Email 30th May 2000

Subject: Fish 2000 - The Feast of Hope and tales of eels, rats and cygnets

Dear Freaks, Fishheads, Fans and the Company,

Just back from the Feast Of Hope and arrived once again hours ahead of my luggage! :-)
A great weekend was had and a host of new and old acquaintances were made.
We arrived on Friday and after a brief reunion with Pimi and Isobel I made my way to soundcheck and the briefing with my appointed backing band. Pimi had told them to rehearse a couple of numbers so Nicholas, keyboard player and Musical Director for the event had worked out a more than passable mini set comprised of Goldfish and Clowns, A Gentleman's Excuse Me, Kayleigh and Lavender. The latter 2 were learned from the original versions and had to be dropped a tone in order that the 15 years of wear and tear could be accommodated! :-) The soundcheck was nervous and tense with the tempos a wee bit on the driving side of groove. All went well and after a couple of run throughs I was happy that I was contributing rather than just tasting the Swiss wine which was available in copious amounts.
I'd met with old mate Jimmy O Neil from Scottish band The Silencers who was there with his girlfriend and we had already racked a bottle of Vin Rouge or 2 in celebration at a lunch that brought the various diverse artists together for the first time. Steve Hogarth had showed up with his entourage and pleasantries were exchanged. I knew Richard Barriere from Japan and obviously Porcupine Tree shows but the rest of H's band were mostly new to me apart from Dave Gregory from XTC who I'd met years previously. He had brought a band of 6 people and 2 crew guys and it was obvious from the start that H was taking this year's festival as more of a showcase for his solo career and was aiming to try and create more of an impact by bringing an outfit down to Geneva that was designed to impress. He was so wrapped up in his own thing that we didn't really say much to each other the whole weekend apart from exaggerated small talk. He was to have a hard time at soundcheck as it dragged on till much later than expected for him as he had decided to use a completely different backline to the other acts and had to rely on communicating with a mostly French speaking stage crew. He didn't show up at the evening meal till much later and soon after eating went out with his band while I hung around with the other acts gobbling fondue and chasing wine till the early hours. It transpired that the rumours of a Marillion reunion had also been flamed by the appearance of a French act called the Silmarils! A cross between the Beastie Boys and Jethro Tullish vibes they would be an act that solidly impressed and we became good buddies over the weekend.
Needless to say it rained heavily that night and in the morning a thick mist hung over the lake practically obliterating the fountain that seemed a beautiful exercise in defying gravity. Lunch was primarily liquid and later I met up with Jean Pierre Lix, his daughter Cindy, Alain, Nathalie and Violaine from the Company France. It was ironic that Saturday was the day of the wedding of Bruno and Tas who had met at Wes's wedding in Florida and they were both surprised to meet with Violaine who had also been in Florida for the occasion. I had to excuse myself as I was on stage at 12pm and had to catch some z's in the afternoon. 2 hours kip was enough to make the difference between staying the distance that evening or lagging seriously at the tail end of the night.
Tammi, Tara and I went down to the gig at around 7 with Jimmy O Neil and Claude. It was already swinging and the sports hall that was the venue this year was already filling out. In the end I think there were around 10,000 people either in the hall or watching the various screens scattered throughout the neighbourhood that were being fed from the cameras inside the hall. There was a great vibe. As the night progressed act after act was turning up the juice and the crowd was responding with their own contribution of energies.
The Silmarils were excellent as was Valerie Etienne but my magic memory was of Roger Hodgson the ex-Supertramp vocalist who delivered a sparkling acoustic solo set which included Sister Moonshine, Give A Little Bit, Breakfast in America and other songs including a track from his new solo album due out on Sony. I admit to being a bit wet-eyed as I saw Supertramp a few times in the 70's including the first big headline tour with Crime of the Century supported by Joan Armatrading. I'd introduced myself earlier in the evening together with Tammi who yet again astounded me by going ga ga! She was a huge fan of Rodger's previous band and even got Tara to get his autograph! :-)))
