Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,
And so it came to pass! The first weekend of festivals after the two weeks of mind fragging rehearsals. We left for Leipzig on Thursday, the band all travelling from Glasgow to Stansted to hit the hub for the German flight. A bus through and into the terminal which still had a faint essence of burning Cherokee Jeep from the terrorist hit a week or so before. An old Marillion fan at check in let the bags sail through despite Gavin's 33 kilo suitcase and various instruments which could have raised eyebrows elsewhere!
Through the endless frustrations of security checks and into the bar to be greeted by a surly individual who seemed to the recipient of all doughnuts and patisseries on the premises that had passed their sell by date and whose date stamps were closely monitored.
"Out of Guinness, barrels need changing!", "Out of Caffrey's, barrel needs changing!", "Coffee machine's broke!", "Ah'm just on massel, I cannae do everythin'!". This was not the face of the Scottish Tourist board!
I settled for a Bloody Mary, a gin and tonic for Steve V and a bacon tomato panini. "That'll be 7 pounds eighty! Oh I forgot the panini, that'll be 10 pound seventy nine pence!".
"You're kidding me on!" quoth I, faced with Norwegian bar prices before we had left Scotland. I then got the usual "It's not me that fixes the prices etc..." and the usual protective howl of protest. I told her I understood that but if she could pass my comments on to her manager I would appreciate it. I left it at that, no big deal, no nastiness, just an obvious comment that I thought I was, together with fellow passengers, being ripped off especially when the 3 pound 39 pence panini had two slices of bacon in it and half a tomato!
Frank was next at the bar as I sat down for my first drink of the day. "Tell 'im he's barred! Ah'm no serving 'im!"
Foss was next up and got the "Ah'm going to get 'im thrown off his plane, tell 'im!".
She then proceeded to clean up every table except ours. And there I was barred from the pseudo French pub in Glasgow airport. An auspicious start! :-D
Plane was late and we hit Stansted with a delay on the outbound and met up with the rest of the team - Yatta, Steve Rispin (Sound engineer) and Vince O'Malley (tech). We hit Leipzig a bit late but by then we had a bottle of vodka and had a few wines in us already for time to distort enough. The vodka went on the road trip in a tribal frenzy and we reached Reichenbach in a blur of bus. The local promoter had a bar and had kept it open especially for us. It was now nearly three am! And he opened a bottle of schnapps and set about our ears with various slabs of prog music some of which was cringe worthy. I took over the decks just as Yatta blew the whistle and we headed to the hotel. We were sharing!!! And I got Foss! I went to bed and was woken by a bouncing Foss an hour later. He'd been to Frank's room for a late night last ditch effort to obliterate the thought of first gig tomorrow night. And succeeded. :-D
I slept long and deep and was up at one o clock to head for brunch with the boys downstairs in the beer garden. "Pendragon" had just arrived, they were playing the next night. It was great to see Nick and Rachel again together with Clive and the rest of the guys. We had a great catch up natter and trawled over recent events and old histories with a beer or two. Very genuine and lovely people it was a nice spread of an afternoon in great company.
And then down to the site! A beautiful position beneath the largest brick built bridge in the world. A gathering of arches and pillars that carried the Munich/ Dresden main railway line 220 feet or so up from the valley below. A hugely impressive structure that had avoided being bombed and in fact had been saved by locals in 1945 when the Nazis wanted to blow it up to keep it out of Russian hands. The locals removed all the explosives and saved it for prosperity. I was informed that it was also the preferred jump off spot for would be suicides. Seemingly people came from as far away as Munich to savour the leap. I walked under it's arches with my camera with one eye to the skies, the other training the long grass for lost crumpled bodies.
Back at the stage it turned out the keyboard spec we had asked for wasn't here and Foss would have to use the rig that Sylvan were using. It wasn't ideal and required a lot of re programming and compromise. Foss didn't need this today of all days and temperatures rose slightly in the tent backstage which was kitchen, eating area, dressing room, production office and hang out room for all concerned with the festival. It cooled down quickly as Foss said he could do the gig and set to work for two hours on his set up.
We had to leave at 12 at the latest on a sleeper coach for Stuttgart to check in at 6am for Copenhagen and the trek North. And then the gig started to overrun.
Sylvan were really kind and agreed to split their set so we could get a chance to play a longer set than the existing stage times would allow us if we followed Sylvan's set. The guys had been really helpful all day and we sincerely appreciated their understanding. Both they and Pendragon will be playing Loreley with me next week so I hope we can return some favours.
