Sunday, 3 April 2011

You'll never guess what this is...sdrawkcab ti yalp I fI

Holidays in Zélande: Marillion Weekend 25-28 March 2011 Part 2: Support bands and other exciting events…

As mentioned in part one there was an awful lot to attend (or indeed, to miss out on...) beyond the nightly gigs, so for this instalment I’ll begin with the stuff that passed me by completely, although usually by choice it has to be said... 

5 events I missed completely… 
  1. The Saturday morning ‘Fun’ Run – Arranged by the band’s very own fitness freak Mark Kelly, this gave you the opportunity to join Mark and Pete T on a 10k run beginning at 9am on Saturday morning. Sadly I didn’t even wake up until 10…what a pity…
  2. International Web Fan Club Event – This was billed as a chance to find out more about what the various fan clubs do. Well I can tell you that anyway – they drink, listen to Marillion and wear blue t-shirts (seriously, the Dutch, French and Italian clubs all managed to get their special Marillion Weekend t-shirts in exactly the same shade of blue!)
  3. Marillioke – Yes, Marillion Karaoke. Sadly this clashed directly with the quiz, but my other chalet-mates were there, with Phil tackling Neverland. From all reports the standard of singing was pretty decent and a good time was had by all (maybe next year this could clash with the fun run???)
  4. Sunday Morning Football – Like the fun run, this involved exercise in the morning. Unlike the fun run there weren’t even any band members involved (at least as far as I know…) so I’m not at all sure what the point of it was? :p
  5. The wedding – Yep, a beautiful couple (erm, Mark and Vanessa I think…) actually got married in the midst of the convention. And to think I was going to mention getting the obligatory bout of food poisoning from ‘Billy’s Burgers’ before I remembered this…

Rock and Prog Discos

The band’s communications manager (no, this title doesn’t do her justice, take it up with the band would ya?) Lucy and convention organiser extraordinaire Stephanie have taken to having a ‘battle of the discos’ on convention Friday nights, with Lucy Dj-ing the rock disco and Stephanie hosting the Prog version – I flitted between the two, and while I don’t consider myself a serious prog-head, have to say that Stephanie won on this occasion with a nice mix of prog old (Genesis, Pink Floyd) and new (Porcupine Tree, Touchstone). Conversely the best thing played at the rock disco (Oh, okay, I’ll give you Killing in the Name of...) was actually a prog classic – Focus’ Hocus Pocus (memorably covered by the band a couple of conventions back). Good fun all round though and the perfect way for the weekend to continue to gain momentum following the first gig.

Marillion Quiz

Having only been to one pub quiz since arriving in the UK I’d been looking forward to this for some time, all I needed was a team to join...thankfully I spotted chums Kieron and Nathan in the quiz area, so imposed myself on them, only to find they weren’t planning to quiz anyway! Common sense prevailed (details are hazy...) but Nathan and I ended up as team ‘Geeky Boys’ (Kieron gave us our moniker, and it was rather apt, it has to be said!). So, armed with a combined period of Marillion fandom of a mere 10 years or so (Nathan’s 18 and I was late to the party for other reasons...) we embarked upon the 9-round quiz, where we did have one distinct advantage over many of the other 40+ teams taking part – English was our first language!

This was particularly helpful for the round where Marillion lyrics had been translated into various languages and then back into English for us to decipher anew, not to mention the infamous picture round where 10 Marillion song titles were depicted solely in picture form – to give you just one example a picture of a ladies bottom, a donkey and a chap in an ING cap could only mean one thing: Assassing! Yep, where others struggled gamely we got the full 10/10. 

No such advantage came for the round where obscure covers of Marillion tracks were played (backwards!) – mercifully this round only had 5 questions, as opposed to the usual any case, with final scores ranging from 19 to 88, we scored a highly respectable 71, putting us in ( I think) 7th place, which I might have mentioned once or twice since, apparently?! Jolly good fun for all concerned though, so thanks to the Cakeyboys for organising this, and making it look easy.

Marillion Museum

This year’s museum display was, quite naturally, focussed on the Holidays in Eden era, with all sorts of formats of singles, etc on display. It was great to see a real live copy of the original American pressing, which was clearly put together with as much though as American record executives can ever muster, okay, it wins bonus points for including the b-sides on the album, but frontloading the album with two of the singles and relegating opener Splintering Heart to third track in looks plain barmy, even 20 years later...looking at all this while h provided commentary via a contemporary TV interview was just delightful. The other highlight was the recently-unearthed collection of drummer Ian Mosley’s backstage passes from over the years (seems he had a habit of posting these to his Mum, and was completely unaware until recently that she’d kept them all!)

Swap the Band, etc

Sunday afternoon saw us all back in the gig-tent for all sorts of events, kicking off with the Quiz final – that’s right, the winners of Saturday’s quiz now had to go up another bunch of folk with a decent all-round knowledge of Marillion – the band themselves. Time limits saw this reduced from the planned 5 rounds to a mere 3, which may or may not have affected the outcome, namely that the band won by a whisker! This was followed by the raffle draw, (no luck for me, which was fine, don’t know what I’d have done with a signed guitar anyway...) and a brief Q&A where the band were asked such probing questions as, ‘Is everything fine with you?’

