Planet Earth, Coordinates 53.4644° N, 2.2322° W. Saturday 30th October.
Welcome to Henge, a group of extra-terrestrial rave-rockers travelling across the universe intent on using their Cosmic Dross (space rock, rave, prog and funk infused music) to spread peace and love on the latest date of their ExoKosm Tour.
Manchester’s Academy 2 was a happy and vibrant place last Saturday, the day before Halloween. Costumes were abundant throughout both the University Students Union building and the gig venue within it. Having seen Stone Roses, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jnr at the same venue back in the day, I have good musical memories of this building. These gigs have lasted well in my memory and I’m beginning to get the impression that this gig would do the same. The room began to fill up with an eclectic mix of hippies, fluorescent paint-wearing ravers, parents with children, students and what seemed like just about everything in between. I was told that this was the norm for a Henge encounter and to “brace myself”.
After opening act, Shunya, completed his experimental violin, bass and sample driven set the crowd began to grow. Henge leader Zpor, wielding a star topped staff, the human keyboard player Grok, tentacle-headed drummer Nom and Venusian Goo strode onto the stage to ecstatic cheers. Zpor, his consciousness contained in his plasma globe headpiece introduced the Henge concept of saving humanity through the power of music as the introduction to cosmic rave opener, “Goldilocks” resonated around the crowd. An opening song where a Knightrider influenced keyboard merged with Hawkwind and the beats of The Chemical Brothers (who incidentally met at this very University). Almost immediately the crowd are smiling, shuffling and swaying to the rhythm.
“Bionica”, from the band’s last album, ExoKosm follows. Its funky, rave drums, distorted vocoder vocals and Rick Wakeman infused keyboards aurally urged the crowd to get more energetic, which they dutifully did. I spotted an outstanding LED lit Space helmet in the crowd at this point and I can’t resist taking a quick photo.
“Are there any artists in here who paint pictures, write music?” questioned lead singer Zpor. “This is for you” he continued as the contagious rhythm and funky guitar of my favourite song of the night, “Indigo Dust” began. “Indigo Dust” was a beautifully sung Space Funk masterpiece, the fun, infectious rhythm seeing the crowd continue their fun. After only 3 songs, one thing was becoming very apparent, Henge definitely have the musical substance to match their style and the crowd loved them for it.
As much fun as the band are, there seemed to also be serious messages within some of their lyrics. “The atmosphere on Venus is toxic and it can support no life” stated Zpor before “The Great Venusian Apocalypse” began. A cautionary tale for Earth perhaps within an eerie Dr Who-themed, old school rave song. Serious messages aside, Henge continued to show us humans how to have a good time. The Halloween and space-themed dressed music lovers in the crowd continuing to smile and dance in time with the bands Mushroom headed dancers.
There was no respite as the ominous keyboard and drums of “Get Outta Ma House” immediately began and two blue robot dancers took the stage. The audience were in an ecstatic frenzy as the songs tempo slowed and accelerated, the jumping crowd punching the air, clapping and whistling to the old school rave stomper. The following song, began with an AC/DC, Thunderstruck inspired keyboard solo. I was getting a little carried away myself by now and photographing and making notes were becoming more difficult as a result. There were no setlists available so I’m still unsure what the track was, suffice to say the room loved it.
The vocoder/old school house infused “EXO” preceded “In Praise Of Water”. Zpor introducing the song as “this next song is about a wonderful substance, a very special molecule. This is In Praise of water” with the crowd saying his words with him to the songs title. Two female green-winged alien dancers appeared as the song began with a retro video game sound before mutating into the prog-rock elements of Hawkwind. The vigorously dancing crowd even more rapturous.
The set came to a close with the anthemic “Demilitarise”. As is the custom, Grok held up the song’s lyrics a la ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ so the exhausted audience could sing the words. “We Demand/That The Weapons Of War/Are Manufactured No More/Demilitarise. We Demand/That We Have In Its Place/The Means To Unite/And Colonise Space”. A fitting finale to an amazing visual and aural spectacle.
With such elaborate costumes and a sophisticated concept, Henge could easily have fallen down the hole of a whimsical cabaret act tonight. However, this wasn’t the case. Musically, Henge were outstanding, effortlessly combining space rock, prog rock, funk and rave into a style which can only be described as Henge. The Henge spaceship and philosophy of good music, love and peace definitely docked in Manchester tonight. I for one am hoping they didn’t mind the cold Manchester weather and will be back.
3/ INDIGO DUST
4/ GET OUTTA MY HOUSE
6/ PRAISE WATER
I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)