Kurt Cobain is a music legend, so you might expect his hometown to have a museum or giant statue in the town square that celebrates his worldwide fame. As the frontman for Nirvana, Cobain helped put Washington state on the map as the birthplace of grunge.
When passing through Aberdeen, Washington– where Cobain met Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic and attended high school– I was surprised to find few references to the rock star or his band.
I only discovered by accident, while entering photo locations on Instagram, that there is a Kurt Cobain memorial in Aberdeen. It’s a ramshackle tribute consisting of sculptures and fan graffiti that, fittingly, can be found under the very bridge that Cobain immortalized in songs like “Something in the Way.”
While it’s no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Kurt Cobain Memorial is a worthy stop for ’90s teens and all Nirvana fans!
Under the bridge
In a location that can only be described as marginal, the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park is difficult for a traveler to find. Armed with directions from our B&B hostess (whose child had gone to high school with Cobain), we managed to locate it after circling through a working class neighborhood with several boarded-up homes. We parked on a dead-end street at the entrance of the park, marked by a giant guitar sculpture and plaque inscribed with Cobain quotes.
The real attraction is the graffiti under the Young Street Bridge, scrawled by legions of Nirvana fans since the singer’s death. The entire underside of the bridge is covered with portraits, messages and conspiratorial claims like “Courtney Killed Kurt.”
Spending a night in Aberdeen, driving past factories and hardscrabble neighborhoods, and then seeing the bridge where Cobain and other teens hung out, I had a deeper understanding of Nrivana’s lyrics. The bridge even served as a temporary home to the angst-ridden rocker:
Underneath the bridge
The tarp has sprung a leak
And the animals I’ve trapped
Have all become my pets
And I’m living off of grass
And the drippings from the ceiling
But it’s ok to eat fish
Cause they don’t have any feelings
– Lyrics to “Something In The Way” by Nirvana
A must-see attraction
I’m glad we drove a bit out of our way on a Portland-to-Seattle road trip to stay in Aberdeen. The fact that the memorial seems so “unofficial” actually adds to its charm, although it is strange that the town doesn’t play up this connection with an uber-famous celebrity who changed the course of rock music.
Perhaps the portrayal of Aberdeen in Cobain’s music and life story doesn’t mesh with the image the town wants to convey.
Other than the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, there isn’t much to see on a brief stopover in Aberdeen.
When heading out of town, we saw a sign for a “Public Market” and made an abrupt u-turn. The market had a small town Americana feel, with vendors selling miniature cherry pies, clam sausages and hand-sewn aprons. I could imagine how growing up in such a low-key town could lead to some serious teenage angst. (But the pie was quite tasty).
Elsewhere on the Nirvana Trail
While Aberdeen does not have a world-class museum with Cobain or Nirvana artifacts, fans can find a fitting tribute in Seattle’s EMP Museum. The seemingly permanent Nirvana exhibit, titled “Taking Punk to the Masses,” features items even the casual Sassy reader will recognize.
Cobain’s fuzzy vintage sweater, the life-size anatomical mannequin that appeared on Nirvana’s In Utero cover, and Cobain’s hand-drawn concert flier for an early show are all on display. The exhibit brought back 1990s memories and taught me a thing or two about the band and Washington music scene that I hadn’t known.