“Here we are now, entertain us” is just one of the lyrics from the groundbreaking grunge song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from ’90s band Nirvana.
More than 20 years since the song’s release, it still has staying power. Just as Eric Hogan of Nevermind, a Nirvana tribute band.
The Atlanta, Georgia-based Nevermind, billed as the ultimate tribute to Nirvana, takes the stage 7:30 p.m. Friday at the historic Abbeville Opera House. Opening for Nevermind is local band the Unified Lights.
Nevermind front man Eric Hogan, 45, said the AOH show will strive to recreate the sound of the 1990s grunge rock band’s iconic concert from MTV Unplugged, of which the set list did not include “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
With a handful of albums in its discography, the one from Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert in New York in 1993, is considered significant, in part because it was released not long after Kurt Cobain’s death, but also because it showcased the band’s talent in an unexpected way, Hogan said.
“The unplugged show is a very cool thing,” Hogan said. “We’ve got piano involved and we do the entire MTV Unplugged album, start to finish. We get people who drive hours and hours to see our show who saw Nirvana before they were big.”
Hogan said he’s excited to play Abbeville Opera House.
“It looks beautiful,” he said. “To play this album in this setting is a huge turn on. I hope people pack the place. As a musician this is super cool.”
The true magic of that unplugged Nirvana recording, Hogan said, is that Nirvana had not done that before musically.
“It allows you to see the beauty of some of those songs without the massive production and the roaring guitars,” Hogan said. “It shows you these are good songs because they can be translated to acoustic. Eighty percent of the Unplugged album is cover songs, not Nirvana songs. It proved this was a band that had more to offer than just yelling and breaking things and a fashion statement.”
From Cobain’s raw-throated vocals to Dave Grohl’s forceful drumming and Cobain and Krist Novoselic’s noisy guitars, Nirvana’s brand of grunge defined a generation coming of age in the early ‘90s.
“I was coming out of high school when Nirvana happened,” Hogan said. “Nirvana is my wife’s favorite’s band of all time. She actually bought one of Kurt Cobain’s guitars.”
Hogan first heard Nirvana in 1989.
“A girlfriend I had an in high school listened to their first album, ‘Bleach’ and I thought it was atrocious,” Hogan admitted. “When Nevermind was released, I was at a friend’s house and saw a video on MTV for ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ before the song had hit radio. I was transfixed. Next thing you know, it was the biggest thing in the world. I love everything off of that album. It left such an imprint...There’s a pop sensibility to that album that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the Nirvana catalog. It’s a strong, well-written record.”
Nirvana, Hogan said, changed the music landscape. He got to see them live at the Omni in Atlanta.
“To me, they were a melodic, edgy band, but when you went to see them live though, they were absolutely a punk band,” Hogan said.
“What Nirvana did, they were able to put into words and into guitars and drums, the angst that a generation was feeling at that time,” Hogan added. “Who felt disenfranchised by the music industry throughout the ‘80s, together, in a concise way, on a record, and package that with this band that didn’t belong. And, show that the misfits belong somewhere, too.”
Hogan said Nevermind will play to an audience of 2,000 people today and easily half of the audience is under the age of 18. Many of those youngsters in the audience weren’t even born when Nirvana was together as a band.
“They know the songs just as well as I do,” he said. “The band sold some 64 million albums and the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart, still carries T-shirts with the Nirvana logo on it in 2019. What does that tell you?”
Hogan said Nevermind the ultimate tribute to Nirvana started to take shape one Halloween, years ago, when his bassist Mike Odenbrett was trying to salvage a gig booking that wasn’t coming together.
“We played some Stone Temple Pilots,” Hogan said. “Then, we did the Foo Fighters and we did Nirvana. The place was packed wall-to-wall, out to the parking lot, with people in Nirvana T-shirts. Right after that, I started receiving tons of correspondence from venues and promoters wanting this Nirvana tribute.”
Hogan is a self-described “good vocal mimic” who grew up in the Southern indie music hotbed of Athens, Georgia.
“My father was an Elvis impersonator,” Hogan said. “I grew up with an ability, just like him, to find an entertainer I liked and do an impression. Not only could I do the voice and play guitar, but I could wear the clothes and I have the blond hair. It was all dumb luck, but everyone loves it.”
With tribute bands, Hogan said it’s important to “give the audience what they think they remember about that band.”