In 1991, a little album called Nevermind by Nirvana was released and things in the Northwest were never the same. Up to that time, Nirvana was just another local punk rock band that came through and played at Portland's Satyricon regularly. The trajectory of Nirvana was breathtaking and it truly did not happen to a more deserving band. There were very few sour grapes in the local press and Nirvana used their celebrity to share the spotlight with other equally talented bands, always mentioning local musical influences in national interviews. Pretty soon there was more media attention in the foggy Northwest then there had been since Lewis and Clark discovered the way to the Pacific Ocean. It wasn't just Seattle and Portland musicians that were being courted to be "The Next Nirvana,"it seemed all of America wanted to be Kurt Cobain and wear ratty ski caps with ripped jeans. (Remember Marc Jacobs' grunge collection in 1992?)
Then in 1992, Nirvana played a benefit show in Portland for the defeat of the anti-gay ballot Measure 9. Also playing at the No On 9 show was the Portland band, Calamity Jane, a punk rock outfit of four women including Marci Martinez on drums, Joanna Bolme on guitar, and sisters Gilly Ann Hanner on guitar and vocals, and Megan Hanner on bass.
In October of that year, Calamity Jane got the call to join Nirvana for a concert at the huge Velez Sarsfield Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The show was on October 30, 1992, and by all accounts, the Calamity girls were given a riotous receptionbut not in a good way. Kurt would later write sarcastically about the show in the liner notes of 1992's Incesticide, "...It was as rewarding as paying Calamity Jane five-thousand dollars to be heckled by twenty thousand macho boys in Argentina..."
Nirvana (especially Kurt) was so pissed off at the crowd for being so rude to Calamity Jane that they wouldn't play their monster hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Instead, the rowdy Argentineans were treated to a 15-minute song consisting entirely of feedback.
The show in Argentina spelled the end of Calamity Jane but each of the members went on to contribute to the musical landscape in the Northwest post-Nirvana. Marci Martinez, Calamity Jane's then 20-year-old drummer, joined Team Dresch in 1993 and played on their highly influential record, 1994's Personal Best.
annabelle asked Marci to recount the events leading up to the infamous Nirvana show. -AW
It's much easier for me to look back at the early 90s in Portland and realize that I was involved in something pretty fucking great. It was a time when punk-rock, indie, grunge, riot grrrl, whatever you want to call it, was taking over the music scene and becoming "The Next Big Thing." I didn't have the wherewithal at that time to realize what I was involved in.
I got asked to join a band called Calamity Jane, an all-girl punk band. Gilly Ann Hanner was one of the first women I saw on stage that not only kicked ass on guitar, but was able to show her anger and frustration with the world through her music. It blew me away. When I was asked to play drums for Calamity Jane in 1992, of course I jumped at the chance. I really wanted to play music with other women. It was still a rarity to see all-women rock bands, let alone ones that rocked!
The first three months of my joining the band was a whirlwind. We played tons of shows, and before we knew it, we were booked to play this political show with Nirvana and Poison Idea. This was post-Nevermind and Nirvana was huge, so this definitely was a big deal to us. The show was about getting young Portland voters to go out and vote against ballot Measure 9. I remember feeling so excited that my band was playing with Nirvana, but also excited to be involved in a very important cause. It was a packed show at the Portland Raceway and a real success.
The ballot measure failed, and not only did we get to make a political statement, but we also were asked to open up for Nirvana in Buenos Aires, Argentina! Yep, for me that was the most exciting momentfinding out we were going to South America. I thought, Does this mean we are going to be famous? I'm sure everyone in the band had that thought. In hindsight, this was the high point for Calamity Jane, and also the beginning of the end.
When we arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires, I was relieved we made it safely (I'm not a fan of flying). We all were exhausted not only from the 11-plus hours in the air but also because we were in the middle of our first U.S. tour. We were greeted by the Argentinean tour managers and taken to our hotel rooms. I was shocked to see a huge crowd of fans waiting outside the hotel. Unfortunately, they were waiting for Nirvana, not us.
We were definitely treated like rock stars. We got our own amazing rooms. After we rested and had some free food, everyone wanted to check out the Buenos Aires night life, except me. I just wanted to lay in my comfortable bed, watch cable TV, and have some quiet time away from everyone else. I remember feeling guilty about not partying or going dancing. Is this what it's like being a rock star? You stay up all night drinking and not being alone very often? I had this feeling then, that I just wasn't ready for that. I was scared of what the lifestyle entailed. I also knew our band was already having some tense moments and weren't getting along that well.
The next day was our sound check and the Big Show. It was more than I expected. For one thing, the show was in a huge futbol stadium. The show was sold-out, which means somewhere around 30,000 people! I was ready for it. We had our sound check, got our catered food backstage, were re-introduced to the guys in Nirvanaand met Courtney Love. What I remember about our first meeting in Portland was that Courtney was loud and obnoxious, Kurt was introverted and hung out in their tour bus with their baby Frances Bean, and Krist and Dave were very nice, outgoing, and personable.
It was the same thing in Argentina. Courtney was obnoxious, but I still admired her tenacity and musical aspirations, and she seemed genuinely into us playing that show and liked our music. I know Kurt felt the same way, but I didn't get the chance to talk to him. He was always somewhere else, off in a corner, in another room, I don't know, he seemed scared of it all. I could relate.
It's showtime! We go on stage and start our first song. From my vantage point, which was on a drum riser behind Gilly, Megan, and Joanna, I thought the crowd was totally into it. Why wouldn't I think that? We'd been successful up to this point, people always came up to us after shows to tell us how "fucking awesome" we were. I realized, during our second song that, NO, that wasn't positive yelling and screaming. They were calling us whores and bitches in Spanish, spitting, throwing dirt clodsdid I mention the spitting? I couldn't believe how far they could spit! Gilly started screaming at them, "Fuck you, fuck off, fuck you!" Then before the song was finished, she threw the mic stand down, took off her guitar and threw that, too, and ran off stage. Megan, Joanna, and I just waited, what seemed like an eternity. The crowd was chanting, "Nirvana! Nirvana!" I didn't know what else to do, so I did a short drum solo while we waited for Gilly to come back out.
I found out later that Courtney told Gilly, "Get back out there, they do this to all of the rock bands, they spit on the Ramones!" So, Gilly came back out and we started the third song. We didn't even get half-way through it before we all just wanted to leave. It's hard to stay focused when you're dodging sharp objects and spit, so we walked off.
There it was. Our big moment. Short lived and totally fucked up. Talk about an ego reduction. It also added to more tension between us band members. We all were disappointed, sad, and we pretty much hated each other. All of this happened in Argentina in less than three daysIN and OUT. We got back to the States, to a broken down van, and attempted to finish our tour but it just didn't happen. The band broke up and we went back to our sucky jobs in our comfortable home townsme and Joanna to Portland and Gilly and Megan to Ashland. Joanna and I stayed friends, even forming another band, but we didn't speak to the Hanner sisters for years. Now that time has passed, we are all friends again and can laugh about this. Even with all of the drama that went along with our break-up, I wouldn't change a thing. I'm fortunate enough to have had that experience and I'm glad I experienced it with Gilly, Megan, and Joanna.
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