All four Seattle grunge frontmen (Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley) played Iguana’s, the three-story Tijuana rock mecca that hosted major headliners during its 1989–’94 run.
With Cornell’s passing, only Vedder survives. His Iguana’s appearance 25 years ago made international news, recalls promoter Harlan Schiffman of Fineline Entertainment. “He just started climbing,” he says about the Encinitas-bred singer. “He just started climbing the beams until he got to the rafters. I was nervously optimistic. There could have been an awful accident.”
Schiffman recalls his first Nirvana show was in 1990 at Iguana’s with co-headliner Tad. “There were about 70 brave souls. But our second show was at the old Casbah [currently Kava Lounge]. There was a line around the block.”
Schiffman says his first Alice in Chains show was with the Black Crowes at Iguana’s in 1989. “There were, like, 20 people there. No one knew who either band was at that time. But it gave me a relationship with the bands." He says his second Alice in Chains show at the Bacchanal the next year was a sell-out.
Cornell told 91X’s Mike Halloran in an interview two years ago that he wasn’t too happy with Iguana’s. “We did do one Tijuana show. It wasn’t one of my favorite things.... The lawlessness didn’t seem to benefit any of us or our fans. It seemed to benefit the really big guys who beat up the little guys who were trying to have fun at a punk-rock show.”
Halloran said Cornell dropped by the station for an interview to promote a show at Viejas, where he would sing acoustic versions of his Audioslave and Soundgarden hits. “I would have never suspected [the alleged suicide],” says Halloran. “He’s been sober for a while. He’s been known to be constantly working on it.”