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Smells Like Nirvana Offers Tribute to Kurt Cobain
Thursday, September 7, 2023


Paul Wandtke made his debut into the world in a maternity ward in Romeoville, Ill., outside Chicago the year that Nirvana emerged on the American rock scene amidst the Seattle grunge scene.

Nirvana found success with the single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And, from 1987 to Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, Nirvana became one of the best-selling bands of all time, pumping out noisy pop melodies exploring themes of social alienation.

As a youngster, Wandtke found a connection with Kurt Cobain, the frontman for Nirvana. Not only was he told he looked like Cobain but he felt like his music spoke to him and others in his generation.

That’s why, after years of performing with the Grammy-nominated metal band Trivium, he formed a tribute band he named “Smells Like Nirvana” after a song parody written by Weird Al Yankovic, which was inspired by “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

He’ll perform 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at The Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum with his band Dead Original.

The evening is a tribute to Kurt Cobain, said Wandtke.

“I’ve always been a fan of Nirvana--that’s why I got into music,” he said. “Growing up, listening to his music really helped me a lot getting through things. It felt like we had this connection. I’d tell myself, ’I think Kurt understands.’ ”

As an example, Wandtke points to Nirvana’s song “Dumb,” which relates:

“I’m not like them, but I can pretend

The sun is gone, but I have a light

The day is done, but I’m havin’ fun

I think I’m dumb…Or maybe just happy.”

“It’s really honest,” said Wandtke. “I talk to other Nirvana fans at our merchandise booth and they all relate like that. Part of the lyrics were inspired by his drug addiction. But, when you’re a kid growing up and you feel like you’re not as cool as the other kids in school, that’s what the lyrics are about—that you’re having fun even when the sun’s gone.”

Smells Like Nirvana is comprised of three Nirvana diehards—Wandtke, who plays guitar and sings; Mike Petrasek, who plays bass, and drummer Christopher Scheutz.

They reprise songs from Nirvana’s albums “Nevermind,” “In Utero” and “Bleach,” even throwing in some B-sides on occasion. They do not try to copy Nirvana—Wandtke says there’s enough of that. But they try to recreate the spirit of Nirvana.

“We’re tapping into the Nirvana vibe. Kurt Cobain was a true artist, and we could never recreate his voice.  But we can provide what I think is good vibe, a good feeling celebrating his music,” he said. “We do this for Kurt because his music changed our lives growing up. And I see the people who come to see us get emotional because they’ve seen Nirvana in person or because they’ve never seen them in person and they’re just really happy to be there.”

Song requests for Friday’s concert can be submitted at

“We’re going to have a really good time,” said Wandtke.

Tickets are $20, available at







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