The European Dream Team

The cool Moon Safari who make some of the most heart warming prog around.
The cool Moon Safari who make some of the most heart warming prog around.
Lazuli - Nine Hands Around a Marimba.
Lazuli – Nine Hands Around a Marimba.

Well, the time has finally come. It really has. I cannot believe it has crept up so fast, but there is now only just over a week to go until one of the greatest adventures of my entire life.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine going on tour with two of the hottest and most happening European prog bands but as the days get closer, the anticipation gets progressively amplified. Will anyone turn up? Will everyone go away well and truly astounded? Of course they will, my inner voice constantly reassures.

So, this is it – Moon Safari and Lazuli, two bands who know each other very well, and whose contrast in styles makes for a perfect double bill. On the one hand, there’s the wonderful smooth melodies and close harmonies of the cool Swedes and on the other, there’s the complex, unique sounds of the French five, originally inspired by the Beatles, and if you listen intently to a couple of their songs, I Am The Walrus comes right back at you.

Moon Safari have carved a significant place for themselves in the British prog psyche, having won two of the Classic Rock Society’s 2014 annual awards, the Overseas Band and Live Band. How much these awards meant to them was borne out by the essay length acceptance speeches in perfectly modulated English they sent over and were read out by CRS supremo Stephen Lambe back in February.

Also, the redoubtable Jon Patrick, Master of the House of Progression, readily admits that Moon Safari is the band which helped him keep the faith after they appeared at the legendary but now defunct The Peel in September last year. If you want a taste of what to expect, check out their new two CD Live In Mexico album, full of some of the most heart-warming, uplifting prog around.

To describe Lazuli requires something of a personal testament. It was Friday evening at the Summers End Festival 2011 and there were some last minute changes after Sunchild were unable to perform due to visa issues. We were conscious of some guys resembling Legolas and Aragorn mingling with the audience. The next minute, they were on stage and like Prince Husain with his flying carpet, everyone was transported off to Lazuliland, a magical place where the musical rulebook was turned on its head.

There was no bass player: but there was a keyboard player who plays bass parts, drums and French horn; a drummer who also plays marimba; a guitarist who uses a screwdriver across his fretboard; a frontman/vocalist with flying hair and plaited beard who doubles up on guitar and mandolin, and a seated serious figure with an extraordinary instrument called the Léode which resembles a Chapman stick, and out of which can be coaxed an endless range of amazing sounds.

Though all their lyrics are in French, they completely captivated festival-goers and for my part, my musical landscape changed forever. Fast forward to last year and the word is they are back to conquer Lydney again at the 2013 Summer’s End Festival, following Oliver Wakeman and Gordon Giltrap’s wonderful Ravens and Lullabies. Theirs was another electric compelling performance rounded off by the brilliant instrumental Nine Hands Around A Marimba.

Before the weekend, I had mentioned to my dear friend and fellow lady of the prog Nellie Pitts that she ought to see Lazuli for the above-mentioned reasons. To say she was stunned, captivated and mesmerised is something of an understatement. The Mistress of the Merch Desk was well and truly Lazulied and her parting words were “I am going to get them back over here.”

As good as her word, Nellie started planning out the tour at the start of the year, having decided a double bill with Moon Safari would be something of a major event over here. Knowing our love of Lazuli (and our admiration for Moon Safari), she very kindly invited Martin Reijman (my other half and prog photographer) and yours truly as publicist and chief cheerleader to join her and the 11 players on the tour.

And here we are now, just a week away with months of pre-publicity behind us, Press releases to national music journos and local papers duly distributed and many many postings via social media uploaded to capture everyone’s imaginations.

Just for the record, the dates they are playing here are:

The Talking Heads, Southampton, on Wednesday 26 November

The Globe, Cardiff on Thursday 27 November

The Sound Control in Manchester on Friday 28 November

The Borderline in London on Saturday 29 November (A House of Progression promotion)

The Robin2 in Bilston on Sunday 30 November

Sponsors of the tour are The Merch Desk and Prog Magazine.

The response so far has been incredible and our biggest personal wish – indeed a dream – is for everyone there to have the best time and enjoy some of the best music our crazy little world of prog rock has to offer. As one particular prog disc jockey remarked on his show last night, this is going to be the tour of the year. We shall do all we can to make it so.

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