Review | HENGE at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea: 'Resistance is futile'
The figure on stage is holding a crystal-topped staff and bedecked in lavish robes.
Oh, and he has a plasma globe on top of his head, like a 21st century take on Arthur Brown.
Except it's not a plasma globe, for as he explains, he is Zpor, an alien millions of years old – the globe contains his consciousness while the humanoid body is merely the latest in a long line of clones (there’s spares in the dressing room, apparently).
Welcome to HENGE.
With an elaborate back story about travelling across the universe to save humanity from its worst impulses through the power of music, this is high concept stuff.
Of course, it would all fall apart if the music wasn't up to scratch.
Fortunately their melding of space rock, old-school rave, prog, funk and Krautrock – which they refer to as Cosmic Dross – is of a uniformly high calibre, as the vigorously dancing throng will attest to.
It's quickly clear why they have become such a hit on the festival circuit – and the audience is equally eclectic with a smattering of hippies, crusties, old ravers who have possibly been in orbit themselves since Castlemorton Common Festival, and the curious.
It's not the kind of gig for cool detachment – Zpor, Goo (the Venusian bassist), Nom (a tentacle-headed drummer) and Grok (the token human, on keys), demand you surrender to the music and go with their flow.
The songs take in subject matter like the Venusian apocalypse as a cautionary tale for Earth, malfunctioning robots and the climate emergency.
New track New Planet features a full-on prog-rock wig out, while Exo comes on like a long-lost track from The Prodigy's first album
The set finishes with the anthemic Demilitarise. Starting with a kalimba-led melody, and gradually building, Grok holds up lyric placards to lead us in a singalong about how we need to, yes, demilitarise so we can instead turn our attention to colonising space. At its climax the whole venue is chanting along a capella.
While it's impossible not to be sucked in by the silliness of it all – resistance is futile – there is a (vaguely) serious message underpinning it all.
So, a bunch of guys in fancy dress, or aliens come to save us from ourselves?
I'm definitely going with the latter…
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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