Rodger went down a storm and came off to resounding applause. H was up next but the changeover took so long that a lot of the atmosphere leaked away. I watched the first couple of numbers but then Rodger came up and asked me into his dressing room for a private chat. I was captivated by the man. Profoundly intelligent and charming to a T he is one of the most together and astute musicians I have met for some years. We shared experiences and discussed the perils of being ex-singers from major bands. Ironic it was that the meeting took place during H's set which was easily heard in Rodger's dressing room next to the stage. I caught the last number and although impressed with the band's musicianship I was relatively unfamiliar (as was the crowd) with the material. Another long changeover before Nick from the Cutting Crew delivered his set didn't help matters.
I had asked the house band to rehearse With a Little Help from my Friends as the big finale number and had drafted a bunch of singers and musos in to help with the vocals. We had worked out a shared lead vocal and I spent the run up to my set getting lyric sheets together. It kept my mind off the task ahead and when we hit the opening to Goldfish the band and I were fully concentrated and ready to deliver the goods! I am always nervous at working with house bands that I don't know as if it goes wrong the escapes are very hard to manage. I shouldn't have worried. The tempos were on the mark and the dynamics worked very naturally. We were aglow as Gentlemans and then Kayleigh lifted the crowd. Lavender closed the set to the desired effect and we exited stage right on a righteous high. At last I could indulge my senses with a bottle of red wine. Jimmy O Neil took the stage next commanding as ever and then an AC/DC tribute band fronted by the ex-Krokus singer gave the penultimate performance before Sara Wheeler closed the official set.
The band returned and we kicked off Friends as the cast assembled on stage. I managed the first verse and then it collapsed as everyone including the band forgot the arrangement and we staggered through a series of choruses with various singers interrupting with semi jammed lyrics! It was chaotic fun and the crowd rallied and took it higher. It worked and the effort was well received. A perfect ending to another great Feast!
For those who expected another "duet" of sorts there was disappointent as H decided not to get involved in the finale. I can only think it was something to do with the fact that the entire backstage was empty and no-one was guarding the wine cellar! When I saw him later he was all sheets to the wind and an attempted conversation was aborted as neither of us were making sense. I gave up and headed back to the hotel with Jimmy O Neil, H's guitarist Asiz and Eric the roadie (who excelled himself that night and held his own with 2 Jocks!). We sat on the balcony overlooking the lake and drank neat vodka while Claude rallied us with french bread and pate which she had made the weekend before from the dodgy parts of a pig they had slaughtered in her village in Brittany. This was not a party for vegetarians nor Asiz who is a practising Muslim. The fountain switched off and the plume dove into the lake. My Duracell batteries gave in and at 4 am I was long gone and headed to the safety of my room where the girls were tucked up sound asleep.
Sunday was a haze and after another social gathering at lunch and a few cognacs I hit the hay again to recover before yet another fondue frenzy with Pimi, Isobel, Jimmy O Neil, Claude and my girls. The weekend was fabulous and Pimi and I are already talking about next year which is planned to be an even bigger event and will involve me working with French band Zebda. I have promised to sing in French - now that's worth the trip! :-)

BTW The event was filmed and recorded on 24 track and I intend to give the clips to Mo for the web site sometime in the next month.

The Fellini moment of the weekend was standing lakeside on Sunday night 5 feet above a swan's nest which had Mum guarding home while Dad took in turn and collectively 6 cygnets off for an early morning paddle. As the cygnets waddled their furry awkward way to the waters edge, black rats scurried around them and tried to get into the nest only to be met with Mum's outrage. Her defense was admirable and effective and to be so close to the encounter was breathtaking for us all. Tara was enthralled and we must have watched this confrontation for about an hour before once again the fountain hurtled downward to disappear into the lakes surface as the pumps shut down and a tired but happy troupe headed to the balcony to watch the morning break. Vodka, wine and pate fed the conversation until the eyelids could hang no more. A truly magical time had been had.

We left Geneva at 5am and got back to Edinburgh late morning. Thank god this was a holiday weekend and the telephones were considerate. Tomorrow is another day and a meeting at the ruin with the planning committee will be the first step into a new future. The result will determine the next journey in my life. I will sleep with the dream.

It's late so I excuse myself.

I'll tell you about the eel tomorrow and hopefully good news on the ruin.

Destiny is now in charge of proceedings.

lots of love
Onkel Fish x

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