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The night Nirvana wowed Norwich

PUBLISHED: 13:30 31 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:40 29 October 2010

Rob Garratt

It was 20-years ago today that a little known band from Seattle turned up to play at Norwich Arts Centre - but those in the audience will never forget the day they saw Nirvana.

It was 20-years ago today that a little known band from Seattle turned up to play at Norwich Arts Centre - but those in the audience will never forget the day they saw Nirvana.

The iconic rockers were not even headliners when they performed at the St Benedict's Street venue, but within two years they were global superstars.

More than 200 people turned out for the gig on October 30, 1989, less than two years before they released megahit Smells Like Teen Spirit from the Nevermind album which catapulted them to stardom.

Fans today relived the night they will always remember - as a rare clip of audio from the night surfaced.

The gig was put on by Norwich alternative institution The Wilde Club, which has brought bands including Oasis, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, My Bloody Valentine and Muse to the city.

At the time the band, lead by tragic frontman Kurt Cobain who killed himself in 1994, were on a co-headline tour with fellow rockers Tad - and that night it was Nirvana's turn to go on stage first.

Rock photographer Al Pulford says his greatest regret was leaving his camera at home that night.

The 41-year-old, who lives in Hotblack Road, Norwich, said: “It was definitely something different, they were not your run of the mill band.

“They were falling all over the place. They seemed to have to retune between every song and took absolutely ages, they were still at the very early stages and on their way up.”

The man who put on the gig - Wilde Club founder Barry Newman - missed Nirvana's set because he was working on the box office.

But the gig holds a very special significance for the promoter, who says the memory of the night has helped him in a battle with depression and anxiety.

Today a felt-tipped flyer from the gig is the only piece of memorabilia he still has on display at his home, despite booking scores of bands over the years.

Mr Newman said: “It was a great gig but it was just another gig, but later they became the biggest band in the world. I sat back and thought 'I put this lot on'.

“The gig is a memory of what I have achieved in my life. It's something that no one can take away - I was smart enough to spot them when they were a little known band and put them on in Norwich, and no one else can say that.”

Tomorrow the Wilde Club will celebrate an unofficial 20th anniversary of Nirvana's performance with another Arts Centre gig featuring Bomb Factory, Scumbag Philosopher, Arcadia Lake and Red Light.

Fan Fraser McKay, of Park Lane, Wymondham, was also in the audience twenty years ago today.

The 39-year-old said: “The thing was most people were there to see Tad, not Nirvana - but Nirvana blew everybody away. Cobain was on his knees playing guitar. I went out and bought their first album after that.”

A year later Nirvana returned to the city to play the Waterfront - a gig so poorly attended it lost money - and Mr McKay was there again.

He scored a signed LP and a backstage interview with the band for his music fanzine, but missed the opportunity to talk to future Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.

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