Make no mistake, Henge are a phenomenon. One of the most talked about bands of the recent festival season, the galactic travellers return to Bristol to a much bigger crowd and level of excitement than greeted them in March. Again, they played two shows – a family-friendly matinee and an after-dark session for grown-ups – underlining their special appeal to humans of all ages.
You won’t find many bands this good performing at 2pm on a Sunday but it makes a lot of sense these days. Thousands of children and teens go to music festivals each summer but are effectively barred from enjoying live music for the rest of the year. Judging from the success of the merch stall, musicians are missing a trick. Comic books, t-shirts, hoodies and vinyl records are greedily devoured by the band’s young fans, who also queue between sets for selfies with the band. Oh, and they’re all having far too much fun dancing to watch the gig through their phones.
Gimmicks can go a long way, although Henge don’t need one as three of the band members are aliens and their dancers have mushrooms for heads. Drawing on the heritage of four different planets, the band’s raw, infectious grooves carry an important message for humanity (roughly – we’ve made good progress but if we want to fulfil our potential, we need to stop fighting and wrecking the planet).
The music itself – a genre they refer to as ‘cosmic dross’ – sounds like a highly energetic blend of Hawkwind, The Chemical Brothers and Dick Dale & His Del-Tones. Cautionary tale ‘The Great Venusian Apocalypse’ and the frenzied ‘Nom’s Theme’ are both highlights, while the biggest hitters are synth freak-out ‘In Praise of Water’ and the showstopping ‘Demilitarise’, which is especially poignant on Remembrance Sunday.
Henge may be laugh-out-loud funny and catchy as hell, but there’s no doubting the seriousness of their message. They might just be the band the people of Earth need right now.
Photos by Hannah Burrows