Tankus The Henge – the Joiners, Southampton ( 18 April 2019)
Henry Baroche reports on Tankus The Henge gig in Southampton after missing their performance at the Extinction Rebellion Protest in Central London… due to being, err.., detained elsewhere.
What’s been on your mind recently? Brexit? Donald Trump and the Mueller Report? Climate change? Two of those are situations of desperate intransigence that we can do precious little about, but I’ll leave it up to you decide which they are.
Climate change has been on my mind a lot in the past week. I was at the demonstrations at the end of their first week at various sites around London, and experienced what was effectively a music festival-like atmosphere, but with all the drive, passion and urgency of a political movement. There was dancing and singing in the streets, there was expansive, intelligent and sensitive discussion between protesters, the public and the police: there was colour and conversation and hope, there was kindness and generosity and laughter in abundance, there was music on the backs of trucks on Waterloo Bridge and at Marble Arch. It was thoroughly positive, constructive and surreal.
Undercover Hippy and Martha Tilston were notable names to play at Waterloo Bridge, and Tankus the Henge took to the stage on Saturday afternoon at Marble Arch, as the police were seeking to push the protesters back in that general direction from their week-old people’s republics around the capital. This is a band who have been raising awareness in their music and at their shows about climate change over the past few years, most notably in the stunning video for their most recent single Things Were Better Before, a video that has been nominated for countless awards and is most definitely worth the 6 or so minutes of your time that it requests. I was unable to catch their set at the hub of the People’s Republic of Extinction Rebellion, detained as I was at the time at Oxford Circus, but I was fortunately able to head down to their packed show at the Joiners in Southampton on the previous Thursday. For a band with such an ebullient reputation of live performance all across the UK and Europe over the past decade, with a name that brings joy, excitement and curiosity to any conversation that it enters, they did not even come within a stone’s throw of the gate to disappointment.
The Joiners has been celebrating its 50th anniversary recently, and this particular night of music set within its dark, creaking, sticky, hallowed walls was particularly befitting of its history, seeing a band of cult following set for ever greater successes being supported by two respected local acts.
The first of those two acts was Sleazy Shoes, who I first saw a year previously at the same venue, supporting the very same band. They perform their energetic, raucous and technically accomplished music in the classic formation of drums, bass, guitar and vocals. They weave their heavy, distorted orchestrations around tales of love and drinking your way into your overdraft, and perform with a quiet confidence and sense of unity that only comes from consistent rehearsal and a strong bond between the four of them. In my personal opinion, I feel they were most deserving of the main support slot, and it was a shame that they received the inevitable slow turnout that greets the opening act as they clock in at quarter to eight. Their lead singer sends her impassioned, soaring vocals careening around the venue, and the drummer and bassist lock-in to their indefatigable yet nuanced parts with all the intuitive, unseeing communication of a solid rhythm section.
Leaping to the stage next with a further gust of youthful energy are One Word, another band local to the area who engage in similarly heavy and earnest musical expression. It is a pairing that I feel is unfair on the two bands, given that they are so like-minded in their approach, with One Word only differing from the opening act in the handing of rhythm guitar duties to the lead singer, and the threading through their songs of the type of harmonic trails you might hear skating from the speakers of an open-topped convertible coasting down a suburban and sun-drenched part of California, complete with ripped jeans and a cameo by Matt Damon. I had a similar experience witnessing the opening act, the thoroughly enjoyable The Murder Capital, to Idles for the last of their dates at the Electric Ballroom in Camden a few weeks back. The Murder Capital mirrored Idles exactly in formation – excellent drummer, plectrum-wielding thrumming bass player, dual attack of chunky, weaving, stinging guitars, and imposing, articulate lead singer – and the sheer fact of this mirror image alone prevented me from truly engaging with their own unique brand of music, something that wouldn’t have been an issue were I to have seen them in their own right.
To give a bit more on One Word, irrespective of how they compared to the act before them, I enjoyed the verve that they inject into their performances, and the evident camaraderie between the members. As a musician myself, and therefore a keen observer in the intricacies of their songs and performance style, I feel they have work to do in order to keep them in the position of support act for notable touring band. The sheer fact alone that the rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist were often playing the exact same chord formation for much of their set, in my opinion, indicates that their sound is lacking a certain depth and maturity. One word on One Word? Tenacious.
