Fish, 30th May 1998
Haddington Convention, UK
By Bart Jan van der Vorst and Tim van der Meer


Plenty raingods, but no Zippos

We left Aberdeen and drove down to Haddington on Friday. Because of the sun showing it's good side for the first time in 3 weeks we decided to leave the umbrellas and take a pair of sunglasses with us instead. 60 miles on the way we had this small, tiny cloudburst, which lasted just about the entire weekend. Welcome to Scotland indeed!

We found the Monk's Muir campsite within three wrong turns and managed to erect our tent without becoming entirely soaked ourselves. (The rain was really pouring down at this point). We met a bunch of other Freaks [subscribers of the Marillion/Fish mailing list - Ed.] on the campsite and it was decided that the proposed barbecue would not be feasible. The idea was raised to find ourselves a warm and decent pub instead.

We found a great pub called Tyneside which immediately turned out to be the best pub in town as Fish and his entire band were having a drink there when we came in. We met a good few dozen Freaks from all over the world and had a really great night. When the pub had closed we went for an after-party in the "Tosh" tent at the campsite in order to add a couple of bottles of red wine to our rather emphatic present drunkenness.

When we came back to our tent at 2 am we found out that it had collapsed under the weight of the rain and the strong wind, so we were forced to sleep in the car! Although this may sound a bit uncomfortable, the idea seemed actually quite good at the time (did I say we were a bit drunk yet?) and it is amazing what kind of dreams you get when sleeping with a steering wheel between your legs and a handbrake next to you! :-)

Next day, the big day, convention day. We teamed up with Gordon from Berlin (Hi Flash!) whom we had met the day before and went down to the Tyneside pub again because we didn't quite know where the pubcrawl would start. The Mark Wilkinson exhibition just got opened when we arrived and I must say it was quite impressive to see all the album and single covers at full-size. (Boy, that Vigil cover is *huge*). The UK-Freaks birthday present was also there, as well as all the album covers, most singles (I didn't see Market Square Heroes and He Knows You Know) and some unpublished material as well.

When we got out of the exhibition hall we met Fish who kindly directed us the short cut (over the graveyard) to the Waterside bistro, the first pub where he would play. This enabled us to get to the pub quite quickly in order to find us some good spots right at the front.

The band arrived shortly after that and began setting up the gear and tuning the instruments. (Frank Usher and Robin Boult had to tune their guitars in the toilets because of the size of this pub!!) I was impressed that the whole band would actually play at the acoustic gigs. The guitarists played acoustic guitars, Steve an acoustic bass-guitar, Squeaky a single snare drum and Mickey carried a small acoustic air-fed organ with him. His introductory speech: "Has anyone seen me organ?" set the tone for the whole day: Relaxed and Fun!

Fish arrived and he asked the (by this time enormous) crowd what we wanted to hear. They started out with a fine version of Lucky after which Fish asked us again what song we wanted to hear. He kept doing this at all three gigs, making it a very special happening: A setlist chosen by the fans. When Gordon asked Fish to play Gentleman's Excuse Me Fish answered: "But Mickey has got such a small organ!!" which resulted in more and more laughter.

Someone else wondered out loud why nobody had shouted for Grendel yet, which resulted in Fish putting him down in the records as the first person to mention Grendel that day.

The next song they played was The Company, for which Fish actually had to use a sheet of paper on which the lyrics were printed. He explained that the week before at the Chateau Marouatte in France he had seen the other musicians writing easy structured lyrics with a four-line verse, chorus, verse, chorus. And how much he hated himself for writing such immense lyrics. His trots (which he used a lot) just added more personality to the whole thing. Because Mickey's organ wasn't amplified Fish held his microphone next to it during the keyboardsolo, which again resulted in more hilarity.

The band played Somebody Special as well after which it was time to move on. Because this pub was so crowded Mickey had promised to play a couple of songs in the second room as well, however I never found out whether this actually happened or not (They played Out of my life and Dear Friend in the second room, this time without any amplification at all -- Ed.)

