LIVE REVIEW: Henge Live @ The Fork ‘n Tune, Cwmcarn (13/10/22)

Henge, escapees from a fifties science fiction B Movie, play Planet Cwmcarn.

You can count on one hand the number of live music venues in the South Wales Valleys that put on genuinely interesting, contemporary bands. You can count on one finger the number of them that are trying to recreate the festival vibe all year round.

Over the last few years Anja and Vinny have transformed the Cwmcarn Hotel, an unremarkable valleys pub, into the ‘Fork ‘n Tune’ – part restaurant,  part music venue. From the firepit in the garden to the ultraviolet artwork on the walls, recreating a festival vibe is at the heart of everything they do in this pub. It’s not just a token gesture,  it’s their raison d’etre.

Which is why the idea of Henge playing the venue makes perfect sense. A colourful, exotic, festival band, in a colourful, exotic festival minded pub.

The fact that it is a Thursday isn’t going to stop them pulling out all the stops. The whole pub is taken over for the gig tonight, not just the back room. Grant (Him out of the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk) and a few of his mates are doing a funky psychedelic DJ set in the bar to warm everyone up and get us in the mood. Lots of old faces are bumped into, not just the usual valley heads, but people have ventured up from the big cities of Cardiff and Newport. This is actually unusual – it is usually the other way around. But then Henge do have a bit of a reputation.

Henge left Planet Earth back in 2015, departing from the Manchester Star Gate heading for Planet Mongo, to perform in underground drinking dens banned by Emperor Ming the Merciless. They have spent seven years hanging out with Flash Gordon, building robots and immersing themselves in the  local Cosmic Dross scene.

They occasionally return to Planet Earth via loopholes in the space time continuum, appearing at festivals and psychedelic happenings. Over those seven years they have built up a bit of cult following, which is demonstrated by tonight’s healthy turnout. The room is filled with devotees, many of them looking like they might have also been spending time on another planet.

Slowly but surely over the last few years Vinny and Anja have been tinkering with the décor of the venue, a splash of paint here, a tribal artefact there, works of art dotted about the place and the odd plant breaking up the shape of the joint – all topped off with funky lighting. All this creates a relaxed and funky vibe for any band, but tonight it all comes together, and Henge look like they are hanging out in their own living room, they just blend into the psychedelic decor.

With Henge you get the full package. This is not humans playing space rock, this is aliens playing alien music. I’m tempted to say they are in character for the entire set, but I’m not entirely sure they are in character. I think they might actually be aliens.

They have released two albums and a handful of singles and the devotees gathered seem to be au fait enough with the back catalogue to dance in the right places, jump about in the right places and sing along when required.

I’m not fully up to speed with their shizzle, but I did recognise the surf like instrumental of ‘New Planet’ from 2020’s ExoKosm album, which quite frankly, was worth the ticket price on it’s own.

And then it was over.

Henge didn’t disappear into a blackhole, and no UFOs were spotted over the Forest Drive, they just joined everyone else in the beer garden soaking up the festival vibes. And shivering. Well – Vinny can do his best to make the pub like a festival, but even he has no control over the weather.