFM Online and interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, St Vincent, The 1975, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and many more.