The festival was perfect for what we needed. It was out of the way with a small dedicated audience. As it was a funded event there was no pressure on the promoter and tickets were free. It was a very 'proggy' crowd and the CD shop at the back provided me with a couple of Gentle Giant albums and an old Barclay James Harvest live CD I had been trying to find for a while.
We went on stage at around 9.30 all nervous and looking at each other for cues and clues throughout the set. I was still reading some of the new lyrics which had been printed in Primary school size letters so I could see without glasses. (I am going to have my eyes lasered in the next couple of weeks - it's getting too much).
The first set list was as follows - 'Perception of Johnny Punter', 'Circle Line', 'So Fellini', 'Square Go', 'Manchmal', 'Hotel Hobbies/Warm Wet Circles/That Time of the Night', 'White Russian', 'Dark Star', 'Sugar Mice', 'Slainthe Mhath', 'Last Straw' with encores 'Cliche' and 'Incommunicado'. The set rocks!
The new stuff was well received and well played by the guys considering it was first time out. It required total concentration throughout the set and it was difficult to find the space to "perform". The reaction overall was great and we were all relieved to get that first gig under our belts. No one was using the bridge tonight!
A few wines with the Pendragon tribe and we said our goodbyes till next week. The first bus of the tour was calling us.
We awoke in Stuttgart at 6am for check in. In my stupefied state in my bunk I asked Yatta if I had time for a shower. How he laughed!
I was still wearing my stage jeans and the same socks and underwear from the gig.
We checked the luggage in for Alta in Norway. I was reminded as I would be the entire weekend of still raw emotions when asked if "Heather Findlay" was checking in with us. My ex was supposed to be singing BVs with us and as we had non refundable, non exchangeable tickets which had been paid for months before I was sitting holding 12 air tickets across two weekends in her name!
There was a bonus though as luckily everyone in the band or crew could deal with the situation and didn't complain or throw the toys out the pram! Bit of male bonding! Who moans first? :-D
I slept through the first flight to Copenhagen and dragged myself through to the next gate for Oslo at the other end. We arrived in Oslo at 11 and went to pick up our luggage which although marked for Alta still had to clear customs before being put on the next flight North. We waited at the belts for around 40 minutes and were told we had to board for Alta and sort out the missing luggage from there. A dilemma.
We decided to go for it and ran to the gate hoping the guitars, keyboard module and luggage would catch us up.
A two hour flight to Alta and we arrived in the Artic Circle sadly clustered in lost hope around the luggage retrieval area. The bags were in Oslo and had been held back for security checks. We boarded the bus with one of the other bands playing the festival, "Pagan's Mind". A great bunch of guys from Oslo that play a blend of heavy metal/prog fusion. Worth checking out.
We got talking on the bus and they were sympathetic as to our predicament. They all agreed to help out and we started to make plans for using alternative equipment. There were no more scheduled flights that day to either Alta or to Lakselv where we were playing. It was going to be hard as once again Foss was facing re programming an entire new set of keys. I felt sorry for him as we all did. This was unnecessary pressure. We arrived at the hotel in this tiny outpost around 6 after a short stop for hot dogs, our first real meal of the day!
I was dreading the gig.
Calls were made and we got in touch with SAS airlines who could get the gear to Tromso but not to Lakselv. Tromso is 8 hours or so by road away. Dinner in the hotel, fresh prawns and crab followed by reindeer steaks and fresh line caught salmon with all the trimmings! Couldn't have been better and for a hour or so we feasted and forgot about what we had to sort out later. I was still wearing yesterdays clothes and it looked like I would be wearing them tomorrow.
We headed down to the festival site to get to grips with our predicament.
The site was truly magical. Perched on a sandy outcrop between the local river and the sea, the stage facing the bay and overpowering midnight sun and the backstage area full of tepees containing fine wines, vodka and a crackling birch wood fire in a cauldron offering sweet smoke to the vent above which held a blue circle of sky. I was living again.
We sat on reindeer hides and smiled with our new friends. This was so Fellini.
I can honestly say that Stig, the promoter, and all those involved at the Midnattsrock festival were the friendliest and most helpful bunch of people I have met for a long time and the festival itself was one of the best experiences I have had at an open air. The vibe was fantastic.
Our hopes were raised when we discovered that the local promoter had friends in high places and had arranged through a phone call to the Lakselv airfield controller, who was in holiday in Austria, to have the airport opened especially and for Tromso airport to allow a private flight out with our luggage and equipment. Our agent, Ernst, was a genius at putting this together and we were now staring at the reality of going on stage as planned at 2am with a full roster of equipment and fresh clothes for the singer.
I filmed the plane swooping in on Lakselv airport and diving steeply to a short landing from our dressing tepee. We felt like a stranded army platoon being air dropped just as we run out of ammo.
