Analogue Music | The Greatest Show You Never Saw: Radiohead

The Greatest Show You Never Saw: Radiohead

By Fletcher Martin

The universe does not want me to see Radiohead.

The first time I was supposed to see the gothic futurists from Oxfordshire England was in 2001.

I was wrapping up a college semester abroad in London when a good friend who was traveling Europe at the time notified me that if I could make it to the venue he had a ticket for me to see Radiohead perform in an ancient roman amphitheater in the southern French countryside. I said yes. My exuberance wore off some when I saw that the concert was the same date as my final exam in British Literature. I asked my professor if it was possible to take the test a day earlier and he replied that unfortunately he could not help me.

There was simply not enough time for me to take the test in the afternoon and make it the hundreds of miles to Vaison La Romaine France in time for the concert.

I was faced with a choice.

Of course, I chose Radiohead.

In the predawn of the day that I was to take my final exam I caught the Chunnel into France and Paris with my heavy backpack and intentions of traveling on after the show into Italy and then on to Spain. On the train down from Paris to the town of Valence, where I was told by my ticket-holding friend that I could find transport to Vaison La Romaine and Radiohead playing underneath the ancient stars of southern France, I met and chatted up a lovely French girl of my same age. She gave me her info and told me to come visit her in Montpellier. I was glowing with excitement.

I was a naïve American abroad but I’m a decent judge of people. After a paralyzing hour of fear and self pity I knew I wasn’t going to make the concert.

Things fell apart, however, when I arrived in Valence around five, about two hours before the concert. No one could tell me how to get to Vaison La Romaine. Perhaps I was just mispronouncing the name of the place so I wrote it out.


After several minutes of discussion amongst the station-ticketing people in French that, of course, I could not understand, they produced a uniformed person from behind the counter.

“Hello, yes. I speak English.”

“Great, you rock. I’m trying to get to a town called 'Vaison La Romaine.' They have a theater, an amphitheater there.”

“I speak English.”

It quickly became apparent from a few more exchanges that all my French friend understood of English was the phrase, “I speak English.”

A glimpse of what Fletcher has never seen...
A glimpse of what Fletcher has never seen...

Somewhat dejected, I thanked him, and sat down in the station to think and collect myself. This was in the terror time back before the ubiquity of cell phones, so if I was to call for help it would be on a pay phone. But even then I had no number to get a hold of my friend at the concert. I had the French girl in Montpellier’s number, though; I had put it in my bag in the same place I kept my Eurail pass and my debit card. But my Eurail pass was not there and neither was my debit card. Frantic, I dug through my bag but I understood fairly quickly that both my card and my ticket to travel were gone. Now finding the Radiohead concert wasn’t the only problem; I was stranded with more British Pounds than Francs, no debit card, and no way to travel anywhere.

By my best guess, I had been pick-pocketed in the chaotic Paris train station. I had a few moments where I thought maybe the French girl had taken my train pass and card but I never truly believed it. I was a naïve American abroad but I’m a decent judge of people. And, after a paralyzing hour of fear and self pity, I knew I wasn’t going to make the concert.

Later that night in a desperate attempt to escape a man who spoke in broken English and would not leave my side, in or out of the train station--no matter what I said to him or how forcefully I said it to him--I jumped a train to Montpellier without a ticket. Thank god for the laziness of the southern French rail system because I was never asked for a ticket. After the train station in Montpellier closed and kicked me out I slept for a restless hour in the bushes while a homeless Chechen Refugee I had befriended watched out, and in the morning I called the French girl and stayed with her and her family for a few days while I got my money sussed out and a new rail pass.

Thank You, Sylvianne!

The next time I missed a Radiohead concert was a little less dramatic. A friend and I drove from Baltimore down to Virginia in 2008 to a "Rain or Shine" concert at the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow. I still have the tickets and the “Rain or Shine” printed thereon mocks me all these years later. There was torrential rain that day and night and due to parking lots flooding, a lack of foresight and/or a lack cohesive leadership from the Nissan Pavilion, thousands of people including me and my friend were rerouted and rerouted for hours in bumper to bumper traffic to eventually be turned away, while Radiohead played a half mile away to a half full pavilion.

Part of me gave up on seeing Radiohead long ago. Part of me believes that even if Radiohead was to schedule a concert in my living room it wouldn’t take place. Or somehow, impossibly I would never make it home in time.

Part of me is fine with that.

Part of me.