Email 2nd September 1999

Subject: Fish 99 - The Convention - Friday

Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company

Rehearsals had started after the Swiss trip and most of the songs we planned to include in the new set were in a pretty good shape. Liz was the only one who had a lot of catching up to do when she joined us for the lead up to the convention 2 weeks before the event. The Convention weekend was gathering pace and Tammi and I were booking barbecues, arranging buses and security and otherwise dealing with everything to do with the set up for the event. Merchandise had to be ordered, embroidery designed and ok'd, marquees booked and portaloos found!
On top of all that I was arranging posters, making interviews and trying to find sponsors as well as rehearsing and working with Yatta on the fast approaching European tour. It was utter mayhem!
The first week was worrying for me as every time I left the rehearsal room and entered the office I was hooked by a phone call and spent the next couple of hours trapped behind "enemy" lines. At the start of the week immediately before I had to cut off from the outside world and get my proverbial shit together. It went better than expected with only "Plague" causing severe headaches. The middle section was proving a real tongue twister and the eternal problem of remembering "jammed" lines became evident. The only two tracks I was wary of were Plague and Sunsets itself! The weirdest moment came when Brother 52 echoed around the studio. It was as if Doc had never left the band and was now some kind of guardian spirit!
I'd planned to have at least a day off before the warm up gig at the Victoria Inn so Thursday was spent greeting the early arrivals at home or in the Tyneside during the ritual post rehearsal talk shop.
The organisation continued and Tammi was doing brilliantly setting up the last minute details including sorting out the catering for the fast growing entourage of musos, crew and friends up for the weekend. Steve Wilson arrived with his Polish girlfriend Mawjojzata (ok I Got it wrong again) which was a strange coincidence for the man who wrote Goldfish with me! He told me that he had the Marillion album with him and that he was well pleased with the mixing he'd done. Before anyone asks - no I didn't hear it! Not through choice or offers rather the workload across the weekend. Steve agreed to go for Sunsets with us on stage but as rehearsals were finished we decided to leave it till soundcheck. As it was Steve missed the first half of the gig as he had to run up to the Farm and convince security that he was a musician up to learn a song he had to play in a few minutes!! He told me that he couldn't believe that he was sitting in an empty house learning the chords from a cassette and working them out on our old well out of tune piano while we were rocking the Corn Exchange 2 miles away!
Thursday I was relatively well behaved at night and Friday was spent tidying up details. Ordering the portaloos was my last job of the day before the gig. I had thought about a warm up gig for the main set as well as the acoustic set but finances only allowed an acoustic night.
I chose the Victoria because of the newly set up Thursday night jam sessions and as landlords Billy and Helen Lamb were doing their best to get people in Haddington into the idea of a regular live music venue I could only add my support.
The Chinese takeaway was late and we set off on empty stomachs and full heads for the gig. A few pints and vodkas later we were setting up in a well crowded room upstairs and trying to make sense of the PA system. It was a tortuous set up and the wait for me was intolerable. I just wanted to get started and when we did kick off we were all buzzing with the crowd. This was a far more normal show than the one that was scheduled for the Saturday night. Booze, bad language, heckling (I wasn't as slow as I expected :-) and general bohemian goodness!
The set was made up on the spot with Somebody Special kicking off in grand style. Change of Heart followed and then Liz was given her Haddington baptism with great performances on Just Good friends, Incomplete and Tilted Cross. I can't remember the exact order but Lucky and Out of my Life took the steam up before a sublime Lady Let It Lie took the short warm up into the opening of Raingods dancing and the outro of Make It Happen with it's soon to be customary walk off! Derek and the Badgers exited their debut gig to great applause!!
I really enjoyed the gig and for the band it was the first time all 6 of us had performed together. In the back of my mind I was very aware of the impending weekend for real and regretfully left the bar early. Though not before I proposed marriage to somebody! No I wasn't that pissed but a large gentleman called Craig Brown (not the Scottish manager fella) asked me if I would sign a poster to his girlfriend Sue who had piped up with some wee heckles during the show and who had provided some good warm up hits for the frontman! He told me that he was too nervous to go for the full blown knees job so would I ask the question as a third party on his behalf in the dedication on the poster he wanted autographed! Happy to oblige! A positive answer from Sue, a few warm tears of joy and a few tumblerfuls of voddies were drunk to celebrate the forthcoming wedding! After that it was in to the van and up to the farm where Yatta reminded me only once that tomorrow was gig day and that bed was a good idea. I was asleep by 1am with that warm feeling that all was going according to plan and that the gig had gone well.
The wee coughs weren't bothering me that much and the sweat on the forehead was just the after gig come down. I laid me down to rest.
I awoke on Saturday with a lung full of frogs.

more later
lots of love
Onkel Fish x

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