Underneath the North Aberdeen Bridge, where Kurt Cobain’s tarp once sprung a leak (assuming you believe “Something in the Way” to be autobiographical), there’s a single rose decaying into the muddy banks of the Wishkah River.

This guitar sculpture can be found at Kurt Cobain Landing in Aberdeen (Photo by KATIE MCGREGOR)

This guitar sculpture can be found at Kurt Cobain Landing in Aberdeen (Photo by KATIE MCGREGOR) Likely dropped by a Cobain fan as tribute to the fallen Nirvana front man, the once-pretty pink flower is surrounded by empty Budweiser cans, plastic 7-Eleven grocery bags, and a pristine copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind CD in its case — held upright on the ground by a drying, well-placed dab of the riverbed’s malodorous mud.

Above, a rusty water pipe guards entrance to the makeshift shrine, adorned with a scribbled and faded “COME AS YOU ARE” in weathered white chalk.

Hundreds of similar writings live under the bridge, many faded, some fresh. All intended to honor Cobain, whom none of the authors likely knew, though all believed that, because they had listened to his music enough, they sort of did: “Kurt, I live in NY.

I traveled all the way to see this. I want you to know that for years I’ve listened to you. I believe you are here for all of us.” “No one will ever forget your impact on Aberdeen.”

“If only you could have known all this, maybe you would have stayed.” Today’s date is a special one. It’s April 5, 2021, exactly 27 years after the 27-year-old Aberdeen native Cobain killed himself in his Seattle home, marking the end of a short and forever-influential rock ’n’ roll era called grunge.

When news of Cobain’s death broke, and for a short while thereafter, Aberdeen and many other spots in Grays Harbor County hosted a horde of international media members, each hoping to capture – with facts, photos, and hyperbole – the angst-ridden aura of an economically depressed area that had birthed that musical genius.

Most failed in their quest, because Grays Harbor is hard to explain. Sure, there’s poverty and mental health problems on the beaten path, a detail seen and socially shared by the millions who drive through to the coast each year and highlighted by much of that media in 1994. But there’s also longtime wealth off that path.

The majority of Grays Harborites, including the Cobain family when Kurt was growing up, reside somewhere in between. Nirvana fans visit Kurt Cobain Landing off Young Street in Aberdeen.  The lyrics of Cobain’s “Something in the Way” refer to this bridge. (Photos by Katie McGregor) Nirvana and its earlier, different-named embodiments — that’s Cobain alongside bassist Krist Novoselic and drummers Bob McFadden, Dave Foster, Aaron Burckhard, and even Dale Crover — got its start in Aberdeen in the mid-1980s, and in the late 1980s and early 1990s (using non-Harborites Chad Channing and Dave Grohl as drummers). The music broke mainstream in a field that was alive and kicking on Grays Harbor long before a teenage Cobain took his first formal guitar lessons at Rosevear’s now-shuttered corner music shop.

On Grays Harbor, the catharsis of rock ’n’ roll had soothed many tired souls for decades before Nirvana came to be. Some Nirvana predecessors, such as the Melvins and Metal Church, remain active and successful worldwide. Others, such as The Bruce Hughes Band (still active locally!) and The Beachcombers, could only capture the Pacific Northwest’s heart before time, circumstance, and trend halted momentum, shifting them from “up-and-comers” to fading footnotes.

And in today’s post-Nirvana Aberdeen, kids still walk the streets with guitars, creating home-recordings at immeasurable rates. Some kill it locally, or occasionally break out. Check out Ericka Corban, Clint and the Eastwoods, Brian James, Hellbound Glory, Black Top Demon, Humptulips, Alex Mabey, and Black Shepherd. There’s something there for almost every musical taste.

Still, none of them have sold roughly 75 million records worldwide. None of them ever bounced Michael Jackson from atop the Billboard charts with an album that consistently ranks as one of the all-time greatest. And none of them are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Even today, Nirvana and Cobain are the reason countless people come to visit Aberdeen, and the rest of Grays Harbor. Those visitors see an economy still suffering setbacks; and those with open eyes also see the hope that exists with each bucket of paint tossed on the outside of a recently filled storefront. In many ways, it’s much the same as it was that one sad week in April 1994. The week when the music died.

Kurt Cobain’s childhood home at 1210 E. First St. in Aberdeen was recently placed on the state’s historic register. (Photos by Katie McGregor)

Where to go?

Say you’re a music fan planning a trip to Grays Harbor (and Pacific County!) to see the childhood stomping grounds of your idol, Kurt Cobain, and his band, Nirvana. Or say you’re a local wanting to see these same places Cobain frequented. Where do you go? Here are just a few of the places to which Nirvana fans flock, as well as a bit about the significance of the site.

1210 E. First St., Aberdeen. The best-known of Cobain’s childhood homes was purchased a few years ago by a local family to protect it from vandalization. Earlier this year, the house was placed on the state’s historic register.

Kurt Cobain Landing. Just down the block from Cobain’s house is the North Aberdeen Bridge, underneath which fans have gathered for years since a song purportedly written by Cobain under there was released in 1991. Today, there’s a small park next to the bridge that features a sign with the lyrics to said song, “Something in the Way.” There’s also a neat guitar sculpture created by local artist Lora Malakoff.

Downtown Aberdeen Walk of Fame. Cobain’s bronze star is placed firmly in the sidewalk on Wishkah Street in front of the former Rosevear’s music store where he took lessons. 

A bronze star honoring Kurt Cobain is embedded in the sidewalk on Wishkah Street (Photo by Katie McGregor

The Come As You Are sign. Located adjacent to the highway at the east entrance to the city of Aberdeen, lies the Welcome to Aberdeen: Come As You Are sign installed in 2005 by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Foundation. The Nirvana mural. Atop the Moore’s building on the corner of Wishkah and Broadway in Aberdeen is a nearly 70-foot-wide Nirvana mural installed in 2014. It was created by Erik Sandgren with help from other artists, Anthony James Cotham, Dominic Senibaldi, Jason Sobottka and David Wall.

The Nirvana mural is at the corner of Wishkah and Broadway. (Photo by KATIE MCGREGOR)

17 Nussbaum Road, Raymond. Though reports of earlier shows played under the names Pen Cap Chew, Bliss, Fecal Matter, and Skid Row have surfaced, this single-family home is most frequently referred to as the place where Nirvana played its first live show in 1987. Highlights included a handful of originals and a couple parts of Led Zeppelin songs.

Aberdeen native Jeff Burlingame is an NAACP Image Award-winning author of several nonfiction books, including the New York Public Library-honored Kurt Cobain: Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind. In 2004, he co-founded the Kurt Cobain Memorial Foundation, installing the Come As You Are sign the following year, and staging several large rock concerts, named Lounge Acts, throughout the 2000s. His recently installed Walk of Fame sidewalk star is located in front of the Aberdeen library, just down the road from Cobain’s.