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Nirvana's Music Lives on with Smells Like Nirvana

Admittedly, I don't see a lot of tribute acts. I always prefer to see the original artist whenever possible. However, there are a handful of exceptions out there. First, is any artist that is no longer touring and/or deceased, where it's impossible to see their live performance. Another is when an artist is so big, that the odds are, they aren't touring around town any time soon.

In this case, we have Smells Like Nirvana, an authentic Nirvana tribute act that's been grinding away for several years now. I've been familiar with this act for some time now, having seen vocalist/guitarist Paul Wandtke as the drummer for Trivium several years back. It's taken years for this band to make it to Western New York, but they've managed to hit this market twice this year!

The Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda (just north of Buffalo, NY) is a local treasure, rich with history and right on the cusp of a major renovation, which will allow for years of future entertainment to grace their stage. The Riviera has become known for hosting their Friday Night Tribute acts, ranging from acts covering Shania Twain, Elton John, Price and Ozzy Osbourne. Now, they can add Nirvana to the list. The show was very well attended, and I can only imagine that they'll be pushing for a sellout on their next visit through town.

Covering this show was an absolute blast. I was fortunate to be able to bring my 13-year-old son along, who took half the pictures you'll see in this gallery (including the one directly above this paragraph. As the Riviera is an old theater (with seats), there's no pit access up front, so we had to work the aisleways and balcony for this particular show.

To me, the magic with any cover artist is their ability to authentically pay homage to the original artist. That's just what Smells Like Nirvana does here. Every song is performed as though they're reenacting the original songs on stage. It's worth noting that, despite Nirvana's meteoric rise to fame, their unquestionable influence on music, they were only a major touring act for a little over two years. The time prior to the release of 1991's 'Nevermind' certainly saw the band tour the world, but they existed largely unknown, as an opening act and working for every single dollar they made. Those of us that lived in the moment know, it was immediately after "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit MTV and radio that the world was forever changed, in an instant.

They opened the set up with a string of hits including "On A Plain," "Heart-Shaped Box" and "All Apologies" before heading into

some lesser-known tracks. All-in, they played roughly 30 songs for two 50-minutes sets. This included virtually EVERYTHING you could want to hear! personal favorites of mine included "Sappy" (from the 'No Alternative' compilation album back in '93), "School" and "You Know You're Right."

The band is filled out by Paul Wandtke on vocals/guitar, Mike Petrasek on bass and Benny Piazza on drums. In most cities, the trio also opens the show as Dead Original, a band consisting of all original material with a 90's alternative flair to it. Check out the song "Hard to See" as a great sample! On this particular night, the order was for all Nirvana tunes, all night. I suppose it depends on the venue. Regardless, the show was amazing and I'll be sure to show up next time they come through town as well!

Whatever the songs are you wanted to hear, you likely would have gone home having heard 90% of them or more. I grew up listening to Nirvana. There's no shortage of debate as to whether they were an overhyped band, but there's no question that their music changed the world. When the show was finished, I left feeling the exact same way I did back in May when they first came through town. I had no idea how much I needed to see these songs performed live.

This band has become a much more active touring machine in the last year, so check out dates for 2024 and see if they're playing a city near you! This one is worth hitting up the pre-sale and making firm plans to go and see!

Photo Gallery: Photos by Alex Meister

Photo Gallery: Photos by Charlie Meister


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