It’s May Bank Holiday Sunday and Prog is on a London bus to the moon! (Well, The Half Moon in Putney, to be precise).
On arrival, there’s anticipation not just for the five bands set to play but also for the exclusive array of vinyl treats on offer. It’s like Record Store Day all over again with the first hour a frenzy of free posters, T-shirts (for a fiver!) and boxes of fantastic plastic from event-organising labels Fruits de Mer and Mega Dodo. An exclusive vinyl EP showcasing all the bands playing is included in a free goodie bag for all attendees, packed with nine CDs, a postcard and a unique board game, Crabs And Dodos, especially designed for the event. VFM indeed.
Throughout the night DJ Marrs Bonfire spins a tapestry of seven-inch psychedelic gems between the acts, the first being Surrey boys The Past Tense. Frontman Andy Norrie-Rolfe describes them as “a mod band disguised as a psychedelic band”. Their jokily threatened “35-minute jazz odyssey” sadly doesn’t materialise but their sharp mod stylings do carry a hint of The Pretty Things on Take A Trip.
With only one top hat shared between them, Mark & The Clouds’ West Coast slide guitar/cosmic psych-freakouts precede The Honey Pot’s watery epic Inside The Whale. Vocalist Crystal Jacqueline’s powerful version of White Rabbit adds layers to the original that takes it into Tomorrow Never Knows territory.
Bristol-based band Schnauser’s wonky-prog set is lifted largely from their latest meaty offering Protein For Everyone, with keyboard player Duncan Gammon introducing The Reason They’re Alive as a “positive song about wasps” (of course!), as they finish with their own bouncy 16-minute, 10-part suite Disposable Outcomes. Idiosyncratic and wonderfully eccentric, they’re today’s highlight.
Finally it’s time for Sonny Condell and Leo O’Kelly, aka Tir na nÓg, celebrating the launch of their first studio album in 40 years, The Dark Dance.
Coming from an Irish folk background, the duo’s songs have beautiful, crystal-clear acoustic melodies and close-harmony vocals with an occasional ethnic influence filtering through. Amid new material they perform Free Ride by Nick Drake, a song they originally covered back in ’73.
The Half Moon isn’t as packed tonight as it could be, but those that made the journey have been richly rewarded. Next stop for Fruits de Mer is the three-day 13th Dream Of Dr Sardonicus festival in Wales in August. We wish them whel(ks).