Arizona State Fair Concerts

Nirvana Played the Arizona State Fair Exactly 25 Years Ago Today

We're deep in the midst of the Arizona State Fair's annual spate of concerts – including tonight's Anthrax gig at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum – and wanted to look back at one of the more significant shows to take place at the event, which happened exactly 25 years ago today.

Back on October 18, 1993, grunge rock vanguards Nirvana played to a packed house at coliseum and performed what would be their final Phoenix show ever.

The show came approximately six months before singer Kurt Cobain's suicide and served as the official kickoff to their In Utero tour and, as such, featured statues of winged pregnant women (similar to those depicted on the album's art work) on stage.

It was a lengthy show (which satisfied the state fair's penchant to book at least one hip or tastemaking band each year) as Nirvana's set lasted 21 songs including the encore, and had tunes from all three of the band's major albums. Plus, the show featured Germs member Pat Smear on guitar as he had been added to the lineup at that point, and even got an introduction by future Foo Fighter Dave Grohl.

To illustrate how long ago the show was – other than the fact that Cobain was still alive – the show was sponsored by the old KZRX (a.k.a. Z-Rock). While we couldn't find any footage of the show itself (probably because video cameras were the size of bricks back then) there's a remarkably decent bootleg of the show available on YouTube.

It picks up during the second song of the set and includes plenty of amusing between-song patter by the band. At around the 22-minute mark, Bassist Krist Novoselic even brought up the band's now-legendary gig at the old Mason Jar and possibly made a joke at the expense of its famously stingy owner Franco Gagliano.

"Did anyone ever come to a show in 1990 at the Mason Jar where Nirvana played with Tad? Are you one of the 10 people out there?," Novoselic says. "We had to pay rent on the microphones ... and we woke up in front of strange houses."

For you Nirvana completists, here's the complete set list for the concert.

Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
Drain You
Serve the Servants
About a Girl
Heart-Shaped Box
Sliver Dumb
In Bloom
Come as You Are
Pennyroyal Tea
Milk It
Rape Me
Territorial Pissings
Smells Like Teen Spirit
All Apologies

Endless, Nameless 

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.