Dave Grohl: I was f**king terrified the first time I played Reading

25 August 2019, 18:00 | Updated: 25 August 2019, 18:01

Dave Grohl recording in Hilversum Studios, 1991
Dave Grohl recording in Hilversum Studios, 1991. Picture: Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images

The Foo Fighters frontman recalls Nirvana’s debut at the iconic festival…

Dave Grohl has admitted he had “panic attacks” the first time Nirvana played Reading Festival, claiming he was “f**king terrified” about performing in front of 35,000 people.

Foo Fighters headline Reading and Leeds festival this weekend (23 to 25 August), but Grohl’s debut was with Nirvana in 1991.

Grohl told the NME that he'd been tipped off about the legendary festival by Mudhoney’s Dan Peters telling him about how the event had embraced grunge and indie rock. “I just couldn’t imagine 35,000 people getting together to see bands like Mudhoney or Nirvana,” Dave admitted. “It just didn’t happen in America.”

Check out the full Reading and Leeds Festival 2019 stage times

Kurt Cobain performing with Nirvana at Reading Festival in 1991
Kurt Cobain performing with Nirvana at Reading Festival in 1991. Picture: Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

“Then when I saw that it was on our itinerary maybe a year later, I was f**king terrified. I would wake up every morning in this panic attack in a fit of anxiety, knowing that there was this festival that I was going to have to play in front of 35,000 people – which I had never done. When we got there that day, I realised how big it really was.”

After appearing way down the bill in ’91, the following year - post Nevermind - Nirvana returned to headline the Sunday night the following year. However, rumours about Kurt Cobain’s substance abuse was rife.

Kurt Cobain playing with Nirvana at Reading Festival in 1992
Kurt Cobain playing with Nirvana at Reading Festival in 1992. Picture: Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

Dave recalled: “There was some speculation as to whether we were actually going to show up and play at all. Even I wondered. I was amazed that we pulled it off to be honest. I didn’t expect much. Kurt had been in and out of rehab, the band hadn’t really done much in the months leading up to it and everything just seemed sort of scattered and disconnected.”

But despite the odds, Nirvana delivered a classic set. “Things just magically came together and it was an amazing show,” Grohl continued. “It had a lot to do with the audience, I think.

“I remember walking backstage and bumping into friends from other bands who would look at me and say, What are you doing here?’ They were just surprised we showed up.”

Sadly, it would be the last time Nirvana ever played in the Uk as Cobain died before the band’s 1994 UK shows, but Grohl returned in 1995 to headline the second stage on the Saturday night with his new project… Foo Fighters.