Culture, Manchester, Music

Live Review: Henge @ Manchester Academy 2

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By: Sarah Lane
Photography: Lucy Tibbs

‘Enter if you dare’, read the signs in the entrance of the Academy. Decorated for Halloween with black and orange bunting and filled by gig-goers with blue, green and pink hair, it was a festive atmosphere. An alien-space-robot lingered in the foyer; its spray-on silver legs, face paint and antennae hinted that something strange was afoot upstairs.

And so it was. Kitties in monochrome, baseball caps striped by badges, fairy lights worn casually around the neck, lace bras, sports bras and yes, actual tie-dye, all populated the dance floor. Silly patterned shirts and so many shiny, glittery people. But none so shiny as those on stage. “Humans! Your future is space!” calls our psychedelic space shaman (the band’s front-man, Zpor). The crowd twirl and bounce wildly to a bass that goes deep and gets dirty. The urge to dance is fired by the knowledge that we are in the middle of a war; we are smack bang in the centre of the raging laser battle that is ‘Jupiter’s Wild Ride’.

Loose drums and shimmering cymbals blend into our leader’s declaration: “Welcome to the experiment, humans. I am billions of years old. This body is just a clone, a mere flesh puppet”, and robo-riffs onwards over the many keyboards and that relentless bouncing rhythm. Sound gloops over us as we are regaled with a tale of times gone by, “The planet you call Venus? It has a toxic atmosphere. ‘Twas not always thus. The Venusians thrived. But then came… the Great Venusian Apocalypse!” The band amp up the space-prog vibes as they play one of the band’s festival favourites, ‘The Great Venusian Apocalypse’. Harder and faster the sound. Harder and faster the crowd. 

Henge are about so much more than the music. There is a narrative to be told. The members of the band hail from various parts of outer space and have travelled to planet earth to save us through the medium of music. Frontman Zpor speaks with awkward formality befitting an alien no less than one thousand years old. The frivolous fantasy of the Henge story and their performance, for which the members are costumed as robots and aliens, belies a deeper message that Zpor wishes to impart.

Our saviour preaches, “This song is about the thrill of making art. So, if you are somebody who has made art today, if you have made a drawing, if you’ve painted your face, this song is going out to you lovely lot”. A valuable sentiment, and genuine. There is something desperate and beautiful about clinging to whimsy while the world burns.

For the first time, we get a guitar riff that is sweet and clear, with a surf twang and vocals sung not unlike a regular human popstar. A refreshing interlude from the sensory chaos that is general Henge. Of course, the crowd go wild for ‘Demilitarise’, everybody’s favourite space-age anti-war anthem.

Dearest gig-goers, a gig of the Henge variety is a lot of silly fun, suitable for people that are fun and silly. So if that sounds like something you’d enjoy then definitely check them out. You’ll be in for a treat. Certainly, one to see live, their recordings don’t do justice to an experience that is part (cleaned-up) Rocky Horror and part Flaming Lips kids-party-esque nonsense. You’ll have a boogie, you’ll have a giggle and who knows, you might walk away with your very own Henge babygrow…

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