Foo Fighters Live

25 Years ago today Foo Fighters perform live for the very first time

By Simon Kilmore

The band performed on the second floor of a West Marine boating store in Seattle for friends and family.

Title of article image

Photo: Rick Guerra

February 19th, 1995 was the date. The second floor of a boating store in Seattle was the rather unusual location. The event? Foo Fighters performing a live show for the very first time.

As most fans know Foo Fighters started as a solo project by Dave Grohl, recording an album almost entirely alone in October 1994. It was only later he would then decide to form an actual band that could go out on the road and play the songs he’d recorded.

Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith of Sunny Day Real Estate were recruited to the band as was former Germ and fellow Nirvana member Pat Smear. Over the holiday period in 1994 and into early 1995 the four spent much of their time in rehearsal spaces, the three recruits learning the songs Dave had written and the four of them simply trying to gel as a band.

By early February 1995 it was decided that Foo Fighters were ready for their first live performance although having not played a full live show since the end of Nirvana, and the fact nobody knew the band or songs, Dave chose to ease the pressure and first perform only for friends and family.

“It’s a funny thing when your new band decides to play in front of people,” Grohl told Rolling Stone in a 2015 interview about the show. “At first, it’s terrifying, and we thought the most comfortable way of easing into being the Foo Fighters would be to have a keg party and wait until everyone was wicked fucking drunk and then start playing these songs that no one’s ever heard.” he added.

With all four members still based in Seattle at the time the city was the obvious location for the first performance but rather than heading to one of the many famous musical venues in the city, Dave wanted to make sure the party really was private, away from any prying eyes – in particular the rabid press.

Photo: Rick Guerra
Photo: Rick Guerra

On Mercer Street in the city at the time was a branch of West Marine, a retail chain which sells boating and fishing supplies. The store occupied the first floor of the building but the second floor was partially empty, with friends of bassist Nate Mendel occasionally sleeping there. It was suggested that the space would just be large enough to fit the band, their equipment and a few guests and so it came to be that Foo Fighters first performance would be above a boating store.

Unfortunately for those thinking about a sight-seeing trip to visit this significant part of Foo Fighters history, the building is long gone. In the 2000s Mercer Street underwent huge regeneration and in 2009 the West Marine store closed down. A year later the building was gone entirely, demolished to make way for further development.

Check out the video below to see the building in its final days and demolition thanks to YouTube user Craig Dahl.

As for the show itself whilst the setlist is not totally confirmed Grohl claims they played “basically the whole first album” plus the later B-Sides, ‘Winnebago’ and ‘Podunk’. A couple of years ago a handful of photos from the show surfaced as seen in the article above, with one further image surfacing last year, showing William in front of the DIY blackout windows.

Photo: Jeff Ross
Photo: Jeff Ross

For many years fans have believed that the performance was recorded by an engineer hired to work the show but nothing ever surfaced, despite best efforts.

In the 2015 Rolling Stone interview Dave Grohl confirmed there was indeed a recording and noted that when he first heard it a week or so after the performance he was “mortified”. “I thought we sounded great and I heard the recording like, ‘Ohhh . . . that’s the Foo Fighters? We’ve got to practice.'”.

Grohl and the rest of the band had tried to find a copy of the recording in later years but told the magazine they “just couldn’t get our fucking hands on it”. If the band themselves couldn’t find a copy it’s no surprise that fans were unable to.

Despite seemingly being embarrassed at how rough it sounded on first listen had he found a copy Dave revealed that he intended to release it for the Record Store Day event that year. Instead the band released ‘Songs From The Laundry Room’, a four track EP featuring studio demos he’d recorded between 1991 and 1994.

Nothing more was heard about the show from official channels for several years, tapes of the show assumed to still be proving elusive. That was until the CalJam Festival in 2018, a Foo Fighters curated festival running in its second year in San Bernardino, California.

As part of the huge Foo Fighters themed event there was a museum for fans to explore and see various objects from the bands history – clothing worn on music videos, posters, demo tapes and a whole lot more.

Tucked away in one glass case among other items were a couple of cassettes, easily missed by many eyes. The bottom of the two was rather nondescript, merely titled ‘Hey, Johnny Park!’. The top tape however, was the holy grail. “Foo Fighters 2/19/95 1st Show”. It seemed a copy had been sourced.

Photo: Michael Yanoska
Photo: Michael Yanoska

Also written on the J-Card was ‘Nate’, the assumption being this was Nate’s personal copy that he’d had hidden away somewhere since 1995 and since found. Whatever the case, it seems there is now the possibility of fans being able to hear the very first Foo Fighters show, always a significant moment in a bands history no matter how good or bad.

Will it happen today, on the 25th anniversary of the show or will we be kept waiting even longer, perhaps Record Store Day 2020 in April? We can only cross our fingers and hope!