Dave Grohl Recalls ‘Panic Attacks’ Before Nirvana’s First Big Festival Show
Dave Grohl prepared for his ninth appearance at the Reading Festival in England by recalling how scared he’d been in the lead-up to his first show there.
The Foo Fighters leader appeared as a member of Nirvana in 1991, midway up the bill before they headlined the following year. At the time, Reading was a well-established event, although its attendance was around 35,000 rather than its current capacity of 105,000.
In a new interview, Grohl told NME that he’d first heard of the festival from Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters. “I said, ‘Where the fuck was that?’ He said ‘Reading Festival in England’. I said ‘What is that?’ and he told me, ‘This huge music festival where loads of bands get together and play’. I just couldn’t imagine 35,000 people getting together to see bands like Mudhoney or Nirvana. It just didn’t happen in America.”
He continued: “Then when I saw that it was on our itinerary maybe a year later, I was fucking terrified. I would wake up every morning in this panic attack in a fit of anxiety, knowing that there was this festival that I was going to have to play in front of 35,000 people – which I had never done. When we got there that day, I realized how big it really was.”
He described the idea of so many people watching his band as “just unimaginable” at that time, adding: “it blew me away that this many people got together to listen to our type of music. The closest thing we had in America was Lollapalooza, but there was something about this that just seemed like something was about to happen. It really did feel like you were at the start of a revolution. It was cool.”
Recalling Nirvana’s return as headliners in 1992, Grohl admitted even he hadn’t been sure they’d pull it off. “So much had happened in those 12 months,” he said. “The band had obviously had its ups and downs. … I didn’t expect much. Kurt [Cobain] had been in and out of rehab, the band hadn’t really done much in the months leading up to it and everything just seemed sort of scattered and disconnected. We’d had one rehearsal a few days before and it just didn’t feel grounded.”
However, everything “just magically came together,” he continued. “[I]t was an amazing show. It had a lot to do with the audience, I think. I remember walking backstage and bumping into friends from other bands who would look at me and say, What are you doing here?’ I’d say ‘We’re fucking headlining!’ and they’d say, ‘You’re actually gonna play?’ They were just surprised we showed up. For it to turn out to be such a beautiful evening was just something else, and unfortunately the last time we played the U.K.”
The Foo Fighters play the twinned Reading and Leeds festivals this weekend. Grohl reflected: “Reading Festival is also one of those festivals where our bus pulls up, I grab a bottle of whiskey, and I just start knocking on doors. It’s how I’ve met most of my friends. What’s better than that?”