Marillion Weekend Port Zelande 2019
My Port Zelande (PZ) adventure starts in Amsterdam on Tuesday 19th March after arriving on the Eurostar from London. I spent a couple of days looking around this very beautiful city and attending a pub crawl. Then on Thursday 21st March, I got a lift to PZ with Andre van Leeuwen, the owner of Marbles Inn where I was staying. We arrived at PZ at around 3pm.
The next couple of hours were spent settling into chalet 201, chatting with my chalet mates Ian Parry, Stefan van Bennekum, Paul Kooijmans, Tony Gallagher and Phil Rotherham (who I had all never met before but had chatted with online) and having a look around what would be my home for the next few days. While walking around I was greeted by so many people with lots of hugs happening.
At around 5pm was a signing session in the Adventure Factory (AF). Ian had written a book with his close friend Georgina and were signing it for everyone. Stefan and I were a bit late arriving, but Mark Kennedy kindly allowed us to join the queue and Fraser from Web UK was selling the book while we waited, so we didn’t have to queue twice. It was wonderful to get it signed by Ian and Georgina to get a photo with Ian.
Thursday evening was a disco in the AF. Lots of people were in fancy dress with the theme being countries and lots of 80s music played by Lucy. I was in and out of hall all evening (it was quite hot in there) and spent a lot of time chatting with so many people including my great friend, Carmen Julia Quintero. One anecdote from the evening was seeing Steve Rothery at the AF bar waiting to be served. I was a little further up and got served quite quickly but as he was so busy talking to his fans, the staff were not paying him much attention. I asked him he had been served yet and he said, ‘not yet’. Here was one of the hosts being treated just like a normal regular guy.
Friday morning, I was out and about quite early as I was going to check out the PZ swimming pool. As the pool did not open until 10am, I joined the queue for the merchandise. I was queuing for about an hour, but it was worth it as there was so much great stuff to buy.
I headed to the pool and was in there for a good couple of hours. There were slides and rapids that were great fun and lots of people to chat with including a few of my lovely chalet mates. Marillion fans are just big kids really. After a swim, I had lunch in the Market Dome (MD) and chatted to a few people I knew. Afterwards, Carmen and I had a walk around the site and delivered some cakes to Lucy to give to the band. We were just having a leisurely afternoon before the music in the evening. My chalet friends and I met up with Fabian Lelo and Ben Addison and we all had dinner in the pizza place in the MD and then headed over to the tent.
Gleb Kolyadin, the pianist in Russian band iamthemorning was on first accompanied by a guitarist, bassist and drummer. They have a jazz influenced instrumental sound and I thought they were brilliant.
After a short changeover, Marillion took to the stage opening with 1989’s King of Sunset Town. Most nights at Marillion weekends are playing an entire album in sequence and it is very rare there is not some sort of theme. As it was a special occasion of thirty years since h joined Marillion, the first night was nineteen songs from the first four albums that h recorded for EMI. These were from the years 1989 to 1995 inclusive with around four songs played from each album plus a B-side.
There was a combination of lights, visuals and music that were outstanding. I was standing just in front of the mixing desk, so I knew the sound quality was superb. My highlights were King of Sunset Town, Splintering Heart, Gazpacho, Seasons End and Cannibal Surf Babe but the whole show was brilliant.
After the show at a Marillion weekend, we normally hang around in the venue chatting to people before we head back to our hotels. At PZ it was very different. There was Lucy’s rock disco in the AF and Stephanie’s Progathon in the dome. I spent a lot of time hanging out with my chalet mates but said hello to many other people before heading back to the chalet at around 1am
On Saturday morning, a few of us headed over to the breakfast buffet in the dome and had a leisurely morning before we all went to the quiz in the Adventure Factory.
The quiz was great fun and we tried not to take it seriously. There were about 40 teams with around six people in each team (this was not enforced as everyone could come and watch and needed a place to sit). Each team had a name and ours was ‘The Belch In the Sea’. I was designated team captain, but this was really to make sure only one person from each team was representing and to ensure the pieces of paper with the answers on for each round were handed in. At the end, all the team captains stood at the front and the results were read out. As more and more people had to sit down, I was left up there wondering if I had forgotten to sit down. As it came to the top five, they read out the joint second place. Our team was still not mentioned. Joint first ‘Belch In The Sea’ and ‘The Web Portugal’. I couldn’t believe it, and neither could anyone else. There was a tiebreaker. One of the earlier rounds was ‘higher and lower’. Is it higher or is it lower? The other team captain and I from Web Portugal stood on the same side. We both got the answer wrong. Second tie-breaker. I had no idea what the answer was and was caught like a rabbit in the headlights. Andrew pushed me towards the ‘lower’ side as it was pointless us both standing on the same side. We would be here all day. They read out the answer. It was ‘lower’. We had won. I couldn’t believe it. None of us could. As you can probably imagine, the rest of the day was spent on a high chilling out, hanging out with lovely people, having dinner before returning to the tent.
