Friday 18 November
Civic Hall, Mullumbimby Music Festival
Closing out the Friday night at the Mullum Music Festival in the Civic Hall, it was a smaller crowd than usual for Henry Wagons. But this didn’t signal a lack of interest, it simply meant there was more room to dance.
Wagons is an inimitable character. Waltzing on stage in a spangled silver sequin jacket, trademark sunglasses, and skinny black jeans, the man (and his music) is a mix between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and a lost-highway Western cowboy with just enough Aussie swagger.
Playing with The Only Children, in between his rock and roll country-esque songs, Wagon’s talks to the audience like they’re old friends – old friends who don’t mind a bit of sarcasm and tomfoolery. The crowd is small, so Wagons takes the opportunity to ask where the best place is for the party to kick on over the weekend. His banter continues and he begins talking of late night souvlaki and burgers, the food you find at the end of the night – I wonder where he’s going with it, but soon realise that the conversation between Wagons and the audience is a perfect lead into the next track… Slamming into Cold Burger Cold Fries, Wagons’ personality shines.
In between songs he tells the crowd of his recently made record, recorded in Nashville – one that he says details the evolution of “Young Stupid Henry” to “Old Stupid Henry” and everything in between. The crowd comes closer to the stage, as the night ticks on the dancers start getting wilder. As if it’s too good to miss, Wagons is in there with them, taking the microphone with him.
Showing his slow swagger on Never Been to Spain, he swings back into the grunge of Only Sane Mother F***** and takes the rollicking crowd with him.
A highlight of the night is Wagons’ rendition of Springsteen’s State Trooper and at this point the night descended into perfect chaos. The audience was throwing themselves around, and Wagons was back in the mix with them – at points he completely disappeared in the sea of people. Jumping onto a chair in the middle of audience to scream the final verse of State Trooper, his over-the-top yet apparently completely genuine enthusiasm was infectious.
Henry Wagons is a showman, and the Friday night of Mullum Music Festival was no exception.
BY NADA VAN KEMPEN