Why You Shouldn’t Be Sad You Missed Nirvana’s Secret Show


I was at St. Vitus, where “Nirvana” (or rather, one half of the Foo Fighters plus Krist Novoselic) played a “secret show” last night. I didn’t see that show. The bar staff told me, and everyone who had been there to see another band, Boyfrndz, to get out at 11:00. They told us they were shooting a music video, and we, all 20 or so of us, needed to leave, and quickly.

Standing outside, watching Boyfrndz load their donated gear into the trailer they rent for $20 a day (their original gear, and their van, was stolen in San Francisco last month), I didn’t think to question the urgency with which St. Vitus’s staff had ushered us out. I’ve never been on a music video shoot before. I guessed that whatever band they were filming wanted a closed set.

Almost immediately after the show ended, St. Vitus hustled the band and its merch table outside along with everyone else, so the bandmates were forced to take breaks from loading their gear to swap merch for cash on the street out front of the bar.

“The people who work at this bar are fucking dicks,” said one the bandmates as he popped open a plastic storage bin full of T-shirts.

“Why, what did they do?” I asked.

“They were just really rude and pushy about getting us out of there,” he replied. It did seem odd to me that even the band would be thrown out on the street. In my experience, one or two drinks on the house after a show is usually the norm, but, again, I didn’t know how these things work. I don’t even know for sure if the guys telling us to get out worked for St. Vitus. They might have been Nirvana’s guys.

In hindsight, it makes sense, obviously. They were clearing out the $8-paying hoi polloi to make room for the invite-only “secret Nirvana show.”

I’m not a music writer; I don’t get invited to secret shows. I’m OK with that. Others are more appreciative and deserving. Nor am I the world’s biggest Nirvana fan. How could I be? Their musical career and my lifespan overlapped for a mere seven years, my first seven (that makes me 27, no need to do the math).

If Nirvana is going to play a secret show, I don’t deserve to be there. But who does? What, in other words, is the “point” of secret shows? Why not just play a regular show? Why not just play at Barclay’s and charge $200 a ticket? At the very least, their roadies wouldn’t have had to lug all their stuff across town after the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The reason secret shows are cool, to my mind at least, is that anyone might luck in to seeing one. Not all of Dave Grohl’s fans (whoever they are) can afford to pay $300 for a ticket to a 3-day music festival to see him play. But secret shows represent a kind of unspoken contract between fans and artists: that, if you’re a good music fan, if you support small bands by going to their shows even when you’re broke, if you participate in your local music scene, and if you’re very lucky, you might be able to see a band that you’d never otherwise be able to see.

Or, if you’re in a band, and you’re touring, and playing small venues, and struggling to make it as a musician, you might be lucky enough to see one of your idols perform.  Secret shows should be a way for huge bands to reward responsible music fans and less famous musicians, in other words. This wasn’t a secret show, not in that sense. This was a venue telling a band they booked (and their fans), a band that made sure their bar wasn’t totally empty on a Thursday, to take a hike because a bigger, more famous band came knocking.

“Thanks, but get your shit and get out. Nirvana wants to play a secret show. No, you can’t stay. Invite-only. Actually, forget about a secret show. There’s no show. We’re filming a music video. You still have to leave, though.”

And that’s why you shouldn’t be sad that you missed Nirvana’s secret show. It wasn’t really a secret show. It was a very exclusive concert. And they would have kicked you out anyway.

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  1. Makes me feel much better about not being there!! Agreed –> point of secret shows SHOULD be that they are open to anyone that happens to be in luck that night!!

  2. Sounds lame. When I lived in Chicago, Jack White just showed up to play at Reckless Records for a secret show. I don’t think the record store even new he was going to be there.

  3. This makes no sense. Obviously Nirvana’s “secret show” was not meant to reward hardcore fans out supporting local/lesser known musicians with a surprise appearance; it was invite-only. It seems to have basically been an after-party. It sucks that the club’s staff were rude, but of course they weren’t going to pass up the publicity of hosting this thing, and of course they needed the current occupants out.

  4. liger woods says:

    it was a over 40 show kids. sorry 🙁

  5. the people who run saint vitus are seriously some of the nicest people ive ever met in my life. maybe they were under some pressure cause all of the 90’s showed up and wanted to play. cut vitus some slack

  6. Sugarshot says:

    So, it wasn’t a secret show; it was a private party. The logistical switch from public bar to private party could have been handled with a bit more grace but Nirvana had a right to celebrate their induction with a private show for family and friends. They’ve never been cheesy or exploitative about their legacy and it was probably very fun and healing to play without the shit show a public gig might have been like, at least on that night.

  7. Get a grip, Junior. If you are too young to understand why a bar would need to clear the space to set up for a historic and once-in-lifetime thing, then you didn’t belong there to begin with.

  8. Tony robins says:

    The bar staff was not rude. The show was only pushed an hour off schedule. Fucking cry babies. The band who was supposed to go on first at 8:30 shows up at 8:45 forcing the second band to go on first. Ham an eggs. The whole thing. If the bands would have been cool and not shitty attitude having dicks, they’d have been asked to stay for the event. And by bands I really just mean boyfriends. Because the other bands were understanding and super cool about it. Get off your entitled high horse.

    • Taylor Wofford says:

      I’m confused. You were there, too? Did the other band (I don’t know who that was) get to stay and see the show?

  9. Wait, I’m confused.. if you’re 40 or over, you could have gotten in?

  10. The Party says:

    The staff of St. Vitus is probably the nicest bar staff in Brooklyn. I’m sure there was a misunderstanding. But either way, I never really saw this billed as a fan-centric secret show. It was a private party. Get over it nerds.

  11. I second The Party. Vitus partners and staff are solid and chill. I am sure there was huge pressure from the good folks at corporate rock hq, as you can imagine.

    • I’m not angry or bitter about missing this show. I was just curious as to what the deal actually was. Like if I could have gotten in, had I known. In fact, I’d rather hear that I couldn’t have gotten in than to have to think I missed what would have been the greatest night of my life. haha, especially since I was just sitting in Penn Station the whole time this was happening just a short distance away.

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