Saturday night’s support was Sylf AKA Jennifer Rothery and Riccardo Romano Land. Jennifer played a couple of songs from her new EP with her father guesting on Into The Dark before Riccardo took over on vocals to sing songs from his excellent B612 album.
Marillion’s second show was songs from 1997 to 2004. There were some of the best lasers, lighting and visuals I had ever seen at a Marillion gig. A production that Pink Floyd would be proud to see.
There were so many highlights, but I must include opener Interior Lulu, Ocean Cloud (with its combination of visuals, lights and lasers which gave an impression of water), When I Meet God (one of my favourite Marillion songs), Separated Out, Estonia and the incredible This Strange Engine
Finishing with the downtempo and beautiful This Is the 21st Century was genius. Anoraknophobia gets ignored quite a lot in the fanbase but it is in my top five favourite Marillion albums and is a very underrated album. What a night.
After the show we all returned to the AF and the dome for the after party. I wandered over the AF to check out the Rockaoke. It is like karaoke but instead of a recording you are backed by a guitarist, bassist and drummer but there is a list of lots of songs to sing. I decided to put my name down to sing Enter Sandman by Metallica but was told there was a thirty song wait. I had a listen to a few of the people singing and was very impressed. After a long eventful day, I was starting to feel a bit tired so headed back to the dome for a drink not expecting that I would get to perform until tomorrow.
Returning to the factory about an hour or so later and listening to a couple more songs, I was very surprised to hear the compere shouting my name. I rushed on to the stage as quickly as I could, getting slightly lost in the process and had a fantastic five minutes of fame singing one of my favourite songs.
Sunday morning was spent chilling out with friends, I met up with Carmen and then wandered over to the tent for swap the band. The quiz winners were told to meet near the front as we would be going on stage to receive our trophies and get a photo with the band. The six of us were all quite nervous but once we were on stage, shaking hands with the band and in front of our friends, were all felt quite relaxed and extremely honoured to be there. It was an incredible experience.
After we left the stage, Steven Banks had a photo with the band as Lucy had seen a rubbish photo of him with h and wanted to give him a better one. I think he was quite shocked (this is now known as taking a Banksy). I was quite close to the stage talking to Carmen while we watched ‘Swap the band’. This is where a few members of the fanbase (after an audition) would go up on stage to replace a Marillion member on either bass, drums, keyboards or guitar. I had sent in a YouTube video of me singing but after seeing how good these guys were, I really enjoyed watching them. Martin Jakubski sang a few Fish-era songs with Richie playing guitar on Cinderella Search then an excellent drummer playing the title track of Fugazi. Afterwards, the whole band were replaced by the fans with h singing Slainte Mhath with them.
After ‘Swap the band’ we all had to vacate the arena so the band could get ready for the evening’s show. I headed back to the dome for the rest of the afternoon to relax. It was then that Andrew had the idea of making a fake video of us handing over an envelope of five hundred euro in return for the push. It was great fun to make and not to be taken seriously at all. Our chalet crew had a last dinner in the pizza place before going to the tent for the final show.
Focus are keyboardist, vocalist, and flautist Thijs van Leer, drummer Pierre van der Linden, but they were supported by Menno Gootjes on guitar and Udo Pannekeet on bass. They played House of the King, Eruption Sylvia and Hocus Pocus. I had never seen them before, and they were excellent. I’m learning to play organ and Thijs van Leer is someone who knows what he is doing, and it was wonderful to see a proper Hammond organ with a Leslie speaker rather than someone playing a Nord for example (Nords are lovely though).
I met Carmen in the tent, and we watched Marillion together. This was the only setlist that we knew in advance, the double album “Happiness is the road”. This included the live debut of the instrumental Liquidity but some of my other highlights included the title track, Real Tears for Sale, Somewhere Else, A State Of Mind, Whatever Is Wrong With You and The Sky Above The Rain. A few songs before the encore, Carmen and I went round to the other side of the tent to get another view. The band did an encore which was an unexpected cover version of Britney Spear’s Toxic and One Tonight from FEAR. Focus came back on stage for the second encore and joined Marillion do play Hocus Pocus. The song had been a longstanding tradition at the end of a Marillion convention night and we would all dance to it playing on the venue’s PA. There were lots of spherical balloons floating around. It looked magical.
