In which our hero tells a tale of “Unwelcome Company” on a Melbourne stage.
BY HENRY WAGONS
I was trying to keep calm, reclining in the green room backstage at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia at our hometown CD launch in 2009. It was a full room and the crowd were savagely drunk. I could tell they were soaked when Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” came on the house stereo and it prompted a 1,000-person strong sing-along. They sounded revolutionary. I was excited to go on, but also a little on edge about the whole situation. The one portly blonde security guard backstage looked sluggish on a stool in the corner of the room and was slowly eating chicken out of a bag, spreading it all over his cheeks. He was a mess.
It was time to go on. As I expected, it was a dangerously ravenous reception. I felt it was not necessarily because our fans wanted to see us particularly, but because all the bright lights and noise had finally kicked in, providing thrills to the shitfaced, like drawing moths to a flame. It seemed like I was on the set of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” video. Let’s be honest, it was awesome.
We started. We wanted to keep the crowd hyped, keeping this frenzied momentum up, so we kicked the show off by playing an old fire and brimstone evoking single from an earlier record called “Man Sold.” It went mental.
The first verse went well. It was surreal. Actually, it was the opposite, it was quite hyper-real. It was as if everything went into HD. I noticed one of the guys from the front row creep up on stage with a can of beer in his hand. He danced, flailed and swayed behind me in amongst the band. It was ok. I guess it was fun to watch for the audience. I was happy to run with it. When the first chorus kicked in, he came up and clumsily joined me on the mic, clawing at it.
It was at this point I started to wonder how much chicken was in the security guard’s bag and how long it would take him to get through it. He was nowhere to be seen. When I started to kick back into the second verse, the man took a grab at the mic, smashing it into my teeth. It hurt, but after a quick check with my tongue I knew my chompers were intact. By this stage the man had taken the mic and started to drool/scream randomly into the mic, and the crowd started getting restless, and this was only the first song! I remember hoping that chicken must have been damn good to be keeping security at bay.
I realized I had to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed the mic and pushed the guy off the stage. It was a clean, Miyagi-esque ‘wax off’ type motion. I saw him hurtling back towards the crowd. At that point his feet became tangled in a mic lead and he tripped over a monitor and flipped and his head started hurtling towards the hard floor beneath the stage. Fuck.
Things slowed down at this point, and I saw him slowly fall to the ground landing straight on his neck. If I had a chance to strategically place the guy in as awkward a fall as possible, this would have been it. His head buckled under his own weight and he collapsed limp on the ground as the thick crowd parted around him. The band played on and all I could do was finish singing the second verse, looking down at him hoping for a sign of life. People who were there said the look on my face was tell-tale.
In the moments that followed, I have never been happier to see someone come at me with fists flying! He got up after three very long and limp seconds and was obviously immediately possessed by red line fever, wanting to punch me out, trying climb back on stage. Luckily, people up the front held him back and my blonde security mate finally kicked into action and mildly escorted the man out of the building, feeling full with a radiant, post-chicken glow.
Henry Wagons’ latest EP, Expecting Company?, is out now via Thirty Tigers. The spooky, seven-song platter consists mostly of ghost-town duets with folks like Alison Mosshart, Robert Forster and Jenn Grant. Unlike a mic to the choppers, every last one of these Cash-on-pills nuggets is welcome – to say the very least. Wagons does admit to writing much of the EP in an altered state, by the way. He was, in his words, “delirious with a bad fever and maimed due to a light bulb exploding in my hand.” Hmm… seems like there’d be a fucked up story to go with that…
HENRY WAGONS – “Unwelcome Company” (featuring Alison Mosshart