Subject: Fish 2006 - The best laid plans of mice and men are often subject to delays and cancellations....and intermittent earthquakes!
Dear Fishheads, Freaks, Fans and the Company,
My head is spinning just now as we finish yet another weekend away on festival duty and I try to get back to some semblance of normality for a few days before we head off once again into the morass of travel hell! We rehearsed the acoustic set all last week with Heather Findlay and Angela Gordon and I must admit to being very happy at the way this is turning out. Their vocal contributions are fantastic and really lend themselves to the songs. It's a great set though I say so myself and it has really got me thinking about future potential of an acoustic tour over a short term period next year if we can get the backing for taking out an extended band. Dave Haswell has come in on percussion and with the girls contributing flute, whistles and Bhodran etc it sounds very big indeed! Calum Malcolm is on line to record the set at the Church over the two nights.
The 'Return to Childhood' DVDs arrived at the Studio and they look really cool. Snapper have done a great job on the packaging. I have kept the prices as low as I can to keep a competitive edge against our opposition (Amazon have put the release back to September) and I sincerely appreciate your support for our wee outfit up here in sun drenched Scotland!
Also arrived are the new limited edition ' RTC' Zippos and the new umbrellas both of which will be released at the Convention.
Gavin Griffiths has been fitting in so well he seems to have been round us forever. There's been some funny moments and quite a few wind ups I'll entertain you with at the convention. He has had a tough time as the set lists and times keep changing as we take different slots on the bills.
The Seebrunn Festival was the first time for years I played a full 'Marillo' set with 'Misplaced', 'Incommunicado', 'Market Square' and 'Fugazi'. It was the 'Rock of Ages' festival and the promoter had requested the full album as he was an old fan of the band. It did the business but I was glad to get out to Holland and get some solo stuff back in! Seebrunn felt uncomfortably retro!
The Dutch trip was a demanding one as we travelled out on the day of the show from different locations to meet up at Schipol airport.
My trip out with Frank was easy, direct from Edinburgh, but the return was through Birmingham with a 3 hour stopover! All the guys were coming back to the studio for rehearsals and we ended up flying back at different times on different airlines on the Sunday after the show.
The gig was at Scheveningen close to the Hague and we were picked up at the Amdam airport around 3pm for a drive to the hotel and quick turnaround to get to the gig which was on the beach nearby. I had a signing session at the festival at 5. We were headlining and the other bands were mostly Dutch and Belgian indy bands, all young and full of spunky rock riffs. The backstage was a sandy 'corriemex' container next to a tented bar area. Ok for an hour or so but 5? Mind numbingly boring, we all took turns to try and crash out in the 'bunker' under the onslaught of the support bands bombarding the beach through the PA.
Although we headlined the usual curfew restrictions forced us to cut the set and we opened with 'Innocent Party' and through into 'Long Cold Day' and 'Credo' before the launch of the 'Misplaced' album and the two rockers at the end. 'Fugazi' was left off that night as by the time we finished the winds were kicking up and the temperature by the sea was plummeting. Add to that monitors from hell as the wind blew the sound around out front and the engineer panicked at every squeal from the wedges and kept the volume on stage to a bare minimum. I was raging at the end as it was difficult trying to hear anything I was singing with the band sounding like they were playing in another country. It wasn't one of our finest moments and the band was a bit down aftershow. After all the effort we had made to get there it was a bit depressing in the sand pit dressing room as we hadn't got the result we wanted.
However everyone backstage and involved with the organisation was really helpful and up and again it made it easier dealing with smiley faces given the circumstances. I was still getting sand out my body the following week though and a play fight between Steve V and Andy T meant they trailed most of the backstage area into the studio on their return.
But after the gig there was an accidental party as I had been given the "Promenential Suite" (It was the Promenade Hotel and as no presidents were expected in the foreseeable future they had downgraded it and kept it for Scottish singers). The apartment was immense with about 4 public rooms as well as a huge bedroom with 4 poster bed. Breakfast for the band and crew was to be served in my suite in the boardroom area which we also found to have a cocktail cabinet with decanters half full of various spirits. As always the one with the biggest room hosts the party and I had no argument. I was invaded and the decanters were duly emptied, the mini bar ignored. I kicked out Steve V around 5am!
Next morning the leave was close to humane and so I did catch some zeds in the 4 poster!
The three hours in Brum airport was brain numbing but was made up on our return by a roast Sunday dinner concocted by my sister Laura who had been camping with her kids in the garden for the fortnight! (I did offer them rooms in the Studio but they declined - I'm not that tight :-))
4 days of rehearsals followed interjected with interviews for Mexico and Poland, fixing details a-plenty re the convention and the traditional domestic stuff which also involved cooking for the band, looking after my teenage daughter and attempting to control an unruly garden. It was stressful and what I didn't need was the news of the "terrorist plots" on the Thursday before we were due to leave. Suddenly everything was up in the air as far as our itineraries were concerned as all our flights to Switzerland were potentially on the ground!
Heather and Angela were supposed to fly to Heathrow that night for a 'Mostly Autumn' gig in Portugal next day. By evening the flights were gone and the gig was blown. Steve V made it to Brum that night with a two hour delay and the rest of us remained glued to the Edinburgh flight schedules as we had to fly to London City next morning on our outward journey to Zurich.
Next morning I was up at 5.30 am and off to the airport with Gavin, Tony, Andy and Frank at 6.15, all the instruments in hard cases to cope with the danger of travelling in the hold rather than the soft bags we use for taking them on as hand luggage. Our combined baggage weight went up by 50k's and we were potentially facing an extreme hit for excess luggage. If the hand baggage was added the gig would not be worth playing as we would lose money on 90k's excess across 4 flights!!!
