Great Moments in Public Knitting That Didn’t Happen

On Friday night I almost took my knitting to a Nirvana tribute show but I didn’t get a chance. Let me explain.

When it comes to knitting in public, I truly have no shame. I’ll knit anywhere, any time, and I do. Once in a while it brings on comments of derision or just plain confusion, but mostly people I know who are not knitters have come to terms with it and life goes on. They might say ‘oh she’s the one who’s always knitting’ with a knowing nod or bit of an eye roll but generally, it’s no big deal.

Sometimes during the week I’ll go sit in a cafe by myself at lunch time and knit. I’ll stick on my headphones to get a chapter or two of my audiobook knocked over, with a pot of tea and some knitting. Or if it’s a lovely day I’ll sit in the park opposite my work and pass an hour in the shade of a big tree, like the day I took this photo of knitting my Egelbad doily in summer.

in the park

On a side note, regarding audiobooks, I’m all about stalking the celebrities and their audiobooks right now. I just finished listening to licorice voiced Alan Rickman reading Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native and am currently devouring another favourite English actress, Emillia Fox (from crime show Silent Witness) reading Pride and Prejudice. It’s fabulous. It’s like I’m reading P&P for the first time!)

Anyway, onto public knitting moments that didn’t happen.

Friday night. The one just gone. We were supposed to go to a gig at a local venue called The Basement. ย Ok let’s be honest and call it a dive, and I say that with affection even though I’ve never been there. It’s a place my sister (Alice’s mum) goes to often and I think it’s a beloved venue by those who spend time there, the kind of place that still exists in spite of the proliferation of huge, money hungry clubs that are generic and soulless. Places like this are to be celebrated because they’re unique in a time when the little guys gets squashed. It’s called The Basement and before I went there on Friday night, I don’t think I knew what to expect. I’d actually pictured a small dark pub. I was wrong.

We were going there because a few Canberra bands were doing a Nirvana tribute night. I can’t claim I was a huge fan of Nirvana at their peak. I came to them later, mainly because Tori Amos covered Smells Like Teen Spirit in the 90s, after Kurt Cobain died. Only then did I get a sense that something great had happened in the early part of the decade, and I’d missed it.

This week marked 17 years since Kurt Cobain’s death by suicide so it was fitting there was to be a tribute show in the band’s honour. About an hour before we were to leave (that in itself was strange ย – it’s been ages since we got dressed AFTER dinner on a Friday night to go out!) I was asking Sean about the Basement. Mainly, I wanted to know if I could knit there.

He laughed. “You’ve never been there have you?” Ah, no. In the 12 years we’ve been together, he’s gone to see bands there but i’ve never gone. It’s the place my sister goes. I’ve never been.

He said it wasn’t like places where I usually go to knit – pubs with mid-level lighting, background music and, most importantly, seating. He said there wasn’t much in the way of seating; the carpet was sticky (at best) and the the lighting was dingy. He said I could take my knitting just in case but probably it wouldn’t be a good knitting night.

I was bummed, to say the least. I had totally pictured a night with a couple of beers, interesting Nirvana covers playing on the stage and tucked into a booth with my knitting.

How naive am I?

We arrived shortly after the time the first band was supposed to go on. I got the sense as we drove around the venue looking for parking that there were a lot of people there already, and probably people, based on what i could see in the crowd outside, who didn’t look like the kinds of people who saw knitters show up very often but you know looks can be deceiving so who knows what might have happened.

Which brings me to my next point. We didn’t get in. A venue that doesn’t often fill to capacity had to turn people away at the door. I wonder what Kurt Cobain would make of that seventeen years on? Dude, a long time after you died, stinky venues deep in suburban Canberra are turning away patrons who’ve come to hear three bands cover your songs on a Friday night. What do you make of that? Did you ever think that could happen when you were a janitor in your old high school? I bet you didn’t.

But it’s what happened. I had to flag my sister down and talk to her through the bars of a fence, explaining to her that we made it but couldn’t get in, while inside a crowd lingered around a bar and pool tables waiting for the grunge to begin. I’m actually kind of sorry I missed such an iconic moment, much like I’m sorry I missed the night Nirvana played the ANU bar in 1992 and the crowds spilled out in a way that people still talk about, even those who weren’t there (like me).

Sometimes you’re destined to spend your days wishing you’d been there at great moments. I wish I’d had the chance to knit at a Nirvana tribute gig. I like to think Kurt would have approved. He was like that. He was ok. He was a bit different himself so I do think he’d have been totally cool with someone knitting at one of his gigs, or tribute gigs.

But I guess we’ll never know.



28 thoughts on “Great Moments in Public Knitting That Didn’t Happen

  1. It seems to be a global fad of making people wait in line and turning them away. I do not like movies, people find this strange, and the only way I have found to cope with it is to take a nice project with me into the dark. Otherwise I get very bored. I guess you could say knitting in public saved many of my friendships because I was able to accompany friends to the cinema.

    KOK – Keep on knitting.