Swap the Band was up next, and gave the band yet another chance to demonstrate just how close their relationship with the fans is, as 6 fans got to sub with their relevant band member (or a sample in one case). Guest bass and keyboards were first, with a rendition of The Party, which h mentioned he’d stuffed up on the Friday night (can’t say I noticed, but I’ll believe him). Quartz followed, with a quite incredible Italian chap handling lead vocals, and making what is a rather difficult song to pull off entirely his own (and while the other fan-subs got to play with without the originals looking over their shoulders he also had to put up with h hanging around and playing maracas). Guitar-sub Carl was up next, performing what h described as, ‘one of our more obscure numbers’ – Kayleigh (i.e. the band’s biggest-ever single, for the true Marillionaphobes out there!). All of swap the band was great, but this was the highlight – just sublime. Deserve closed out this part of the weekend with fan guests on drums and sax – and hearing real sax (where usually a sample from the studio recording is used) was a true pleasure – more please!
Support Bands

The Royal Cartel were the first musical act of the weekend, and while they were proficient enough they were a bit heavy for my tastes (and I was probably still too excited about being there to really take them in properly anyway), but the fact that their guitarist is the son of The President himself (Ian Mosley) meant that the ‘family’ atmosphere was up and running from the beginning.

Saturday afternoon saw Jo McCafferty play the Adventure factory, making her the only act not to perform on the main stage. This setting suited her well, but sadly I wasn’t able to appreciate her properly either, as I elected to sit, and being a bit late meant the only seating wasn’t really near the stage (I knew I was going to need to be on my feet for 6 hours solid, so something had to give and this was it – sorry Jo!) From a personal point of view the ‘bad’ seat I had did put me in a good position for spotting people as they came and went, so enabled me to spot Annabel (a fellow Kiwi) and Alex, a pair of fans I’d met at the Live at Cadogan Hall DVD preview screening last year (from that point on we couldn’t go around a corner without bumping into each other...which was nice).

Back in the main performance tent shortly afterwards we were treated to Pete and Robin’s ‘musical whimsy’ – where Pete T was joined by his school friend (go on, guess his name!) for some acoustic playfulness. It’s possible these guys have made an EP together, but if that was the case surely they’d have mentioned it at least once during the ‘show’? (‘We’re only playing for 10 minutes, can we still call it a show?’ Pete asked at one point – to be fair it was half an hour or so, so ‘yes’ was the answer). A nice lighthearted and entertaining start to what was going to be a very full evening of music!

Not long after Pete and Robin had departed the stage Sun Domingo appeared, mostly performing songs from their brand new album, Songs For End Times (of which they sold a fair few copies on Sunday – and rightly so), although they did slip in an excellent cover of Bowie’s I’m Afraid of Americans for good measure (and to prove that, despite being American they don’t take themselves too seriously!). These guys were right up my street, and definitely my favourite of the supports across the weekend. The album features several noted guests on its tracks, and one of them was on hand to join the band on stage, noting he ‘didn’t have much else on’ that night. (Yes, it was h, how did you guess? Just for that you can watch it below). The band also deserve credit for surviving the ‘attack of the pumpkin balloons’ during their final number...

There was only one support band for the Sunday gig, but they were also top drawer. The Tin Spirits went down a storm, and why wouldn’t they? Mostly playing prog covers from the likes of Genesis, Radiohead and Rush (a cracking version of Tom Sawyer), but with at least one (13 minute) original from their own album, their musical proficiency had the audience in the palms of their hands within moments. Hmmm, did I say I earlier that I don’t consider myself to be a prog-head? Might have to rethink that one...

5 magical moments from the support bands/events side of things...

1.    The charades round from the Quiz final generally, and specifically the moment where a fan had to act out When I Meet God. All he had to do was shake Rother’s hand – gorgeous!

2.  The audience filming Cannibal Surf Babe – at the band’s request all those with a camera phone (or similar) were asked to record this performance in order for one giant edit to be made from all the footage – not sure if this will work (most of it will probably be of other people holding their phone’s up, but never mind) but it a) filled me with the utmost respect for the members of the filming team working with handheld cameras and b) had silly old h forgetting we were all holding cameras and trying to get us to clap along!

3. Carl’s aforementioned performance of Kayleigh. Pure class!

 4.  The band’s (well, h’s really) answer to the ‘Is everything fine with you’ question. We were touched.

5.   As the Tin Spirits played Radiohead’s Paranoid Android h and son Niall (also designated h-tech!) could be seen engaging in an air-guitar battle off stage (apparently h’s daughter Sofie was also present for this, but I didn’t see her!)
Right, so that’s all the ‘boring’ stuff covered (although despite the fact I said ‘all’ I am not claiming this as a definitive account by any means!) – next up is the real meat of the whole weekend, the two specially themed gigs from the Saturday and Sunday nights – stay tuned!


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