Along the muddy banks of the Wishkah, under the often dreary and gray skies of Grays Harbor, the spirit of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana live on. Not much has changed in Aberdeen and Hoquiam since Kurt roamed the streets as a child and teen, but the places he frequented in his youth are now visited by those hoping to get a taste of the region that defined Kurt, his music and the Pacific Northwest.
Aberdeen was home to grunge and Kurt, whose lyrics portrayed emotional honesty. While Kurt was alive, he and Aberdeen had a tumultuous relationship at best. Today, the relationship has improved as the city and the region recognize his work and celebrate him as the incredible artist and musician he was.
As you enter Aberdeen from the east, the city’s celebration of Nirvana’s front man is obvious thanks to the large “Welcome to Aberdeen” sign including the phrase, “Come as You Are.” Erected in 2005, the sign helps show the changing perception of one of Aberdeen’s most famous residents and is one of the most photographed images in Grays Harbor County. There is a pullout along the highway to snap a quick picture, but the true Kurt Cobain and Nirvana experience is found throughout town, making for a perfect day of exploring and experiencing Kurt’s early years.
Weatherwax High School
Kurt attended J.M. Weatherwax High School, also known as Aberdeen High School, for a short time before dropping out and today the school lists him as one of their notable alumni. Located downtown, just three blocks from the famous Wishkah River, the school actually saw very little of Kurt. However, the school remains an important stop along Kurt’s journey as it also served as one of Kurt’s places of employment as he struggled to find his sound and form a band. His gig as a janitor at Weatherwax helped provide enough money to rent his first apartment in town, located eight blocks away at 404 N. Michigan Street in Aberdeen. As you look at the school and walk down West 3rd Street, you’ll be tracing the path Kurt took as he travelled between work and home.
The Kurt Cobain Tour
To further understand and connect with Kurt’s life in Aberdeen, the Aberdeen Museum of History has a walking tour tracing nearly every aspect of Kurt’s youth. The tour winds through neighborhoods, showing where Kurt would sleep on doorsteps and even where he was first arrested for graffiti sprayed on the alley wall of a local bank. The tour includes a visit to Kurt’s childhood home and the house he rented and first recorded his music with two-thirds of the band that eventually became Nirvana. Located at 1000-1/2 E. Second Street, the home was the last place Kurt lived before moving to Olympia and forming the band Nirvana. The full walking tour is incredible, giving you a glimpse at the town and economy that helped shape Kurt’s social outlook and emotional lyrics.
Known by many names, this small park is located right along the banks of the Wishkah River and is said to be one of the most frequented places in town by Kurt and other neighborhood youth during the 80s. Adorned with pictures, graffiti, a sculpture of a guitar and an air guitar stand, the park has been transformed into the number one destination for pilgrimages of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain fans for years. Fans, and those hoping to understand Kurt more, can sit under the same bridge he did, watching the same muddy river flow out to the Pacific Ocean. While small, the park is one of the most moving places where the spirt of Kurt Cobain can be felt. This is where a young kid dreamed of music and making a life doing what he loved. The banks of the river offer inspiration and hope to this day for many people. This is also the spot where Kurt’s ashes are said to have been spread.
The Nirvana Mural
Once you have walked the tour and taken some time to soak in the aura of Kurt along the Wishkah River, head back into town and visit a few sites throughout Aberdeen that celebrate Kurt’s life. One of the frequently photographed destinations is the Nirvana Mural, located on the Moore’s Building on Wishkah Street. Stretching 68 feet in length, the mural represents the complexities of Kurt’s life and celebrates the band and the artistic impact they had. Hung in 2014 during a ceremony by Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic and Nirvana’s first drummer, Aaron Burckhard, the mural celebrates the town, the band and, of course, Kurt.
Sucher and Sons
Finally, once you have seen the Nirvana and Kurt sights around Aberdeen, a stop to Sucher and Sons is a must. While the store is one of the largest Star Wars shops you will ever see, it also doubles as a Kurt Cobain information station, selling Nirvana goods and even dirt from the park along the Wishkah River where Kurt is rumored to have slept under the bridge. If you want Nirvana gear from the town where Kurt was born, this is your best bet.
Whether you are a hard-core Nirvana fan, or simply curious about the roots of one of the most talented rockers of the 90s, you can “Come as You Are” to Aberdeen and get a taste of Kurt Cobain’s life and legacy.