Sunday, 18 November 2012

Gig Review (?) - Henry Wagons

Henry Wagons
Live @ Jet Black Cat Music, West End
by Jo Michelmore


Two unexpected things happened this weekend. One involved dark clouds and pounding rain and a little havoc and a lot of unhappy trees in my neighbourhood. The other one was an unexpected event of a different kind. It involved guitars and stories and laughs and the type of entertainment that can only be had every now and then, usually in tiny, comfortable spaces, one of those being a record store.

Henry Wagons has been doing his thing, well, probably all his life, but I first happened across him (probably a little late) supporting Seeker Lover Keeper last year, although I believe he’d been making a name for himself for a few years before that. I didn’t know what to expect from that gig in St Johns Cathedral and I was at first taken aback with his country/rock/bluesy sound in such a venue, but once he’d finished I was won over with his charm, incredible voice and sense of humour and performance. Having not seen him live since, I was pleasantly surprised to be wandering the streets of West End in Brisbane and visit Jet Black Cat Music, who were lucky enough to have the fabulous Henry Wagons grace the doors of their delightful little store. Although normally accompanied by his band of cohorts, various friends and others, this was solo Wagons, just Henry and his guitar, a microphone and mobile phone which was keeping everyone updated on the whereabouts of his band mates who were stuck at the airport, drinking champagne while their front man entertained a tiny but appreciative crowd of fans and passers-by. Those who did pass by missed out, for those of us who ventured inside Jet Black Cat were treated to what was not just an excellent performance but a conversation with Henry. We heard about his experiences at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and his love of Elvis Presley, his friend’s issues with sewer rats and flies, his Aunt’s family suitcase, his experience of working with Robert Forster, his need to never see any ghosts (agree wholeheartedly Henry!), what sounded like great and unfortunate times that led to the writing of a requested song, ‘Goodtown’ and we were introduced to the concept of a solo duet with oneself. It was an intimate performance and it was the perfect way to spend lunchtime on a stormy Saturday. His voice is amazing, so strong, almost robust in some instances and calm exactly where it needs to be. His song writing is wonderful, every song a story I can’t stop listening to, a glimpse into the world of Wagons.

I wasn’t expecting the performance I saw in that tiny little record store this weekend. I thought it might be nice to swing by and pick up a couple of LP’s, but what I discovered was so much better than a simple vinyl could provide. To hear a musician chat about their songs, belting out their tunes and playing their guitar with everything they have only a metre or so away is incredible. There’s something awe inspiring about seeing your favourite musicians jumping about and singing their hearts out in front of thousands of fans but there’s something spine tingling and precious about seeing someone with the same amount of energy and love for their music put in the same amount of effort for twenty or so people in a record store, in the middle of the day. I could see Henry easily in either situation and be equally impressed by both. There’s a special talent in the ability to do that and it’s a talent that should be applauded and admired more. I applauded it by leaving Jet Black with an LP and a tea towel (now that’s impressive merchandise!) but what I had been given in return was a musical experience that I’ll remember with a smile and talk about for weeks and months to come.

Maybe three unexpected things happened yesterday. A storm, a performance and a little bit of me found a new favourite love. One little room, one little performance and I could be hooked. Henry Wagons? Hi! Come back soon? I think I could be your newest, biggest fan.

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