Tiny Moors venue is Knockin’ on Dylan’s Door

He’s sold over one hundred million records, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and American President Barack Obama said of him “there is not a bigger giant in the history of American music”.

Singer Bob Dylan. 
Photo: PA.
Singer Bob Dylan. Photo: PA.

But a tiny venue in the North York Moors has big ambitions of getting Bob Dylan to a sleepy valley to play there.

The Band Room has mounted a campaign to persuade the American singer-songwriter to play its 100-capacity venue in Farndale, and are inviting Neil Young to join him.

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It’s the second time they have tried to lure Dylan to the Moors, but this time they are hopeful, and have had “positive contact” with the agent that represents both singers in the UK.

Nigel Burnham, who founded The Band Room 20 years ago, said that while the idea may seem big, it was a case of “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “We have always punched over our weight here, why not try for the greatest of all time?

“It’s a long shot, but we’re not trying to hype it up. These days you have quiet a lot of big names, playing smaller gigs, either because they love going back to playing for smaller audiences, or for the publicity.

“While Dylan certainly doesn’t need the publicity, we think he would really love it here.”

Nigel Burnham at The Band Room at Farndale. Picture: Maisie Jepson.

The Band Room has attracted fans from as far afield as Hong Kong and Ohio over the last 20 years, despite being five miles from the nearest small town, Kirkbymoorside, and 35 miles from York.

Bands that have appeared include alt-country duo The Handsome Family, and folk singer Kate Rusby, former Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews, and American singer Willy Mason.

But one thing in common with every gig at the Band Room is that each act, however big, is asked to cover a Dylan track.

“Such is the esteem in which Dylan is held, most people do - even if they have to learn the lyrics on the day of the show, having driven a few miles up the road in search of a signal to download them,” Mr Burnham said. “The incredible thing is – even though the pressure may lead to shortcomings in the finesse department - the Dylan songs invariably go down the biggest. Not just because they are familiar but because they are so uniquely powerful.

Bob Dylan performing on stage at the Hop Farm Festival, Paddock Wood Ken, in 2012. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

“We see Dylan nearly every time he comes over to the UK and he is invariably playing arenas or stadiums – many of which have all the charm and ambience of a warehouse or an aircraft hangar. We feel sure Dylan would have a much better experience here.”

Dylan is no stranger to playing small gigs. Last year, he performed in front of an audience of just one, superfan Fredrik Wikingsson at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. While it was for a television show, it set a precedent that could be repeated at The Band Room. And he’s heading for the UK in October, with concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and in Manchester, Cardiff and Southampton. The Band Room’s proposal is to split the profits from the gig between mutually agreed good causes.

Mr Burnham said: “Incredibly - even though our capacity is only 100 - money would not be an issue. When we contacted Dylan’s office once before, word got out and we were inundated with enquiries from fans all round the world who told us they would happily pay anything up to £1,000 to see him here. Not that Bob, Neil or The Band Room would want to do a show here at that price. But if you do the maths, a show even at a much lower price is clearly viable.”

Harnessing fan power

The Band Room

WHILE IT may seem ambitious that some of music’s biggest stars would respond to a fan’s plea to play - the power of social media is making it a more common occurrence.

Just last month, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl agreed to play at the Italian town of Cesena after a fan’s plan to have 1,000 musicians play a synchronized rendition of the hit Learn to Fly went viral.

A video of the stunt has now had more than 21 million views on YouTube.

But fan power doesn’t always work. Despite a 135,000 signature petition calling for his appearance to be cancelled, American rapper Kanye West went ahead with his Glastonbury headline slot in June.