You could pick a whole host of single terms to seek to encapsulate Tankus The Henge, whether from the description on the main page of their website, or from the vibrant recollections of their fans. ‘Relentless’, ‘wild’, ‘eclectic’, ‘spectacular’, ‘unforgettable’. Any of these would do, but one word alone will never be enough to ensnare their sound. To me, as someone who understands and expresses experience in a highly visual manner, I feel when I listen to or watch them that I am in the kind of auteur-like universe that one finds oneself in when at the pulpit of Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Hunter S Thompson or the Coen Brothers. Vivid landscapes emerge, and then again recede, being replaced with dinky little rooms packed with a whole host of curious, hilarious, raucous characters, the floor of which then disappears beneath you, sending you plummeting into the seductive arms of a moon-lit, whispering desert vista. And on, and on, and on.
And on they came, the final strains of Strauss’s The Blue Danube Waltz ringing in the collective ear of the audience, who had been singing and clapping along with the piece’s famous stabs from the strings section in joyful anticipation of the main act. They are a typical Tankus The Henge audience – spanning the ages from school children to retiree, friendly and positive, and able to see the childlike glee in practically anything; in an Austrian classical waltz from 1866, for instance.
Their set is comprised largely of offerings from the most recent release, their hilariously-titled sophomore release I Crave Affection, Baby, But Not When I Drive. It is a title that creates a beautiful image in the mind that takes you right to the heart of this hard-working touring band, and iterates the sense of purpose, urgency and commitment to their loving audiences that takes them around the UK and Europe year after year. Progressing from their self-titled debut offering from 2013, and a handful of EP releases that stemmed the tide of audience hunger in the intervening years, it has more of an American tinge in the lustre of its chassis and paintwork, with Rock, Paper, Scissors darting in and out of the stomping grounds of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, and Shoeshine floating upon a crosswind of Southern and Atlantic Soul. Yet Shoeshine too has that unmistakable tread of the likes of Ray Davies, Damon Albarn and Lennon & McCartney in its sole. Tankus the Henge are broadly-speaking a British band, and they are unashamed of that, with their peaked caps and “Gor Blimeys” in fan-favourite Life Is A Grimm Tale. Yet they are also a band for the world at large, fit to be seen cavorting on the beaches of Central Africa that are evoked in Two Steps Ahead from the You Can Do Anything EP, hewn from the stone of Central European wine cellars against which the explosive lead riff of Recurring Dream resounds, skipping through the centre of French Street with marching band aplomb on Last Night in New Orleans, carrying the flame of carnival-esque romanticism with pride through Love Me At The End, Rain On A Sunday and You Can Do Anything. They reel off classic song after classic song during a breathless, fervent hour and a half-long set, from the desert reggae of Weather to the long and winding charm of Smiling Makes the Day Go Quicker, fully testing the strength of the Joiners’ dancefloor as the audience reel and dance and jump upon it. Southampton-based guitarist Tim Fulker leaps and grooves like a Robbie Krieger or Marc Ribot, trombonist George Simmonds punctuates the air with trouser-ripping gusto, saxophonist Joao Mello slides through the night like a sexy serpent in sunglasses, bassist Tom Sinnett mans the gearstick with a steady hand that can shift from 0 to 60mph with the slightest flex of his fingers, drummer and newest member Franco Pellicani pounds and peppers and tosses the songs about the stage with excellent rhythmic dexterity, whilst lead singer and piano maestro Jaz Delorean channels the talent of several men from the prow of this musical hydra.
Let’s focus on You Can Do Anything for a moment. Forgive me if this seems unnecessarily emphatic, but I regard this as one of the greatest songs ever written. What are my credentials for this overblown declaration? I have listened to a lot of music from everywhere and anywhere, and have made countless lists of what my eight Desert Island Disc selections would be, so I am at the very least an amateur expert in this field. You Can Do Anything is a mere snapshot of the Tankus universe, but it is so evocative, so enticing, so universally ebullient that its short-story verses and protest rally chorus can make their way onto any lips and into any heart. If it were to have been released in the same era as the likes of Hey Jude and You Can’t Always Get What You Want, it would now be held in the same esteemed canon. And for a song that they have played over a thousand times within the past decade, the band play it with the urgent enthusiasm and confident abandon of its first inception. It is the rallying cry for an act that has defied the trials that beset all musical groups in this age – the costs of touring and making a living, long days and nights, a large changeover of band members, giving your all to the audience before you when the music industry at large is defiantly deaf to your efforts. When you listen to Tankus The Henge, watch them at work in their own inimitable fashion, you feel the intoxicating positivity surge within you, and if only for the jam-packed few hours that makes up their set, or for the hours after which see you existing within their technicoloured glow, you do indeed feel that you can do anything.
