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Grunge turns 20. I remember when Nirvana was an opening act...

I saw Nirvana play several times before they got "big" in '91. They were just an underfed punk band playing hundreds of dates a year, traveling in a smelly van with all their equipment, a few dozen T-shirts and some old pizza boxes and empty beer cans.

We saw them open for Eleventh Dream Day one night at Metro, when Chad Channing was still their drummer, circa 1989-90. Not many people were there for the opening band, preferring to hold out for the headliner, so my friends and I got right up front.

We were treated to 40 minutes of three guys in lumberjack shirts playing as if their lives depended on it. Cobain seemed seriously deranged, like a rag doll being tossed around the stage in the jaws of some giant, invisible Rottweiler.

Finally he dived head-first into the drum kit. Channing kept playing. They trashed all their gear, leaving open the question of what instruments they were going to use when they played in some other city the next night.

I'll never forget the big bass drum rolling toward us at the lip of the stage, like a boulder in "Indiana Jones."

-- Greg Kot

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