Wednesday 19 February 2014

The First York Rock Festival 1984

The chance to see the Sisters play outdoors (eek !) in broad daylight (double eek!) was an opportunity not to be missed by most fans, and although the bill for what was rather grandly billed as the “1st York Rock Festival” in 1984 was otherwise a little underwhelming (Redskins, Bunnymen and Spear of Destiny alongside the wonderful and hugely under-rated Chameleons), we got our tickets from one of the “usual outlets” (i.e. local independent record shop in those days) and set off on the fateful September Saturday morning. Veterans of the Reading Festival will know that in late August the British weather can turn decidedly chilly, so the brave promoters could hardly have been surprised some three hundred miles and a month further on that it was cold and windy day that greeted the first punters arriving at the famous Knavesmire racecourse, home of the well-known (in horse-racing circles) Ebor meeting. Sadly we were not amongst those first arrivals, Chris’ car having conked out not five miles after we sent off. A trudge to the nearest farmhouse and phone calls to his Dad and the AA soon had us speeding up the A1 in his Dad’s executive saloon rather than Chris’ cramped old banger), whilst his hero Dad waited with said jalopy for the fourth emergency service to arrive. On arrival in York, we were surprised to see that the stage had been set at right angles to the impressive grandstands near the racecourse’s finishing post, rather than facing them, meaning that the bands all performed in a rather inefficient wind-tunnel, the northerly breeze swirling down the final furlongs and randomly dispatching the sound from the stage to the four corners of the vast open space, and bouncing of the walls of the nearby chocolate factory. The festival itself was reasonably well attended for a one day event featuring such a disparate bill, with Sisters fans outnumbered only by those of chart regulars Echo and the Bunnymen in their casual gear (a la eighties football hooligan) or long dark coats for longer-term fans. Everyone and his dog will have seen vintage video footage of the Sisters performance that day, which like many of their subsequent festival appearances have done little to enhance their reputation with the curious potential future fan. A mixture of their own technical issues, the weather and sound, and the daylight seemed to make for a less joyous and less powerful performance than those produced on the spring (Body and Soul) or Autumn (Black October) which sandwiched it. York was therefore my first and last festival with the Girls.

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