If you do anything this summer, if you are at festivals such as the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or Boomtown, hand over a few hours of your time to the very capable hands of Tankus The Henge, and let them lead you through the fantastical universe that they have created, and now carry in flight cases and the ends of their fingers. And when you emerge from the hallowed darkness, as a film-goer from the depths of the cinema, as a thrill-seeker from the careening rails of a theme-park ride, you will want to do it all over again. And again. And again. And you’ll find that, as is the climate change cause that they supported in person at the London demonstrations, and through their music, Tankus the Henge are an unignorable phenomenon that will affect your life in a deep and fundamental way for years to come.
Tankus The Henge website & store
You can catch them at the following places on the following dates throughout 2019, and into 2020. Their latest album, I Crave Affection, Baby, But Not When I Drive, and their other releases, are available via their website, and on all streaming platforms.
Tuesday 30th April – Musique en Omois Brasles 2019, Chateau Thierry, France
Wed 1st May – Le Brin de Zinc, Barberaz France
Fri 3rd May – La Naute, Champagnat, France
Sat 4th May – Run Ar Puns, Chateaulin, France
Sun 5th – Mon 6th May – Kleg Festival 2019, Mur-de-Bretagne, France
Sat 11th – Sun 12th May – St Ives Food and Drink Festival 2019, St. Ives, UK
Sat 18th May – Devauden Festival 2019, Chepstow, UK
Sat 25th May – Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury, UK
Sun 26th May – Pig’s Nose Inn, Kingsbridge, UK
Mon 27th May – How The Light Gets In Festival 2019, Hay On Wye, UK
Sat 1st June – The Garage, London, UK
Sun 2nd June – Wychwood Festival 2019, Cheltenham, UK
Sun 16th June – Kashmir Café, Isle of Wight Festival, Isle of Wight, UK
Fri 21st June – Beacon Festival 2019, Oxfordshire, UK
Wed 26th – Sun 30th June – Glastonbury Festival 2019, Glastonbury, UK
Fri 5th July – Epinal Bouge l’été 2019, Epinal, France
Sun 7th July – Teehaus Im Englischen Garten, Berlin, Germany
Fri 12th July – Wroot Rocks Party In The Park 2019, Doncaster, UK
Sat 13th – Sun 14th July – Rhythmtree Festival, Isle of Wight, UK
Sat 20th July – Festival Musiques D’Ici Et D’Ailleurs 2019, Chalons en Champagne, France
Thurs 25th July – Musique et Terrasse 2019, Rouen, France
Sat 27th July – Un été sous les Charmes 2019, Dreux, France
Sun 28th July – Les Beaux Dimanches 2019, Alencon, France
Tues 30th July – Sables Show 2019, Cabourg, France
Wed 31st July – La Déferlante 2019, Pornic, France
Sat 3th August – Festival des Garennes 2019, Pontchateau, France
Sun 4th August – Le Coota, Erdeven, France
Wed 7th – Sun 11th August – Boom Town Fair 2019, Winchester, UK
Fri 16th – Sun 18th August – Twisted Village Festival 2019, Winchester, UK
Fri 23rd – Sun 25th August – Watchet Festival 2019, Watchet, UK
Thurs 29th – Sun 1st September – Lindisfarne Festival 2019, Berwick Upon Tweed, UK
Sat 28th September – Festival Le Poulpaphone 2019, Boulogne Sur Mer, France
Thurs 10th October – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, UK
Fri 11th October – The Fleece, Bristol, UK
Sat 12th October – Wycombe Arts Centre, High Wycombe, UK
Thurs 17th October – O2 Ritz Manchester, Manchester, UK
Fri 6th March 2020 – Chapel Arts Centre, Bath, UK
All words by Henry Baroche. Author profile here.
TTH photos from their website, not the Joiners gig. Sleazy Shoes photo by Peter Wroe Beacon .