   

Next place was the Pheasant which was a lot bigger, but also a lot more crowded. At one point when he asked the crowd what they wanted to hear Mickey suggested: "Let's try Holidays in Eden....." Fish burst out to him: "Oh my god.... It *is* you. You really *are* Steve Hogarth aren't you?"

Four songs were played here, among which The Company, during which Fish's memory had improved slightly. This time Mickey's organ solo got so much cheer that he played a little solo afterwards. We left during the last song, Internal Exile in order to reach the last pub before the big crowd. When we arrived there we discovered that this time this pub's management had found a better way to deal with the enormous crowd: The upper function room, where the gig would be played, remained closed until the band arrived, therefore there was a queue right outside the venue. The only problem was that not many people knew this (there were many people leaving because they thought the cue was because the pub was full)

When Mickey and Squeaky arrived there was still no movement in the queue, so we went inside the pub itself (downstairs) to see what was happening. It was right at that time that the management had decided the people could go upstairs, so this provided us with yet another good front row spots.

The last gig was the best (and longest) of the three. The band started with Jeepster which had some improvised lyrics in French as well as a new verse sung by Fish while he embraced Mickey Simmonds. The lyrics were something like this: "You're so cute, you're so fine, oh I'll suck your dick whenever you want to be mine" and caused Mickey to fall back over the table he was sitting on.

When Fish asked the usual question about which song they should play Squeaky proposed to do 'The "K" song', which took Fish a while to realise he actually meant Kayleigh. The set finished with The Company and this time Fish knew almost all the lyrics by heart :-)

Next stop was the marquee behind the Tyneside where the convention chat was held. Due to the necessity of lunch we arrived there a bit late, so we missed the first bit of the chat. It was really nice to see and hear Fish sitting there, chatting to a couple hundred of people as if he was just having a drink with someone in the pub. Many different topics were covered, ranging from Marillion, football, Americans, Internet, fanclubs and more. After the chat we managed to get a picture taken of us with Fish, as well as all our newly acquired merchandise signed. Apparently there were also some videos of Fish shown in the Tyneside pub, but we missed these.


After an hour relaxing in the Tyneside and an improvised Mars-bar dinner we headed for the Corn Exchange, where a fellow freak kindly let us join all the way at the front of the queue. This worked both positively and negatively. The positive aspect was that we managed to find some great spots at the front, the negative aspect was that we had to struggle through all three support acts.

The first band up was called Jinx. These were some pretty talented young lads who managed to bring some *very* expensive (and new) equipment with them. Sponsored by a well-known clothing company they had a brand-new Hammond organ as well as the highest stack of Marshall amplifiers I've ever seen with a supporting band. Nevertheless the music couldn't really bother me (in fact none of us at the front row) and the tiredness of the last night and day began to gain grip on both of us.

The second band was a duo called Traprain or something, and they played some acoustic bluesy boring sleepy songs. After a couple of songs they left the stage again for Jump. For me (Bart) it was the second time I saw them and I have to say that I quite like their music. It's just a pity that their keyboard player doesn't seem to be capable of doing much more than playing three keys and doing a lot of bunny-hops.
I'm still quite impressed by the stage personality of leadsinger John Dexter Jones, who reminds me of a young Bono (U2)
 
After Jump the acoustic duo came back again for some more songs, before the lights finally went off for Fish.
The band kicked off with Lucky, not one of my favourites (especially not after already hearing it twice that day) but it worked well as an opener. It was good fun to see Frank Usher with the band again. Last time I had seen him was when Foss Paterson and statue David Paton were still in the band. I remember a newspaper article of the time where the writer wondered if Fish had found his band in Madame Tussaud's wax museum, as it must have been the most boring band ever.
In the new band, there is Mickey Simmonds jumping around behind his keyboards and Steve Vantsis can't even stand still for half a second. You could see Frank was not really used to such an energetic band and it was almost hilarious to see him trying to swing along with Steve and Mickey.

