An email was distributed to all staff last week. Was anyone interested in a complimentary weekend pass for the inaugural Forever Young Festival, being held in the grounds of the Palmerstown House Estate this weekend? This was a festival that consisted of music acts from the 1980s. That was partly my era – well I was only five years old when the decade began so I’d be more of a late 80s kind of musical child. I was a bit ambivalent as I was already seeing Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott from the Beautiful South on Friday evening in Trinity College. Nevertheless I expressed my interest. To my surprise I received an email to state that I could have one pass – no companion pass for me. Even going to bed after the fantastic concert on Friday night, I was unsure of my movements on Saturday.
Well when I finally emerged from my pit on Saturday morning I got to doing some research. A Bus Eireann return ticket to Johnstown cost €10. It involved a walk to the venue but I needed the exercise so I set off.
As I walked the almost one hour journey to the festival field I took in the crowds. Like a fine wine this audience was of a certain vintage – certainly matured, although not necessarily to perfection. I wasn’t judging – I know I am no oil painting myself. Zany 1980s outfits were in abundance – bangles, backcombed wigs, leggings and ratty fishnet tights for the ladies; and mullet wigs and Miami Vice style, shoulder-padded luminous suits for the gentlemen. I received my weekend wristband and entered the field. It was raining as it should for all festivals. Luckily at the concert the previous evening I had bought a rain-poncho for a five euro charity donation to Childline.
The Hothouse Flowers were announced. My heart soared. I love the Hothouse Flowers, and have seen then live previously, in Cork. They wouldn’t be what you’d call a quintessentially 1980s band, as they’ve been going strong forever. But it’s the decade during which they emerged .They gave a solid performance playing their hits as well as a rousing cover of ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince.
They were followed by 1980s icon Kim Wilde. My heart skipped a beat with excitement. I’ve always had a soft spot for our Kimberly.
The emcee for the festival was Clive Jackson – the lead singer of Doctor and the Medics – the glam rock, one hit wonders from 1986. He had a great sense of humour. His band performed a set and at the end he asked ‘Which one our hits shall we perform for our finale? Well we’ve only had the one so let’s go with that’ before launching into ‘Spirit in the sky’.
The 1980s started for me in musical terms in 1984 or 1985 with Michael Jackson and Madonna, but luckily I knew most of the acts. Katrina (from the Waves) finished her set with the summer classic ‘Walking on sunshine’. Midge Ure was in fine voice. I felt quite emotional when Jimmy Somerville played his set towards the end of the evening. I was once absolutely terrified of him – he was possibly the first openly gay person I had ever seen, and he seemed so angry and political and scary to my tiny self. My terror was tempered by my fascination with him. Facebook had informed me that this very day was the thirty-fifth anniversary of the ‘Pits and Perverts Party’ at the Camden Ballroom in London – this was organised by the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and the headliner in 1984 was Bronski Beat. This event was immortalised in the 2014 film ‘Pride’. Somerville was incredible – strong in voice and energy. The headliner for the night was The Human League, whose synthesiser music rang in my ears as I left the field for my bus.
Sunday was a repeat performance for me. I arrived in the grounds as XSM was taking to the stage. This is a band formed by two original member of Simple Minds, who have been joined by 1980s singer Owen Paul (of ‘My favourite waste of time’ fame) who has replaced Jim Kerr. Good performance. ‘From the Jam’ was Bruce Foxton from the Jam joined by a new singer. Toyah (immortal for both her music and the fact that voice of a generation Adrian Mole – aged 13 ¾ – fancied her) was full of enthusiasm. Bucks Fizz (or ‘The Fizz’ as they now style themselves thanks to copyright claims on the name) tore the house down – the skirts came off also. Bonnie Tyler was in fine rasp of voice belting out her power ballads with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. I loved it. T’Pau received a rapturous reception. Marc Almond was as brilliant and charismatic as he always it. He is such a legend. Holly Johnson was the headliner. And rightly so – the most common item of clothing on display all weekend was the ‘Frankie says Relax’ t-shirt (closely followed by the Wham ‘Choose Life’ slogan). The crowd went wild when he appeared onstage. I never thought I would see the day when I would hear ‘Two Tribes’ sung by Frankie Goes to Hollywood live. It was exhilarating – not least because this was a band that our primary school teacher warned our parents about.
It was a fitting end to a most excellent weekend.