In October 1992, Nirvana arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina to perform at the José Amalfitani Stadium, also known as the Vélez Stadium. Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic were accompanied by Courtney Love and their daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.
The band had just released ‘Nevermind‘ and, as part of their South American tour, they would perform at the (now infamous) Coca Cola Rock Festival with a dream lineup: in addition to Nirvana, the opening acts included Brian May, Joe Cocker, Keith Richards, B-52s, and Os Paralamas.
However, the night ended up sabotaged by the Seattle band themselves, who gave the worst concert of their history to punish the sexist audience.
Calamity Jane’s Concert in Argentina
On October 30, 1992, Nirvana would perform after the Argentinian band Los Brujos and Calamity Jane. The latter was a band from Portland, Oregon, and part of the Riot Grrrl movement within the grunge scene: they hung out with L7, Babes in Toyland, and Bikini Kill. The band’s vocalist and guitarist, Gilly Ann Hanner, was a good friend of Kurt Cobain’s since they met in Olympia and the two bands played together in Portland.
That night, at the Vélez Stadium, Los Brujos played their set normally. After them, Calamity Jane was up. As soon as the four women took the stage, the audience greeted them with insults, throwing objects like coins and piles of cameras, spitting at them, and showing their genitals. Years later, Hanner gave an interview to Clarín in which she addressed the incident as one of the worst of her career:
“What happened in Buenos Aires was that everything was immense and we had a language barrier. We were out of our element while they threw coins, spit, stones, and some even exhibited their penises,” she recalled. “They shouted ‘whores!’ and showed their genitals, so beyond the impatience they might have had to see Nirvana, we took it as a gender issue.”
After that, Hanner says she and her bandmates took years to recover: “That night had a big impact on our self-esteem. Combined with the fact that we returned home with our guitars broken and had to wait three months to get paid due to a management problem. We were disheartened and decided to go back to Oregon without even finishing the tour. Our spirits were low, and it took us years to recover.”
The Worst Concert in Nirvana’s History
After the boos to Calamity Jane, Nirvana finally took the stage. Kurt Cobain didn’t hide how upset he was with the Argentine audience who had humiliated his colleagues and companions.
For that concert, they had planned a setlist that included several songs from ‘Nevermind’, but the band decided to take revenge and play their little-known songs (for that reason, paradoxically, the most die-hard fans say it was one of the concerts with the best repertoire in history, although that is debatable).
Cobain mumbled the lyrics and sang half-heartedly. They played the intro to “Smells like Teen Spirit” twice but never the complete song, as if to tease the audience that they were going to play their most famous song and then didn’t. In the end, after an encore with “All Apologies” and “Endless Nameless,” Cobain smashed his guitar and left. You can watch the sad and legendary full concert below:
In the book Nirvana: The Chosen Rejects by Kurt St. Thomas and Troy Smith, the authors quote an occasion where, years later, Kurt Cobain spoke about what happened with Calamity Jane in Buenos Aires: “Throughout their whole set, the audience threw money and anything they had in their pockets, trash and rocks, just to intimidate them. There came a point where the girls couldn’t take it anymore and started crying. It was terrible, one of the worst things I’ve seen, a huge mass of sexism.”