Home Entertainment Big Black and Steve Albini Play Explosive Final Concert in 1987

Big Black and Steve Albini Play Explosive Final Concert in 1987

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Big Black and Steve Albini Play Explosive Final Concert in 1987

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In six short years, Big Black pushed underground rock to become edgier, more stomach-churning, and more pyrotechnic. On the handful of EPs and two full-lengths, Atomizer and Songs About Fucking, they released, Steve Albini, who died Tuesday, wrote about everything from child abuse to murderous gangsters and always with a wink as if shining a dark mirror back at buttoned-up middle America. But by 1987, the group — which included guitarist Santiago Durango, bassist Dave Riley, and a drum machine called Roland — decided it had accomplished its mission. So they booked a farewell gig at a steam power plant at Boeing Field in Seattle.

Thanks to a video called The Last Blast that circulated in the years that followed, the gig became legendary. The video shows Northwesterners clad in clean white T-shirts marching through the dingy factory. Attendees included Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, Green River and Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, the latter of whom is visible around the 31:14 mark of the video per Dangerous Minds. Steven Jesse Berstein read some poetry, and then the group came out to perform an aggressive set list that included fan favorites such as “Kerosene,” “Jordan, MN,” “Bad Penny,” and “Cables,” among others. When they were done, they destroyed their instruments.

“[The promoter] Larry Reid booked it the way you would a wedding or a bar mitzvah,” Albini recalled in a 2017 Rolling Stone interview. “He booked this industrial power plant and they were like, ‘Yeah, sure, you could do that.’ You had to drive to a certain access road at the airport, and you had to go through a checkpoint and show them your ticket, and they’d let you just drive onto the airfield. And then you’d go to this power plant and then you’d see the gig. It was on a makeshift stage surrounded by this massive equipment and machinery. It was really fucked up. It was one of the oddest places that we played and one of the oddest gigs I’ve ever been to.”

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He also recalled a moment that a famous client of his reminded him of years later. “I remember after I smashed my guitar, this kid asked if he could have a chunk of it that was on the ground,” he said. “I said, ‘Sure, yeah. It’s garbage now.’ Then when I was working on the In Utero album with Nirvana, Kurt Cobain told that he had asked me if he could take a piece of my guitar and I told him he could, and he still had the little piece of the guitar. The point of this story is that it was a really cool gig and weird stuff happened, and long after the fact, people remember the cool stuff that happened.”

Although the band swore they’d never perform again, Albini and Durango reunited with the band’s first bassist, Jeff Pezzati, who played on Big Black’s Bulldozer and Racer-X EPs, for a rare gig at a festival celebrating the 25th anniversary of the record label Touch and Go in 2006. They began the four-song set by lighting firecrackers onstage.

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