Courtesy the gracious Chris Burlingame at Another Rainy Sunday, last night I was gifted a hothothot ticket to attend a pretty special show: a collection of some of Seattle's top musicians performing Nirvana's "Nevermind" in its entirety on the Experience Music Project's gorgeous Sky Church stage. The project came together for three reasons: to support to the EMP's current "Nirvana: Taking Punk To The Masses" exhibit, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of "Nevermind," and most importantly, a benefit for beloved music industry figure Susie Tennant, recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. (I was unable to bring Big Camera, so I will direct you to the EMP's Flickr and SPIN to enjoy far, far, far better photos from Christopher Nelson, Brady Harvey, and Alex Crick than I could take with the point n' shoot and iPhone. But here they are anyway.)

It's kind of a strange thing to comment on a benefit show. After all, it's nothing but cool that all the bands and everyone else involved donated their time and talents to help another member of the music community, and they all should be applauded for that. But it also was an evening of entertainment, taking on one of the most important recordings of the entire rock era, and very definitely summoning up all kinds of feelings about the ghost in the room, Kurt Cobain. What would you do, if offered the chance to cover someone's very famous song? Would you try as best you could to be faithful to the original version? Spin it and try something different? Do you and your style first and foremost? Be "punk?"

The answer for most of the bands last night was to be as reverent to the originals as was possible, and this ranged from very good to so-so. The bands that veered from their own style or the originals were more polarizing in response from the crowd, and I suppose that's predictable, huh? When you know songs so well, like so many people know every note and inflection of Nirvana's "Nevermind," you hear it in your head along with the cover, and cannot help but judge against that. However, in the spirit of goodwill that was the point of it all, I will first and foremost say that it was a fun night, and it is always to heartening to see how Seattle always comes through for music people in need. Here's a few mini-reviews of a few of the more memorable performances for me:

"Smells Like Teen Spirit," The Fastbacks: Opening up the show with a near-perfect-to-the-record backing, and snarky vocals. Fun, good-humored.

"Breed," Ravenna Woods: Going waaaay out of character for them, one of the big highlights of the night. Great energy and balls.

"Lithium," Duff McKagan's Loaded: As pro as you would think, delivered well.

Right before Visqueen, Dave Grohl appeared on the jumbo screen with a message for the night. I wanted him to come to life and stomp his way like a Pixel Monster over to the EMP's Sci-Fi section.

"Territorial Pissings," Visqueen: Delightfully started with multi-part harmonies from the Youngbloods' "Get Together," then shredded to hell. Awesome.

"Drain You," Champagne Champagne: I know Chris Burlingame vehemently disagrees with me here, but I thought this was just awful. They seemed seriously unfamiliar with the song, lost at times, shoehorned in their OWN song in the middle, and the guitarist sounded like he had just learned to play the instrument 10 minutes before. Not in a good way, either. Why on the bill, other than the SubPop connection? Sorry, guys. You didn't look happy about it, either.

"Polly," Campfire OK: Interesting mellowed-out version featuring a very weird banjo. Might be better as a recorded effort?

"Lounge Act," TacocaT: I'm a fan of this band, thought they did a decent job, although I think nerves were a bit in evidence.

"Stay Away," Vendetta Red: Big roaring version, tied with Ravenna Woods as my faves for the night.

"On A Plain," "Sliver," The Presidents of the United States of America with Krist Novoselic: Of course, Krist was the MAN to see for the night, and he anchored PUSA stoically on his bass for these covers, while Chris Ballew walked the line between comedy and punkery. Casper Babypunk? Most impressive: Ballew in multiple crowd surfs, singing perfectly the entire time. Talk about pro.

"Something In The Way," The Long Winters: Very sincere, very competent, well-sung, but a little safe.

"Endless, Nameless," Crypts: How bad do you have to be to get seriously booed at a benefit show? This was a horror show of failure from start to finish: a miserable electronic mess of unintelligible garbage, the unbearable predictable lameness of equipment smashing, the vocalist taking off his shirt and playing with himself down his pants. This was not punk; this was pretension and self-indulgence at its apex. "This is how Kurt Cobain would have done it!" the singer exclaimed at the merciful finish as he threw his mic to the floor. No, I bet he would have called you out for the poseur you are, pal. Another reason to be pissed: one of the band members flung a heavy piece of gear off the stage to the left where Susie Tennant was sitting as well as a small child, and it was sheer luck no one was hurt. Fuck you guys.

"All Apologies," Shelby Earl: Very pretty, arguably the most musical of the night, tied with the excellent vocals from Cobirds Unite on "Pennyroyal Tea."

"About A Girl," Young Fresh Fellows: By this time at the very end of the night, I had already gone home, but seeing it the live broadcast reply this morning made me giggle. Oh, Scott McCaughey, you guys sounded like the Kingsmen's first basement rehearsal in a paneled rec room.

All in all, I am very glad I went. Something you find at an event like this is common ground amongst very diverse fans and artists. After all, when "Nevermind" came out, Chris Burlingame was a grade-schooler who knew this was a game-changing record even then, and I was a 29-year-old college student, pregnant with my first kid, so excited with what Nirvana was doing, and here we were 20 years later. It also didn't escape me that Nirvana, a band so defined by its leader who ended his life, was now able in its way to help someone who is working hard to keep her life going. You may donate at the Susie Tennant Fund here.

Thank you EMP, Chris B., and all the great people who turned out.