  2. hope you got to go out for a drink somewhere else (and knit) after the effort of heading out. love your description of alan rickman! i love audio books, but mainly stick to the free podcast versions. a well read one is a totally different experience from reading yourself.

  3. What a shame that you could not get in. Well, you are not the only one that knit in public. I knit everywhere too & not only I had to endure stares from others but also from my daughters who still cannot accept my knitting in public. Knit on.

  4. ah kurt. i remember exactly where i was the day he died, and how sad i was. unlike amy, i dont see how what he did that day could possibly detract from his music, apart from making the world a lot less interesting in that department. but maybe you had to be just the right age to get how powerful nirvana were at that time. they were such a huge part of my musical and emotional journey. i’ll always love them. and he would have completely approved of you knitting anywhere his music is played, such a shame you didnt get in, i would have loved to hear how you managed it and what people would have said!

  5. What an adventure Bells! About the audio tapes though -the ACT library is amazing now! I go and order what I want online and they get them in for me! It’s great! It’s lovely fun searching their catalogue!:-)

    • i admit I haven’t looked for a while at the ACT Library system. I really should. I just like the way online audiobook providers make it so easy to use them on ipods/iphones etc!

  6. Oh my goodness! I didn’t even know there WERE Georgette Heyer audiobooks. Off to Amazon RIGHT THIS SECOND. BTW, I was as grungy as they come in the 90s, and while I appreciated Nirvana, I have to assert that Pearl Jam was my flannel-wearing-unwashed band of choice. And Nirvana’s drummer emerged as an incredible front-man for the Foo Fighters — another favorite. Don’t know if either of these groups made a huge impression Down Under, but I love them all the same. You are a knitting Kamikaze. Keep it up!!

  7. Salad days Bells! Nirvana at BDO and The Phonecian. DPNs would have been useful in both crowds, I could have used them to jab my way to front.

  8. I managed to catch Nirvana and the Femmes at the first BDO Sydney 1992. I spent a lot of the late eighties and a huge amount of the nineties in venues just like this one. Many of the venues around Sydney have disappeared (most being replaced with poker machines) but some survive if slightly different.

    I have knit in the odd pub before a gig (more recently) but during is just too difficult – the dark and the jostling being too much to deal with.

    • Well JP we go back longer than we realise. I was at same BDO gig front row for Nirvana, had bruises from barriers to prove it for over a week, so proud. Even put up with beasts of burbon and Dave Graney support acts. Femmes were on fire that night too. Thanks for the memories Bells, shame you didn’t get in. Off to look up audio book references – as close as I get to a ‘gig’ these days!

  9. You made a “bad luck” story into a great read.

    Never been into Nirvana but I suspect I’m from a different generation!

    I get my audio books from my local library – without leaving home. Will have to see if they have that version of P&P, because you know I’m a big fan.

  10. Oh, bummer! What a disappointment. I’m so sorry you didn’t get in – but I am so impressed you tried. It’s been a loooonnnnnggggg time since I spent a Friday night doing (or trying to!) anything other than sitting in front of the TV or maybe going to dinner. Good for you!

  11. I love your photo of your knitting in the park!! I am not even sure I would recognise a song by that band. I am sorry to read you didn’t get in.
    Oh P&PP would be wonderful read by Fox!! Richard Armitage reads some Georgette Heyer!!

  12. I would have to say I was involved as possible in the music scene in Providence in the early to mid 90s, and I’m glad, although I still regret that we didn’t go to the Dave Matthews Band show at Lupo’s right before they went huge–that’s where they recorded a live bit of Ants Marching that’s on one of their albums. Still kicking myself. I spent QUITE a lot of time in the sorts of clubs you’re talking about. Ah, Babyhead. My second home for a while. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Never, ever liked Nirvana. I understand they were part of something huge, but… no. Never liked Kurt Cobain, I had very strong feelings about what he did and how he ended his life and the fact that he left a child behind, and I always thought Pearl Jam’s music was better anyway. The only Nirvana songs I like are covers.

  13. I think Kurt would have totally approved of you knitting at the gig…I remember him wearing a rather hairy looking knitted cardigan for Nirvana Unplugged ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ve never tried an audio book, but now that I know Alan Rickman has read one, I could be tempted! The thought of his voice in my ear gives me goosebumps!

  14. I suspect you wouldn’t have got any knitting done (unless you took one of those little booklights?) – sounds like a dark venue! But would have been pretty cool to do it!

    I still feel sad I didn’t go to see the Violent Femmes during my first O-Week at Sydney Uni – but sadly I hadn’t heard of them at that point…didn’t take long after that though. But I did finally see them a few years ago, heh! I didn’t knit there though…

  15. Hah! you say ” famous for Silent Witness” about Emilia Fox .. I say “Oh Dear Georgiana!” Bet she does great reading of P&P – she was so star struck to be in the series. But I was on the Nirvana train the first time round, but thought them a bit juvenile (bit rich coming from a punk)

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