On arrival at the airport I was glad I had checked in on-line the night before. It was like queuing for a bad Disneyland ride that the kids really wanted to get on. The delay to London City was an hour and I was glad as it took us over an hour to get the bags in and an hour to get through security clutching my shoes, my belt and the wee plastic bag with my wallet, reading glasses (without case), sunglasses (without case) and travel documents. Nearly three hours in Edinburgh. The City airport was a breeze which was just as well as we had to get all of our luggage together there as we couldn't check it direct to Zurich because we had e tickets and despite Swissair assuring us we could the BA staff refused to let it go. The only bonus was that the excess luggage restrictions didn't seem to exist. All our phones were in the hold so we couldn't communicate with the Brum mob. We didn't even know if they would be there when we arrived. The gig was still in question.
Lo and behold it all came to be and we met up with our gear and hit the road to Laax, 2 hours away. We arrived in mist and rain in the exclusive mountain skiing retreat at around 7pm (they had been expecting snow!) We had been travelling for over 12 hours and were on stage in just over 2! We were so tired we were close to hallucinating.
I hit the Zed machine for an hour, woke up, rushed dinner and headed to the cable cars which would take us up the mountain to the festival site. It took 20 minutes to get there through the ever thickening mist and eternal drizzle. This was like another planet and very close to the Jurassic Park vibe as I half expected a T Rex to take a lunging bite at the cable car from the forest below!
Within an hour of arrival we were into the opening bars of 'Big Wedge' in front of a bedraggled sparse crowd of assorted bikers gathered for the "Fat Tyre" festival under a permanent roof next to a "Western Style" town arrangement which to say the least was surreal in the fog!
There were teepees and tattoo parlours, bars with swing doors and hardware stores selling all sorts of biker gear. It was more a "Heaven's Gate" set than a rock festival. We rocked and the set choice did the trick on the 2000 or so that faced the stage. The weather was not conducive to prog meandering so your frontman of choice picked a more frontal assault approach. It worked!
We went down extraordinarily well and got a deserved encore with 'Fugazi' playing 'Brother 52', 'Innocent Party', 'Long Cold Day', 'Credo' before the first "half" of 'Misplaced' followed by 'Incommunicado' and 'Market Square' in the main set. The sound was great and new sound guy Steve Rispin is really getting to grips with the out front. Having a monitor engineer with ears and balls helped!
Again a great vibe back stage with the Swiss Hells Angels our security team. Lots of handshakes and smiles again and it was a happy Fish that descended with a bottle of Merlot in the cable car towards the hotel. One of the true Fellini moments gliding down alone in a car through the dripping forest in near silence apart from the muffled hum of the wires. I was in bed and asleep in a blink of an eye only to be woken by the Yattmeister at 6.30 for a 7am leave and the next maelstrom.
Nearly 4 hours in Zurich airport with only Frank and I heading to the one airport in the UK no-one in their right mind wanted to be that weekend. We had a 3 hour stopover for our connection to Edinburgh. Heathrow airport had become a potential black hole for intrepid travellers. Thankfully we were booked on BMI as BA had cancelled ALL flights up North. We still managed to chalk up a good 4 hours spread between checking luggage out and in, getting our wee plastic bags, going through security (one security team on domestic departures across 4 detector gates/x ray screens!!?) In Zurich we were allowed hand luggage on the aircraft and there was no sense of paranoia as that existing at Heathrow. It was chaos and the journey from terminal 2 to 1 allowed us the vision of hell that is the "lost in transit" passenger/refugee camp outside in the car parks. It was more 70's Saigon or Phnom Penh than London! Armed officers and plain clothes spooks with sheafs of laminated id's trawled the aisles. Frank and I holed up in the "Cafe Rouge" and drilled a bottle of Muscadet until we felt brave enough to encounter the next wall of security on the way through to domestic departures where we were fully prepared to bed down for the night!
Another smelly sock shuffle, clutching sagging jeans and obligatory plastic bags and into the lounge which unbelievably was close to empty. We snuffed a few Guinesses and watched the silent waltzing aircraft on the runways through the floor to ceiling windows in the observation area. The calm inside here compared to the zoo in the International areas was womb like. It reminded me of Kubricks "2001" opening sequence! Unbelievably the flight was practically on time and we arrived in Edinburgh with luggage and sanity to be met by my Dad who was as surprised as Frank and I that we had traversed the hell that is Heathrow relatively unscathed.(As I write this the BA Edinburgh to Heathrow flights are still down.) Against all the odds we had pulled of a mainland European gig on one of the worst weekends of flight disruptions in recent years. And next up................................?
In two days we head to Edinburgh airport again for a flight to Atlanta, USA, for our connection to Mexico City. We're flying Delta and will have to negotiate American security in Edinburgh and in the US, an experience I am not looking forward to. Just to add to the "anti" on this gig news filtered through on Friday that there had been a minor earthquake in Mexico City. With the rest of the band flying out of delay ridden Gatwick and once again mobile phones in the hold baggage this could be a real beauty! It could end up Frank and I out there sipping tequila (or should that be vodka martinis, shaken not stirred? :-)) for three days on our own while the others manage Tom Hank's impressions in the Gatwick terminal!
But do not worry my children! Onkel Fish will make the convention next week to regale you with more tales of woe and wonder as is our duty as travelling minstrels in search of pennies from the road! This one looks like being a hoot! :-)
Send up a wee prayer and raise a glass to us this weekend. Let's hope that St Christopher isn't too busy!
lots of love
PS. Just heard that there's been a general election in Mexico, the result is being contested and there's a bit of tension in the air. Whoopee!
Email August 14th 2006