Kurt Cobain’s Fear of Selling out & the Story Behind Nirvana’s Scrapped Plans to Headline Lollapalooza 1994

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain tragically died by su*cide 30 years ago. He was 27. Cobain had shot himself in the head at his home in Seattle on April 5, 1994, although his body wasn’t discovered until three days later.

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In the weeks leading up to his death, Cobain had overdosed on sleeping pills and alcohol, and also, according to wife Courtney Love, had threatened to kill himself another time. After Love arranged an invention with a group of his friends, Cobain agreed to enter a detox facility in Los Angeles on March 30, 1994. After a short stay, however, he left the facility and took a flight to Seattle, where he died a few days later.

About Nirvana’s Aborted Plan to Headline Lollapalooza in 1994

Before Cobain’s death, Nirvana had agreed to headline the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival tour. At the time, the band had become the flag bearers for grunge rock and the alternative rock scene, something that didn’t sit well with Cobain. On April 6, before Cobain’s body was discovered, Nirvana announced that they were pulling out of the tour, citing concerns for the frontman’s health.

Nirvana’s involvement with the festival is profiled in the new docuseries Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza, which premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival in January. The three-part series will be shown on the Paramount+ streaming service at a future date.

As explained in a People article, Cobain felt that Nirvana would be “selling out” by participating in the Lollapalooza tour. 1994 marked the third year for the touring festival, with a lineup also set to feature the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, and The Breeders.

In a clip from the docuseries, Lollapalooza co-founder Don Muller said, “We were planning the festival and Nirvana thought about it but decided that they couldn’t do it. Kurt couldn’t do it.”

John Rubeli, who booked the acts for Lollapalooza’s second stage from 1993 to 1995, then explained Cobain’s reasoning for not wanting to play the fest, noting that he alternative rock as becoming part of the mainstream at that point.

“Kurt was terrified of selling out and Lolla was a sellout moment I think for them,” Rubeli maintained. “He very clearly at that point was talking about how he looked in the audience and he saw all of the people that were beating him up in school.”

Footage of Cobain Confirming Nirvana’s Lollapalooza Plans

Interestingly, footage exists of Cobain being interviewed in Portugal in February 1994 confirming Nirvana’s plans to play Lollapalooza that year. Sadly, it was not to be.

Courtney Love’s Lollapalooza Tribute to Cobain

During the tour, Love appeared at a number of shows, and played a couple of Hole songs. She also asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence for her late husband.

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