Half way through I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana, Kevin Franke of the band Vegas Voodoo describes Kurt Cobain as “almost a ghost presence.” This kind of sums up Nick Soulsby’s book, which largely consists of the memories of musicians from obscure bands who played some gigs with Nirvana or saw them play but didn’t really know them very well. Too often we get snatches about how Krist Novoselic is tall or liked to party, or Cobain seemed shy or like he might have been on drugs, but insights about who these people really were and continue to be are rare. That’s because I Found My Friends is less the story of Nirvana and more the story of the music scene surrounding them. One thing we already knew about the group is that they were always supportive of bands that never cracked the “Alternative Nation” playlists, and Soulsby gives these musicians a chance to explain what it was like to play all the shitty, lice-infected clubs Nirvana did in their early years, or in the case of Calamity Jane, open for Nirvana at a huge post-stardom show in Buenos Aires where the crowd showered them with abuse.
While Nirvana fans who come to this book expecting inside information on the band members’ personal lives or studio work will be disappointed, I Found My Friends is a compelling read for those who are simply interested in the nineties rock scene or the often thankless and grinding experience of being in a band in any era. And along the way we do get some genuinely valuable tidbits about Kurt and Krist’s generousness, playfulness, loutishness, devotion to worthy causes, and talent (there’s precious little about their drummers, and that includes Dave Grohl). Soulsby includes some odd comments as well, such as the occasional “I didn’t stick around to watch Nirvana’s set and never thought they were any good anyway,” an anonymous person’s account of his/her own heroin experiences, and the concluding string of eulogies for musicians from other bands, some of which are never even mentioned elsewhere in the book.
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