That time Nirvana destroyed everything in sight and then set their own tour bus on fire

Dave Grohl,Kurt Cobain and Kirst Novoselic of Nirvana pose at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Kurt Cobain wanted Nirvana to exist in a different realm to the huge rock bands that had preceded them, but even he couldn’t help continue some of the trends (and clichés) laid down by his forebearers. One particular tradition that Cobain seemed to relish was destroying things. All sorts of things – cushions, tables, mirrors, pictures, paintings – basically everything that you might find in a hotel room that hadn’t been nailed down, and some stuff that had.

Writing in Melody Maker, renowned journalist Everett True witnessed the band’s knack for making an unholy mess with no consideration for who might pay for the damage with his own eyes. True had joined the band on the road and watched as they wrecked their gear every night, really diving into the $750 “equipment allowance” they’d been given. But backstage at Washington’s 9:30 club, Kurt wanted to relay to him that this was nothing. They hadn’t even set anything on fire yet! “When we were in Europe,” Kurt told him, “we nearly set the tour van alight.”

Even for a band as hellbent on destruction as Nirvana, this was next level. They tried to set their own bus on fire? “Yeah, I lit the curtains in our tour van on fire whilst we were doing an interview,” Kurt told True. “It was a few hours after some other destruction… Chris shot off a fire extinguisher, ripped up the magazines and destroyed the whole room.”

When a label rep inspected the damage, she stormed out to their van to admonish the trio only to be met with a waft of smoke (and flaming curtains) when she opened the door. “The rumours were a bit exaggerated when they finally got back to MCA to the extent that we’d assaulted the woman and destroyed the club and completely burned out our van,” Kurt explained. 

Word of rock’s latest young saboteurs was spreading. For better or worse, Nirvana were in bloom.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.