After the show, we had a big party with lots of rock music playing, lots of hugs and saying goodbye to people. I ended up saying goodbye to many people a few times over the rest of the evening as I saw people in the dome afterwards. In the morning, many of us had already left on the early shuttles from 5am onwards. I could wait a bit as I was getting a lift back to Amsterdam at around 10am. I think we were all feeling quite tired and emotional on Monday morning.
I was quite skeptical of going to Port Zelande before this. Before considering the chance of getting a place and the cost of attending, I thought that I would feel overwhelmed by all the people there and feel that I would feel unwelcome. I am very happy to be proved wrong. From the moment I arrived I felt very much at home and among friends and family, many of whom I had only met once before. One of the things I love is the mutual respect we have with each other. We do not force people to have fun and to do things they do not want to do. A good example of when I sang late on Saturday night, there were many people I would have loved to have been there but also, I did not want them to feel obligated.
Marillion and their crew worked extremely hard to make sure nobody got bored but at the same time you did not have to see everything if you felt tired. The center parcs staff were all brilliant too. They always had a smile on their face and made us feel very welcome. I can see why they wanted to hold it there seven times. The band were on fire and everyone in the management and crew who I spoke to were very friendly and kind. It is a labour of love for them.
There were around three thousand people from around forty-four countries represented at PZ. I never saw a single sign of any negativity at all. No raised voices, no arguments and certainly no fights. This is how the world should be. The worst thing that I saw were people getting drunk and talking during the quiet songs.
I found myself hugging lots of people, not only on the last evening but during the whole weekend and I hope I made many new friends and rekindled old friendships with as many people there as possible. I was indeed a wonderful experience that I will never forget.
“Statement Of Intent” is a mid-tempo five-minute rocker. It opens with deep thudding drums before heavy distorted guitars come in. Lyrically the song talks about what humanity has done in the past and that we should change our future. Like most of the album, it is not a political song but more humanitarian. A superb song to open the album with.
“Citizen And State” is the shortest song on the album and is a lot faster. I love the synth arpeggio mixed with the punk guitar. Lyrically this song deals with anger towards those who can show kindness but choose apathy instead. One of my favourite songs on the album.
“Long Letter Home” is just under twelve minutes long, is divided into three parts and is by far the longest song on the album. It has a wonderful instrumental section around the five-minute mark (where part one joins with part two) with some beautiful reverb-heavy piano playing and a wonderfully simple but soaring guitar solo around eight minutes in. This song is more lyrically philosophical and talks about astronomy and humans travelling further into space. It even mentions a certain Pink Floyd album. I can see a lot of influence from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in this song. Another highlight and not just because it is long.
“The Shadows We Miss” is another mid-tempo rocker and has a lot of acoustic mixed in with the distorted guitars in its near six minutes. The lyrics give a message that humans are not actually bad people but are just misguided and that we never really grew up. Some people may call it religion and others may just call it hope. “There’s light in the heart of the darkness.”
“Things” is another of the two fast songs on the album, is the second shortest song and talks about how people will want to leave a legacy and will try and do as much as they can and get as much attention before they die.
“Keep The Nation Warm” is seven minutes long and is one of the three highlights. The acoustic guitars, synth arpeggio and programmed drums make this a very interesting song musically especially as the distorted guitar and drums come in later. A special mention should go to the guitar solo played by John Mitchell. It talks about a nation and a planet in limbo and not sure which direction to turn, trapped between the traditions of the past and the progress of the future. Maybe the best thing to do is just to stop worrying and try to live a good life.
“Dirty Old Engine” is a simple song based around piano and is a requiem for the Industrial Revolution. It is may seem slightly out of place compared to the other six songs, but it is a lovely end to the album.
One thing I really enjoyed was reading the lyrics while listening to the album and making my own interpretations of what the band are talking about. Musically, Quantum Pig take their influences from punk and new wave music with heavily distorted guitars and pounding reverberating drums and mix it up with Pink Floyd style melodies and keyboards adding plenty of colour. The result shouldn’t work but it does, and it sounds like nothing you have ever heard before. One of the finest debut albums I have ever heard.