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Nirvana Rocked Barney the Dinosaur, Slash Costumes for Halloween 1993

Kurt Cobain
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

It was a battle for the ages. Barney the Friendly Dinosaur — yes, that Barney — was at the height of his powers, a towering mass of purple fuzziness and the most famous Tyrannosaurus Rex on Earth, pitted against Slash, the top-hatted rock god and guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, desperately hanging on to title of the biggest and baddest hard rock band on the planet. There they loomed, stage center, under bright lights and staring each other down.

Only Barney wasn’t Barney — he was Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in a oversized purple dinosaur suit, and Slash was Nirvana touring guitarist Pat Smear in a curly wig, a top hat and clutching Slash’s trademark Les Paul guitar. The occasion? A Halloween night 1993 Nirvana concert at the James A. Rhodes arena in Akron, Ohio.

Nirvana were on a North American tour behind their third studio album, In Utero, when on they rolled into Akron, Ohio, on Oct. 31, 1993, with openers the Breeders and the Boredoms in two. Tensions were reportedly high in camp Nirvana at the time, so when Kurt donned the Barney outfit and Pat the Slash costume, that on-stage hijinx brought some much-needed comic relief to the tour (see a photo of the two musicians in costume here).

The Barney and Slash routine kicked off the set, with Cobain carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey onstage with him before putting it down and dueling Smear with an impromptu jam of guitar noise and squealing feedback. “They had a fight between Barney and Slash. It was a ‘Guitar Battle to the Death!” recalled Meat Puppets drummer Derrick Bostrom in the book ‘Nirvana: The Day to Day Illustrated Journals.’ “Barney died, of course.”

Bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl got in on the Halloween fun — Krist was dressed up as a white-faced Ted Danson (in response to the ‘Cheers’ actor’s recent stunt with his then girlfriend Whoopie Goldberg), and Grohl was a mummy.

Nirvana then proceeded to tear through a blistering 21-song set that included ‘Bleach’ tunes ‘School’ and ‘About a Girl’; ‘Nevermind’ hits ‘Lithium’ and ‘Come as You Are’; ‘In Utero’ cuts ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ and ‘Pennyroyal Tea’; and rarities ‘Sliver’ and ‘Dive’ — but alas, no ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Listen to Nirvana’s “Guitar Battle to the Death” on Halloween Night 1993

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