The van arrived from the airport containing all the guitars, the keyboard module, Chris Johnson's luggage and............ three rucksacks belonging to some unknown Norwegians who had landed in Tromso! Bugger!
At least we had the working tools and I blagged a festival shirt to wear on stage.
"Pagan's Mind" came off stage at 1am and we got our gear ready as the other stage kicked off in the bar tent. There were about 2000 people there and all in various states of inebriation in the dazzling sunlight and blue skies of perpetual daylight which takes over these parts for three months a year. It's a very strange feeling and leaves you in a hallucinogenic state as your body clock is totally confused. Add alcohol and one can become deranged. We hit the gig after one of the most memorable stage calls ever, a world war two air raid siren accompanied by a fury of fireworks cracking and bursting in the blue skies above.
The gig was fantastic and it was obvious hardly anyone apart from the hundred or so diehards at the front of stage knew what I was about. It made the conversion sweeter and again the new material drew great reactions. The set list was the same as Reichenbach with the exception of a dropped 'Dark Star'. We were more relaxed and I got more into the performances and could wander away from the lyric sheets without panicking. We came off stage at 4am.
As in Germany 'Manchmal' and 'Square Go' really "happened" and 'So Fellini' and 'Perception' were welcomed back to the fold. Initial thoughts are that there could be some tinkering and there are a couple of other tracks that will be brought in to the gigs this weekend, time allowing. It's a very strong and balanced set and the 'Clutching' material sits well with my solo material as we all initially felt it would. The band obviously gelled on the second show and I think we have a solid outfit that will only get tighter in the coming weeks.
Foss and Chris have fitted in well and overall this first weekend abroad was a highly beneficial bonding session for all concerned.
We took a lot of plaudits in the backstage area from people who had never heard me before. It was a roaring success all round.
We retired to out tepee and sat with our new friends around the fire chewing the fat and drinking into the endless day.
The band shifted to the hotel around 6 but I decided to stay in the tepee. The crowd eventually filtered out the door and I sat in rapture staring at the fire. I eventually passed out around 7.30 with a football match just kicking off on the sands outside. I lay back in my blankets of reindeer hides and stared up at the blue sky held in the chimney vent above. I shut my eyes and smiled from somewhere I hadn't been for a long time.
I woke up around two to be met with the same smiling faces and a festival site being taken down. Fresh coffee from the kitchen tepee and long goodbyes to new friends. How good can it get?
I arrived at the hotel to discover band and crew revelling in the eternal sunshine. Everyone had problems sleeping. I showered and washed my smalls, hanging them outside in the hotel gardens to dry. I managed another hour in bed and then joined the guys in the gardens for some beers. We were scheduled to leave at 8pm to journey up to Norkapp, the furthest Northerly point in Mainland Europe, where we would hang about before heading to Alta and our flight back next day.
And lo and behold! An hour before we were due to leave and the missing luggage arrived. All except for Gavin's 33 kilo monster which was at Alta airport. I swear Gavin's case can be seen from space!
I managed to recharge the video camera batteries for the next instalment and it was orgasmic to put on clean clothes!
Another fine meal in the restaurant and despite Foss's invocation of Murphy's Law the litre bottle of wine I had nicked from Germany arrived intact in my case! ("You'll not be able to wear anything from your luggage anyway as it'll be covered in white wine and broken glass!" and with my luck!) Worth a small mortgage in Norway we were going to have a "relaxed" journey to Nordkapp.
It was long but the views were breathtaking. Herds of reindeer pushed across the roads and grazed seaweed on long flat beaches at the foot of mountains swathed in cloud and fog and spectacularly lit by the midnight sun. The lighting effects were like Victorian oil paintings of the Lake District or Scottish Highlands, translucent and creeping luminescence as the curtains of vapour swirled around the peaks and valleys opening up curtains of rock to the sun. Immense banks of sea fog were held off the coast in the distance as we weaved our way merrily North to the cape.
Funny thing was that when we went through one of the many gargantuan tunnels on the road and submerged into near darkness everyone was overcome with tiredness in an instant and slept loosely till the sunlight exploded at the other end. "What day is it? Where's my breakfast?" It was confusing. A bit like putting a cloth on a budgie's cage!
We arrived at Nordkapp at around midnight. One of the most spectacular views ever and here we were wrapped in dense fog. We couldn't see anything of the ocean from the cliffs where a massive building complex held milling herds of tourists all here to see the midnight sun at the most northerly point in Europe. A bit of a let down but we had a bar and we had a will. Once again we sampled local food stuffs based on dares. Dried reindeer heart (nature's viagra seemingly) and dried fish. Some of the facial expressions were hilarious to watch!
