Foo Fighters started their live career in a relatively small manner, playing a handful of small unannounced shows in the United States before embarking on a gruelling tour across the country supporting Mike Watt on his 1995 Ringspiel tour. The band would play a 30 to 40 minute set each night before then joining Watt as his drop in backing band. They were also joined by Hovercraft, an experimental noise band featuring Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder.
Between April 12th and May 20th 1995 Foo Fighters played 29 shows with a welcome break to follow before they would embark on their first headlining US tour in July.
Before that though, in order to help promote the band and the then upcoming debut album in Europe, Foo Fighters hopped on a plane to play their very first show outside of North America.
Just one show was scheduled in London, United Kingdom, along with some time with the press. The venue selected was not one many concert goers would be too familiar with, electing to play at the student Union of Kings College in the city, known as Tutu’s.
The show took place on June 3rd 1995, exactly 25 years ago today. Just a few hundred fans young and old were lucky enough to attend and one now lifelong fan, Colin, wanted to share with us his experience at this show as a 15 year old.
Below are his words on his memories of that night. Thanks to Colin for sharing with us, we hope you enjoy!
“The first in a lifelong obsession”
I’d spent the past few years at school hanging with the rock and grunge crowd. Bootleg cassette tapes passed hands and meant I discovered magic like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and of course Nirvana. Nirvana were everything. When Kurt died in 1994 I was 14 years old and it felt as though music died with me.
Fast forward a year and my friends and I were scouring the back pages of Kerrang magazine – that’s where you went back then to find out about the latest gigs. Foo Fighters was a name we had heard of – the drummer (Dave) from Nirvana had a band. We’d read snippets in magazines and melody maker. He was out front playing the guitar and singing? Support from Bivouac, whose 1994 release “Tuber” was a UK grunge favourite in our classroom? We were sold. Not that £7 was easy to come by, but that weekend we scraped together our pocket money and went to the box office to buy the tickets. Show in a weeks’ time. Great.
What you have to remember is that there was no internet. No mainstream rock station. No leaked pre release of this album to get our teeth into. No single. Nothing. We merrily went off to the gig as a bunch of 15 year olds with a love for hard rock, Nirvana (and Bivouac!).
The venue itself was a typical student union – dark and dingy, small and sweaty, and a sticky as hell floor. Maybe 30 feet in length at a push. We’d all be going off to university ourselves in a couple of years time so this was our first experience of such a venue – but in our lives we’d never get another student night like this! Would it be cliche to say that tonight would be an education? Maybe. But it’s true!
For all of our hype over Bivouac I really don’t remember much of their set. This was 25 years ago. But I always felt as though they had more to give. They could have been Britain’s answer to grunge (rather than Bush). Nevertheless their song the Bell Foundry is still a tune I blast out to this day.
Being teenagers we are at the front. The Foos arrive on stage after 9.30, and Dave apologises for being late. Pat Smear – all youthful and bleach blonde – stands aside him like a musical god. I’m literally stood underneath Pat and able to see up his nose. The apprehension is there now – there is a brief moments pause as Dave looks to Pat, smiles and nods. It’s almost reassuring – Pat smiles back. Let’s do this.
They started with ‘This is a Call’. It was a song I’d be humming to myself for days afterwards as it was hard rock yet melodic. The crowd move but it’s bouncing at this stage. The room is full of press but the hardcore grunge kids at the front are willing Dave on – first track awesome, this band may well have some promise – let’s hope it’s a success. Second song was I’ll Stick Around and that is where the crowd really started to move. We even sang “I don’t owe you anything” right back at him after the first chorus. It’s angry and it’s heavy and you can tell by the way Dave sings it – all snarls, mad hair and chewing gum. At the end he tells us it wasn’t about Kurt, as are none of these songs. Elephant in the room addressed and gone. Now we can get on with things.
Bits of this gig are a blur. I know from looking at set lists in recent years we heard almost all of the first album. I vividly remember Wattershed – the moment that first riff kicks in (the whole band part) the place erupted. Beers are flying everywhere, as are shoes. The mosh was alive and moving and in a breathless couple of minutes I’d moved from underneath Pat, to underneath Nate and finished up closest to Dave. His sweat was dripping on me. This is what we came here for! Weenie Beenie gets a similar reaction – it felt like the dance floor was buckling at points during that song. Nate’s heavy bass and the pushing and pounding of the mosh was something else. It’s no coincidence that these songs remain some of my all time favourite Foo records even now.
I know Butterflies and Big Me were played but I’d be lying if it said it could remember them vividly. I remember the show closing with Alone + Easy Target (with Pat on chorus vocals) and then closed out with a lengthy, moody, swirling Exhausted that built and built until it filled the room. As the song was closing out Dave thanked us for coming out and said they’d be back later that summer. No real fanfare or goodbye. It was obvious he wasn’t an overly comfortable front man back then as the crowd chat and interaction was minimal. It’s been amazing to watch that develop over the years.
One of my biggest regrets is that I gave up my ticket stub to stay for club night “collide-a-scope” but then as a 15 year old given the opportunity to be in a “club” why wouldn’t you!
We all left the club night and discussed the gig. What really stood out were the songs – yes there was some heavy, there was some light (we preferred heavy), but it was the songs. The melodies. We couldn’t get this is a call, I’ll stick around or Wattershed out of our heads. It really stuck – and that is the sign of a true song writer and a band who were going to have success.
It was the first in a lifetime obsession for me! I didn’t make Reading but did get the Brixton that November where it was obvious how far the band – and Dave – has developed to be more of a show and a comfortable front man. That is a show I remember vividly but the Kings College show will always be in my heart. 25 years, over 50 shows (and 2 tattoos) later and I’m still as much of a fan as I was back then (never missed a Uk tour either) but there is something so special that I hold onto knowing I was there that night.
Thanks again to Colin for sharing his experience with us.
You can find more about this show including a handful of journalist reviews on our social media.