History & Culture

Maximum Potential, Nirvana & big fat rectums

A historic moment in music & the Toon

Maximum Potential was a company we set up as our first real dabble into the world of live music, in the early 90s. We teamed up with our friend Barbara (a different Barbara to the one who came with us to Edinburgh) & we went at it...

Babs, Tommy & little Buster, Maximum Potential crew 1991 - Babs & Nick Cave (Babs knew absolutely everyone)

Babs had been the main promoter at the original 'Riverside Club' on Melbourne St, booking all the bands, prior to it going tits up. Apparently some sort of underhand shenanigans had been going down & she had suddenly found herself out of a job. She was a real visionary promoter & we could see that. 

Babs + us was sure fire winner, so we became a great team, operating smack in the middle of the moment, to push things forward.

Gentrified to a Sainsburys these days

We dabbled a bit, promoting artists like Bob Mould from Husker Du, in the old West Jesmond Cinema & Irish songstress Mary Black at the City Hall.

Mary was a lovely soul & great to work with.

So it was diverse stuff, all curved balls, nothing to do with Soul Music, so we could branch out to try something new.

Nirvana hit Newcastle - Dec 2nd 1991

The peak of the whole Maximum Potential caper, came when we booked Nirvana to play the Mayfair Ballroom in December 1991.

(Mayfair..? Boo! Hissss..!! – but we’ll come to that…)

It was months prior to the release of Nevermind that we booked them, but as the show approached, that album was released & they totally blew up.

Nirvana's stock sky-rocketed & the 'niche Rock band with a cult following,' that we'd taken a punt on, sure weren't  that anymore...

They were getting 24 hr rotation on MTV & Smells like Teen Spirit entered the charts at # 7 with a bullet, the week of the show.

Accurate visual representation of Nirvana, en-route to Newcastle, Dec 1991

As if by magic, Nirvana were suddenly the biggest band on the Planet & we had them locked in, for a show in a 1500 capacity venue. A bit like you trying to fit the Chilli Peppers in your local pub...

Poor Babs was under the weather on show day & missed it (gutted!) which meant the whole gig had to pretty much run on our wits.

Gulp…! As you can imagine it was total sold out madness & we've never, ever, seen anything even vaguely as 'off the hook' as that show before, or since. The only words that properly describe that day, night, show & crowd, the whole lot of it, was - Utter mayhem.

One of the craziest days / shows / we've ever had.

Total Sphincters

The Mayfair’s door staff totally exploited the situation, collecting in all the tickets from customers at the door & then reselling them in the pub over the road.

Anyone that rocked up without a ticket, they simply sent over there to wait & then slyly, scalped them hundreds & hundreds of tickets, pocketing the loot.

They'd already been obstructive & uncooperative with us, during the set up & we'd clocked their dismissive, racist, resentful, overweight white boy vibe.

It was the biggest scam we had ever faced & we were busy inside the venue with the band, totally unaware it was happening & powerless to stop it until they had made a killing – of thousands…

You're welcome lads.

By the time Kurt & chums hit the stage, there must have been over 3000 people in that venue & you literally couldn’t move. People broke bones that night (well we knew a guy who broke his thumb at least).

We had worked so hard to put it all together & once we realised what had happened, it was a real proper kick in the teeth & hands down – the scam of the decade.

Right band, right time

Rectums too

It wasn’t like we 'needed' the loot they’d scammed by cramming so many people in, it was more the feeling of being totally mugged off & exploited, by such 'let's rip off the darkie' rectums.

We’d costed the show & done really well on the venue's legal limit of tickets anyway. It was a done deal, cash banked, sold out days before doors even opened. We should have been laughing...

Apparently this place deals with piles of Mayfair doormen.

But it was just so, so irritating, to see a such bunch of pot-bellied sphincters, all smug, making such a massive fortune off our backs, without having to ever lay out, one single flippin’ penny.

(far more than we & the band made, as they had no overheads)

What a shakedown..! We felt like proper mugs & wondered if they treated all the white promoters they dealt with in the same way..?

Of course not.

There they are....!

It was just another of the many lessons we learned about how it feels as a promoter, to be ripped off & exploited by a venue’s management.

Up until that point we loved the Mayfair as a venue (now demolished to make way for the Gate complex), but we didn’t anymore & never promoted there again.

If you rip people off they don’t forget it.

You want proof..? – Look, it’s nearly 30 years ago & here we are, still flippin’ banging on about it.!!

A robbing shithole, pictured late last century.

The Lesson Being...

That’s why at WHQ we play everyone straight & play by the rules. We reckon if you can’t be professional & respect the people you work with & the kids who come to your shows – then don’t do the job in the first place.

Hustling people you are working with & putting the public in danger are rubbish looks…

The Concert

Here is some Youtube footage, which we have posted of the show for you. At least the camera seems nice & steady, as whoever it was that filmed it on the sly obviously couldn’t move an inch either side!

For your listening pleasure Smells Like Teen Spirit is about 14.51 secs in…

We do the 'Rock' around here pal...

We hung out with the three Nirvana dudes & their Tour Manager, in the Trent after the show & somewhat humorously, they turned out to be much better rock stars than they were pool players… Ha!

Show poster framed & up in the lobby of WHQ.

A proper, musical landmark for the Toon

Set against all the other the stuff we've ever done, the whole Nirvana caper was up among the biggest mind benders.

A proper 'school of hard knocks' learning curve, steeped in racism & experienced in a way that most white people can't possibly understand - but every Black person reading this knows well & has encountered such, with assorted, similar colons.

The Mayfair Doorman of Launderettes.

Fantastic band though, lovely fellas, a really landmark show & great to do. They never played the Toon again & not long after - Kurt was gone.

We're not sure if the exact 'right band', has ever played at the exact 'right time', any more perfectly than that, in Newcastle ever.

'Stick to the guitar mate, you're in the Toon now & Pool's not your game...'

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