31 August 2007 (gig)
25 August 2007
Aylesbury is a small town with a long history – a major market town in Anglo-Saxon times with roots that can be traced back as far as an Iron Age hill fort in 650BC. The cobbled square and narrow streets hardly seem to be a likely venue for a festival, yet this is exactly what happens each August under the watchful eye of the puritanical John Hamden. Organised by Aylesbury Showcase (in association with Jam Central Records) 'Hobble on the Cobbles' festival was an interesting prospect. Little did I know that Aylesbury has now styled itself as 'The Home of Prog’,
Hobble on the Cobbles is by no means a great sprawling mass of humanity, such as the other festival taking place this weekend in Reading, but rather a cosy mix of locals who almost seem to have stumbled across the noise and those who have travelled some distance to see former Marillion frontman Fish. Three stages were provided to guarantee a continuous flow of music, only occasionally interrupted by the irritating babble of Buckinghamshire’s answer to Smashey and Nicey. A decent selection of pubs surround the square itself, offering a retreat from the roving gang of youngsters with their peashooters and a variety of somewhat dodgy ale. The drinkers’ highlight was clearly the Kings Head – although it provided yet another slightly cranky pint, the bustling courtyard provided a friendly atmosphere and Fish’s presence was a pleasant surprise.
Over the course of the afternoon, an eclectic range of acts serenaded the market square with their offerings, the crowd swelling over the course of the day. Mister Who took to the stage in the early afternoon to offer his bouncing hip-hop – a long way from his early roots rapping over drum and bass, yet a complete contrast to the acoustic and prog sets that followed.
Loz Jones provided some lively electronically influenced pop-rock, further swelling the enthusiastic crowd. New single Jamie, with its Rolling Stones-esque riff was particularly well received, the electronic element seemingly increasing its appeal to the leather clad prog-rock aficionados amongst the crowd.
Michael Beurk then graced the cobbles with an acoustic set. This was an impressive performance by one man and his guitar, demonstrating some truly astounding skills. Unfortunately, this all seemed to be overshadowed by activity on the main stage. Everybody was waiting for the main event, the anticipation even making the gibbering of the local DJs seem bearable.
Eventually the excitable compares grew tired of their incessant waffle and Fish took to the stage, returning to the town in which Marillion were formed. He played a selection of tracks ranging from those written whilst with Marillion to his new album, 13th Star, clearly demonstrating the progression throughout his work. Both Circle Line and Manchmal were clear indications that Fish’s claim that the new album is 'the best stuff I’ve ever made' is well-founded. Not that the older hits were a disappointment – his wander through the audience looking for 'the voice in the crowd' during Vigil offered a very close experience of Fish in full flow. He regaled the crowd with stories of his experiences in the area, even promising those who live in his old house a surprise of they have a look behind the fireplace!
Fish left the stage whilst the crowd was still baying for more. Everyone had heard the rumours, but no-one was quite certain. Eventually Fish returned, along with some 'old friends'. The original line-up of Marillion took to the stage together for the first time in 19 years to play Market Square Heroes to the adulation of their fans. I suspect the cobbles of Aylesbury Market Square have rarely taking such a pounding, as the crowd started bouncing to Marillion’s first single. I have never seen a band grin quite so much either – Pete Trewavas being so distracted that he forgot to sing some of his backing vocals!
The reunion, however, only lasted for one song. The distinction between the two was once again confirmed as Fish thanked the crowd, announcing 'They are Marillion. I am the Fish.' And at that it was over, 19 years apart, followed a rendition of Market Square Heroes and then back to their separate paths.
As the singing crowd eventually started to disperse it was time for another dodgy pint and we were all left wondering how 'the home of prog' could possibly better this next year. We’ll wait and see.