This Week in Haaretz 1995 / Mashina's 'Unfinished Symphony'

After 10 years of composing, recording and performing, the rock group Mashina announced in May 1995 that it would disband.

After 10 years of composing, recording and performing, the rock group Mashina announced in May 1995 that it would disband. A time and place was chosen: the Arad Festival in July 1995. Attendance was massive, but instead of a euphoric send-off for the band, which had influenced tens of thousands of Israeli teenagers in the 1980s and 1990s, a disaster occurred when three young people were crushed to death by the large crowd attempting to enter the show. The band issued a statement, reflecting that "the pain and shock are greater than can be imagined. The reason for the delay in the band's response stems from its difficult feelings and sense of grief. In the hard aftermath of this event, we are not yet able to consider how to part from our audience."

Three months after the Arad Festival, the band once again said farewell, this time in the Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. "They've been rehearsing for a week already, mainly to release the huge amount of tension that had built up," Mashina's manager Boaz Ben-Zion said two days before the concert. Some 20,000 tickets were sold for the concert in the park, where a 650 square meter stage was erected, extra entrances opened, and 600 security guards and police were in hand. "Mashina developed against the background of the Lebanon War, a national unity government, local and national newspapers, Tel Aviv clubs and the Mann Auditorium," Haaretz music critic Gidi Avivi wrote on the day of the performance, October 12, 1995. Now, after a decade in which their albums sold hundreds of thousands of copies and their songs were played on dozens of radio stations tens of thousands of times, they were disbanding.

Even then one could assume this would not be Mashina's last encounter with its audience. "Cautious fans and critics, who have learned something from the history of Israeli rock, must, of course, have some reservations," Avivi hinted about the many comebacks of ostensibly retired Israeli bands. But it was the closing of a circle, "even if it isn't the end of the story," he wrote. "It was a beautiful circle, and an impressive one."

The members of Mashina dedicated their final show to the three casualties of the Arad Festival disaster. They played songs from their month-old album, "Time Machine," an anthology of live performances, which had sold 20,000 copies by the night of the concert. The audience joined in on "Why Politics for Me Now," "On our Streets," "Anna," "I'll Wait for You in the Fields" and "Words and More Words." "The multitude of voices echoing Mashina turned it into a band that to some extent belonged to all of us," Avivi wrote. "But it belongs to itself in a no less important way. Yuval Banai, Shlomi Bracha, Michael Benson, Iggy Dayan and Avner Chodorov know how to sing Aris San, Kurt Cobain, Kaveret, and Mendes, but the blend of different sounds belongs solely to Mashina."

Mashina played above the roar of helicopters overhead; police and paramedics stood at the ready. Two hundred people fainted, Haaretz reported the next day, and four were taken to hospital, two suffering from hysteria and too much emotion. A third suffered an asthma attack, and the fourth broke a leg. Two people were arrested on suspicion of drug use. The following day, when everything had quieted down, Avivi wrote, "Can it be that the unfinished symphony called Mashina's parting tour - its band members in a bad mood and its fans depressed, its public relations people hyped up and reporters given the brush off - can it be that this historical drama has really come to an end? Can it be over because when the jeep passed by, the boys roared that it was over?" Aviv then answered: "Indeed." Channel 1 filmed the final show with an approach usually reserved for decisive national events. "It was a smooth and agreeable broadcast, sometimes smiling and sometimes serious, and mainly professional and moving at the same time. In other words, it was the proper approach to a show by Mashina," Avivi wrote, in a follow-up. "Mashina's linguistic flexibility enables its members to describe a nightmarish world with humor and grace, but Mashina has never attempted to disguise the seriousness of its intentions."