Nirvana tribute, performance by original member Krist Novoselic coming to Grays Harbor County festival


It took a series of chance encounters for Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic to headline a June 21 festival in the band's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington in honor of international Make Music Day.

"[My wife and I] were traveling and she stopped in Thorp and just happened to bump into a guy that had some Nirvana stuff. Next thing you know, he's the drummer from Screaming Trees," the festival's organizer Wil Russoul said in a phone call with the Olympian.

Russoul, who used to volunteer with the Grays Harbor Sheriff's Department, was at a gathering with other first responders when he found a more direct way to contact Novoselic.

"I was talking to another first responder about this, and we didn't know each other, we were just caught up in the conversation in the room. And he said, 'Let me talk to you privately.' He said, 'Do you want to have Krist Novoselic come?'"

The other first responder, it turned out, was a relative of Novoselic's, and put the two in touch.

"And of course Krist, we didn't know this, but he was on another conversation with the Screaming Trees drummer," Russoul said.

Nirvana bassist and Heart guitarist headline

Along with Novoselic, the event will be headlined by Heart guitarist Roger Fisher and his current band, Fisher Brothers and the Human Tribe.

Fisher was easier to reach than the Nirvana bassist. Darrell Westmoreland, a music photographer who's active in the Aberdeen music world, suggested bringing the Heart guitarist on board.

"He said, 'You know, I'm going to call my friend Roger up and see if he'll come down and maybe he'll give a guitar away and we can just have a little bit more publicity.' 'It's like, okay, call Roger.' Well who's Roger? He's a Grammy-winning, Hall of Fame guitarist, founding member of Heart," Russoul said.

Not only did both musicians agree to perform, they decided to bring bands with them and each play an entire set.

"So then what happened is like, damn the budgets, we're throwing personal money at this, we're asking for all sorts of community partners, we're just like we have to make this happen," Russoul said.

Who else is performing?

In addition to the headliners, dozens of local musicians will perform throughout the day. The festival will have open mic stages, and live performances scattered across downtown's sidewalks. Aberdeen mayor Douglas Orr will even play piano at the Aberdeen Art Center.

There will also be lessons workshops, with sessions range from introductory harmonica to a sea shanty sing along. Performers can sign up on the event's website in order to be entered into a raffle to win a Gibson Les Paul guitar, but any musician is welcome to show up and start playing, according to Russoul.

Nirvana tours and other events

On the Nirvana front, attendees will have a chance to preview a Cobain "tribute gallery" that won't be open until next year. The gallery is run by Dani Bacon, another one of the event's organizers.

"We, in 2018, bought Kurt Cobain's childhood home and we turned that into a museum," Bacon said. "It's not open to the public yet but it will be here in just a few weeks to make reservations. We've created a downtown presence so we can have what we're calling the Kurt Cobain tribute gallery. This is a very experiential place that we're in, so it's like you'll be walking through his house without going into his house."

Bacon is also working on a museum, called the Green Room, dedicated to the history of grunge music, and the Unplugged Lounge, which Bacon described as a "hub" for the museum and gallery. Both will open on Make Music Day.

Attendees will have the chance to go on a guided Nirvana walking tour to spots around town instrumental in the band's origin. There are three more walking tours scheduled throughout the day to take attendees through Cobain's childhood neighborhood. (Rumor has it that if you complete all four tours, Cobain himself will come back from the grave and tell you to stop stalking him.)

The full schedule is available on the event's website.

The event is free, and festivities start at 8:00, although the performances don't begin until noon.

What is Make Music Day?

Make Music Day began in France in 1982 as "Fête de la Musique," a day of encouraging musicians to play in public, according to the French Agency for the Promotion of Higher Education, International Student Services, and International Mobility. It's since turned into an annual occurrence every June 21, and has spread to dozens of countries.

This is the second year Aberdeen is hosting a festival, according to Russoul, after the town's inaugural celebration in 2023.

"We thought it was important, 'Hey, first day of the summer the rest of the world is celebrating World Music Day, we should formalize things we've done in the past and just call it — we're gonna do it to.' Dani and I had maybe two weeks, maybe three weeks. So, like are we crazy? We shouldn't do this. But we did."

The organizers decided to follow it up with a bigger event this year. This time, they got the support from the national organizing body for Make Music Day, who tried to call Russoul after last year's festival.

"I called them back and it was the National Alliance for Make Music Day. And they said, 'First of all, we're amazed that you guys did this. It got so much attention. And we actually want to formalize something with you because you already check everything we believe in.'"

Russoul knows the headliners will get all the attention, but he said the event is ultimately about the Aberdeen music community.

"Just as important to us, we've had kids on the radio day — ten years old, writing songs, playing instruments," Russoul said. "This is about them, this is not about just the headliner."


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