Meet Kingmaker and a juggler or see one of the world’s biggest bands?

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When I was in my late teens and going to as many gigs as my early days in employment could bankroll, I felt that at some point in the future I would have an “I saw them when they were tiny” story to tell.

That by the sheer number of shows I saw I would fluke out and spot a future U2 playing in an old shed, or stumble into the Beatles playing some legendary first London show.

But no.

As decade number five stares me full in the face, my list of boasts with which to bore my children and secure some kudos with my younger work colleagues is, at best, paltry.

Instead, I have tales of ‘nearly saw thems’ and that’s not quite the same.

And the best of those was with Radiohead; a popular beat combo who went on to sell bucket loads of records and gain more critical acclaim than you could shake a gnarly old stick at.

Back in the early 1990s, before they had bothered anyone other than the writers of the NME and Melody Maker, the band were on the university/small gig circuit which represented the life of many of the bands who would go on to define what would eventually become Britpop some years later.

And in late 1992 they bowled up the University of Kent in Canterbury as part of a three act line-up.

Make no mistake, they were not yet successful enough to be headliners. They were, instead, support act for Kingmaker, a three-piece band from Hull who were, just trust me on this, pretty good at the time. Well, I liked them.

The other act was a bloke from Brighton who did circus tricks. It was an odd evening.

The venue was a small low-ceilinged room which was just right for bands who could pull in crowds of more than a few dozen and as myself and a couple of friends arrived we strolled to the bar.

And there we spotted members of Kingmaker. In that sort of tragic way which makes you cringe with embarrassment and humiliation in years to come, we thought it was cool to try and befriend them. So we spent some time trying to formulate a way we could chat to them.

While this was happening, of course, Radiohead were taking to the stage just a few yards away. I was aware of them at the time and, in truth, as much as I’d like to say I could detect their greatness at such an early stage, I didn’t really think much of them.

So, rather than going to see one of the most influential bands of the next 20 years, I, instead, tried to get a chat with some blokes who disappeared off the face of pop’s earth just a few years later.

Radiohead came, and went, and I couldn’t be bothered. My ‘I was there’ story trickled through my fingers.

I couldn’t, it must also be said, be bothered to see the juggler either.

But, in a finale which would make anyone cringe, we did end up chatting with him afterwards when, remarkably, we actually met Kingmaker.

But saying I once had a drink with Kingmaker doesn’t, you will be no doubt astonished to hear, win you any brownie points with a teenage daughter wanting hard proof her father isn’t as dull as he makes out.

It does nothing when I try and convince her the balding, greying, podgy fellow who stands before her was indeed once young and while perhaps not quite with their fingers on the pulse, then at least aware of where an underground music culture’s pulse was.

But, I’m afraid to say, it was in another room to the one I was in.


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