The bar bill was a small mortgage but it was great to have a happy band and crew after a demanding weekend.
We set off into the clouds and back to Alta which greeted us with more bright sunlight as the fog was burned away on our journey South. We stayed at a cabin complex close to the airport, Foss, Frank and I sharing as we were heading to Copenhagen mid afternoon with the others leaving earlier. Shaky bunk beds had Frank worried as I slept on the top. I moved gingerly in the night.
And then the trip home. We all had small hope for the luggage making the short connection between Copenhagen and Edinburgh but against the odds it was delivered without problems and I arrived home around ten that night. It was great to be back in darkness again! :-D
We all had a great time despite the hiccups and it was important to discover if I had a real team on my hands. I certainly have and am looking forward to Germany tomorrow. Everyone feels very positive and ready to take the bigger stages.
Tuesday was a strange day as I had to take Chris's gear back to York. It was too expensive to freight so I decided to drive with my Dad and stay at my sister's in Pocklington that night. As the script of my Life has it, the lights changed to red just as I pulled up facing the Micklegate. I hadn't been there since Valentine's day. It was a powerful and extremely sad moment.
Chris also stays in the flat he once shared with my ex and again it was a weird feeling drinking tea in the kitchen in the house I stayed in last year. All ghosts I have to face and I am sure there will be many more.
A great night at my sister's and it was good to see my niece and nephew. The journey home was shorter than the one down.
Wednesday was spent getting up to speed with emails and other work and at night Rob Elliot turned up with my new kilt and the certificate recognizing the new "Dick" tartan! It will debut on the 4th August at the fast approaching launch party for the album.
Today was setting up the "13th Star" production and the packaging. There will definitely be a DVD with the new album featuring studio work and demos etc together with a complete insight into the making of the album. I have seen Mark Wilkinson's first image he is working on and I guarantee it will blow you away. I think it is the most powerful image he has put together since "Vigil".
The album will be available in September but we will be taking advance orders in August in order to spread the workload on packaging.
I will let you know more information as soon as we can get costs and delivery dates from the production plant.
"Communion" will be repackaged in September and made available to retail as a standard jewel case with my mail order service retaining a redesigned digipak. Reasons are obvious to those who have read the sleeve notes. This will make the first 3000 units a limited edition.
"Communion" will be available for sale at the merch stall together with the "13th Star" special edition.
Finally I will leave you with another lyric from the new album.
This started off as two separate songs "Going Home" and "Where in the World". It now falls together as one track.
This was Lorna Bannon's favourite and she insists it will make a great single. I might just give it a whack! It's been a while! :-)
The first section was written only a few weeks ago with the latter lyric put together across two periods, one in January.
I wrote too much and decided to let loose two verses which are printed below the main lyric.
Where in the World
This time last year I was in love, this time last year there was a dream
That was in motion that was so real.
The sparks that danced within our eyes, in our hearts there was a fire,
We burned so brightly, we were so alive,
We were going home, going home, we were going home.
We had our stage, the scene was set, the passion play, our roles were written, we had our destiny, our lives were meant to be,
We were going home, we were going home.
The promises, the tender touch, we made our love and kissed with open eyes,
You took me by surprise; you hurt me deep inside, how could you then decide,
That you're going home. You're going home.
All this time I wonder why you walked away, just what I'd done,
Before I knew it you had disappeared without a word, you stole my dream,
You stole my dream
I'm going home, alone.
If the angels flew from Heaven, if God just walked away,
If we found out no one's listening to our ever louder prayers,
If the sea just keeps on rising will it drown the funeral pyres,
Would it bring us back together, do you think we'd see the light?
Where in the world, where in the world, do we go from here?
Where do I go from here?
Where do I go from here?
If I could tear away the darkness, pull the stars out of the skies,
If I could just convince you that everything was right,
If you could only see our future and forgive me for the past,
Do you think that we could make it, do you think our love would last.
Where in the world, where in the world, do we go from here?
Where in the world, where in the world do we go from here?
Where in the world do I go from here?
I remember when you called me; on a Christmas long ago,
You were walking past the Minster; our signals were still strong,
The cathedral bells were ringing, you were laughing down the phone,
The snowflakes they were dancing and melting on your nose,
You told me that you loved me and we both began to cry,
I longed to be there with you, arm in arm and by your side,
If I could only trace those footprints that long since disappeared,
If I could only find my way back, through these words, across the years.
c Derek Dick 2007
Yes it sings like it reads!
It's Thursday night and I have to pack for Germany and a return to Loreley close to 20 years to the day after my first visit on the "Clutching Tour", time moves on and so must I.
lots of love
Onkel Fish xx