It was a gig that Nirvana were rumored to have bailed on, but they showed up and played a now-iconic set. The band’s performance 27 years ago at England’s Reading Festival is the stuff of legend, as is the fashion choice of late frontman Kurt Cobain.
Now, more than a quarter century later, Cobain’s hospital gown from the 1992 gig is up for auction, and is expected to fetch more than $50,000. The garment is being put on the block by Boston-based auction house RR Auctions beginning March 14th, with a page devoted to the item here.
A letter of provenance certifying the gown’s authenticity from the unidentified owner details how it was received from Courtney Love during a vigil for Cobain in Seattle:
“A few days after his death, there was a vigil for Cobain at the Seattle Center… About a dozen of us stayed long after the festivities ended. We sat in the Flag Pavilion listening to music… just hanging out among the candles and flowers fans had placed there earlier. Late that evening, Courtney Love showed up accompanied by Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland with a bag of Kurt’s clothes. She was visibly grief-stricken and proceeded to pass the clothes out while asking trivia about Kurt’s life… She handed me his hospital gown from the legendary Reading Festival performance from 1992. She then cried on my shoulder for a while. I tried to say something reassuring about his love for her and she pushed me away, insisting that he only loved Frances… The entire incident was sad. And weird. And it blew my teenage mind.”
The auction house, meanwhile, describes the gown as follows: “This iconic and museum-quality piece represents the Nirvana frontman at his finest and most sardonic, jabbing pointedly at critics and detractors alike while retaining the intensely original showmanship that made him a living legend.”
Last year, Dave Grohl opened up about the Reading set to Kerrang! magazine. “I remember showing up to Reading ’92 and there being so many rumours that we weren’t going to play, that we had canceled,” recalled Grohl. “I walked backstage and some of my best friends in bands that were opening would see me and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ And I’d go, ‘We’re f*cking headlining!’ And they’d be like, ‘You’re actually going to play?!’ I didn’t realize there was any question that we were going to play.”
He added, “The show was a really reassuring, genuinely magical moment of everything coming together at the right time. I think we had practiced once, the day before, and I just didn’t know if we could pull it off … it went great, but it’s sad that that’s the last time we ever played England, because it could have been better.”
Rumors of the no-show swirled due to reports of Cobain’s rampant drug use at the time. Some outlets even reported that the Nirvana frontman had been arrested. In a sly move, Cobain was rolled out in a wheelchair to start the gig, hamming it up by singing a bit of Bette Midler’s “The Rose” and pretending to collapse onstage before beginning the set.