LIVE / HENGE
THE HIFI CLUB, LEEDS 22 NOVEMBER 2018
Photos by George Harrison
‘We bring you the gift of Cosmic Dross,’ proclaim Henge from their online portals, ‘a kind of music new to your world’. As their Attention Earth! tour touched down in Leeds, the space-age space-ravers heralded an otherworldly exhibit of planet-scorching bounce and intergalactic groove, an evening loaded with energy that zapped us all with the most alien of waves.
Morpher’s well-crafted brand of space jazz did an excellent job of launching the ship for the evening. The three piece, comprised of drums, bass, and, electrifyingly, tenor sax, channelled us choppily through doobs and funks with all the kook and swagger of jazz musicians. It sounded like alternately tunnelling through cloudy interiority or surfing through foam, visionary sounds. Music college graduates all three, they swung from ropes of technical expertise, the bass player rigging something freaky with his feedback pedals, or maybe masterful looping, mid-set, sculpting layer on layer of relentless spooling build-ups.
It all made way for Henge. The frontman emerged from the side of the room, in a classically silly subversion of the rules, wearing a totemic headdress with a plasma ball attached. He proceeded, in character as this alien leader, to rouse the crowd, explaining our humanity to us in between offering commiserations, advice and oracles from the future. With an hour and fifteen minutes allotted to their set, Henge had serious time to fill, but their narrative took on the cartoonish surrealism of a comic book series, rich with character, costume, and concept. I heard at other shows dancers and robots accompany the group, together with the masked creatures on drums and synths and then a galactic hippie, glow in the dark stickers and dreamcatcher included. One highlight of the show was witnessing an entire string change in weird puppet character, eliciting cheers from spectators.
The energy from the music was heavy, and soon everyone warmed up enough to get silly. From wobbly, waddling wonk to the slightly more sophisticated tracks from their new album (named, like the tour, Attention Earth!), we travelled together through spacey, spacey waters. To the veritable tune of bangers like 'The Great Venusian Apocalypse' and hit 'In Praise of Water', the room boogied on. It was so much fun. It was like being in a high pressure space cooker, jumbled and shaken around in a juddering craft, cheeky little synth noises matched by the twinkly grins of our cosmic visitors.
The end of the show brought an immense moment of union as we were coerced into some willing karaoke. Henge broadcast their lyrics and we all chanted along – a demand to demilitarise, unify, and colonise space. A congo line erupted and set off around the floor, before the close of the night saw Henge’s leader down in the crowd, hugging people. It was as if we'd self-proclaimed our leader, eagerly following them out through the cosmos, stimulated by synth laden warnings to seek new planets, the only way to avoid our own extinction. Surreal, mutated, warped voices, the sci-fi fan’s dream narrator, channelled through to us there underground. The plinkety plonk of gravity free weird-wail, a sound I haven’t been able to shake off since.