After three songs Fish pulled the already infamous sheets of paper from his pocket and explained he had some problems with the lyrics of the coming song, as it was the first time since 1987 that he performed them. The band played a brilliant version of Hotel Hobbies, followed by Warm Wet Circles (during which Fish missed a few words) and That Time of the Night.

The crowd went absolutely mental and the band played an aggressive version of What Colour is God. Next song was Brother 52 which was followed by the Assassing/Credo/
Tongues/Fugazi/White Feather medley
. The medley didn't seem to flow as natural as the last time I saw Fish, but nevertheless it was a fine 15 minutes of nostalgia. During Credo Fish completely forgot the lyrics to the second verse, which he afterwards blamed on the afternoon pub-concerts and especially on the obligatory alcohol consumption that was involved with that.

Next song was to give both the band and the crowd a bit of rest: Cliché with *the* solo played by *the* master himself. While Frank Usher's solo was still fading Robin Boult already started playing the beginning tones of Perception of Johnny Punter. It was a bit strange to see both guitar solos still being played by Mickey, even when there were two guitarists on stage.

  

The next song was the most cliché song Fish could have played and is not so much as a crowd favourite (anymore). Fish however even apologised and explained that he just had to play this song on this special night, celebrating his 10 year solo career, as this was the song that brought him fame and had carried him all over the world. This song was of course Kayleigh.

 

Straight after this song came a very extended (and beautiful) Lavender, which on its turn was followed by Heart of Lothian, sung by the entire crowd. This was the end of the main set and the crowd started the conventional Geezabun. When the band came back on stage they even started playing the song, complete with (improvised?) lyrics.

Worm in a Bottle was next, introduced by a very emotional Fish who told us how much he loved touring and that he wants to keep on doing it until he dies. During the first guitar solo Fish ran off the stage to Yatta, who later on came back with an opened bottle of wine.
Steve was the first to get wine poured down his throat while he played a short bass solo. Squeaky was the next one up and it was brilliant to see him holding the wine bottle with one hand while giving a drum solo with his other.
The remaining three quarters of the bottle were emptied in Mickey's throat while he kept on playing a brilliant solo. Way to go Mickey!!


 

The first encore finished with an emotional Sugar Mice and the band came back for a third encore shortly after that. The gig was already running past curfew so the band had to hurry. The gig finished with Internal Exile and the closing section of The Company (could it have been any different?) absolutely brilliant.

This gig was definitely one of the best Fish gigs the both of us have ever seen. I was quite impressed with the lightshow of the night, which was a lot bigger and better than Fish has had in a long while.

After the gig the exhaustion got a grip on us and we headed straight back to the campsite for yet another comfortable night in the car.
Next morning, after all the goodbyes, handshakes and even more photos we headed for Edinburgh to put Gordon safely on the train to Germany and to meet yet another freak, before we went back to Aberdeen.

Band:

Fish - Vocals
Frank Usher - Guitars
Robin Boult - Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mickey Simmonds - Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Steve Vantsis - Bass, Backing Vocals
Dave "Squeaky" Stewart - Drums

Setlists:

Waterside Bistro:

Lucky
The Company
Somebody Special

Out of My Life
Dear Friend 

Pheasant:

Lucky
Sugar Mice
The Company
Captain Pugwash (Mickey Simmonds solo)
Internal Exile

Railway Hotel:

Jeepster
Somebody Special
Change Of Heart
Kayleigh
The Company

Corn Exchange:

Lucky
Mr. 1470
Family Business
Hotel Hobbies
Warm Wet Circles
That Time Of The Night
What Colour Is God?
Brother 52
Medley:
Assassing (begin)
Credo
Tongues
Assassing (middle section)
Drum Solo
Fugazi (closing section)
White Feather
Credo (closing section)/Fugazi/White Feather
Cliché
The Perception Of Johnny Punter
Kayleigh
Lavender/Blue Angel
Windswept Thumb
Heart Of Lothian

Geezabun
Worm In A Bottle
Sugar Mice

Internal Exile/The Company

 

(All photos © Bart Jan van der Vorst)

 

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