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Not quite Nirvana

Nirvana's lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain died more than 15 years ago after building up a massive following and leading the grunge movement into mainstream America.

Nirvana's lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain died more than 15 years ago after building up a massive following and leading the grunge movement into mainstream America.

But his reputation as one of his generation's greatest voices continues to this day, and one Chicago band is working to keep Nirvana's legacy alive in the 21st century.

Nevermind formed in late 2005 after "kind of a joke," when the musicians played a Halloween show as Nirvana that went over really well, lead singer and guitarist J. Veldman said.

The band has kept up a grueling tour schedule for the past four years, which has brought it to places across the country as well as Mexico, Canada and the Virgin Islands. Nevermind is performing at the Long Haul Saloon Saturday night, with a $10 cover charge and music starting about 10 p.m.

Veldman said he hopes the crowd gets satisfaction out of their performances and has a good time watching their take on the music.

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"I want them to leave with the feeling that they got their money's worth and they got to hear their favorite song," he said.

Original to tribute

Veldman has been in a band since high school in the early 1990s, but he said his group "had some trouble in the beginning" trying to find its own sound. His style ended up being more along the lines of grunge-influenced acts like L7, Local H and The Melvins.

After some personnel changes over the years, his group is now made up of his brothers -- Alex, 22, on the bass and Sam, 24, handling drums and backing vocals.

Veldman said the band was playing backyards, garages and small shows, "getting better and better."

But the Chicago music scene is oversaturated and competitive, and it was hard to get a local following.

A friend of Veldman's who was preparing to manage the band suggested they would be better off becoming a full-time Nirvana tribute act after the Halloween show's success.

"I took offense to that at first, but he was kind of right," he said. "I just wanted to travel and tour and play a lot of the nicer venues."

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Joys and perils

Forming Nevermind was a good move from a business perspective -- it has allowed the musicians to tour the country, develop a following and play to bigger audiences. But, Veldman pointed out, "we don't think of ourselves as Nirvana" and Nevermind isn't a tribute band so much as three fans who really like Nirvana's music.

It can seem like Halloween every night to dress up as other people, he said, which "for two hours is great, but for the rest of it, it's just misery."

"That can be fun, but at the same time, I'm a little bit bitter that I had to resort to do this to be a working musician," he said.

The job, especially being on the road for so much of the year, has taken its toll on Veldman's personal life. He had to break off his engagement because he was on the road so much and it just wasn't going to work out, he said.

Veldman said the realities of being in a tribute band have left him somewhat jaded about the music industry, and the constant touring has worn him down.

"I could keep doing this for another five years if I wanted to, but it just feels like I'm not going anywhere," he said. "It just really breaks my heart to see all this time kind of slip by."

Next year, Nevermind could tour Mexico and Canada, and he would like to do a European tour, Veldman said. But first he needs to reflect on what he wants before he makes a commitment, he said.

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"I have a lot of repairing to do with my personal life," he said.

Veldman enjoys the fans and wowing the skeptics by playing the not-so-familiar Nirvana songs.

"It's fun," he said. "I'm not going to deny that, but it does come at a price."

Johnson covers local music events and runs a music blog at www.areavoices.com/valleysound . Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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