Atlanta can be a fickle place for musicians. Depending on the night of the week, the venue, the time of the year, the schedule of events for that night, the mood of residents, the position of the moon, what folks had for dinner and a wide variety of other factors you can never tell what the crowd will be like. One of the toughest places to play is the Masquerade, not because it is a bad venue, but because they have three rooms and on nights they are all in use can be interesting to say the least. This past Friday night that is exactly what happened. With metal blaring from Hell and house/dance being blasted from Heaven; Henry Wagons was occupying Purgatory and filling the intimate room with some of the finest tunes to be heard in Atlanta on that night.
If you have never treated your ears to Henry Wagons then you need to do so as fast as possible. The Australian singer/songwriter was raised on music by performers such as Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley & Lee Hazelwood and after he finished his set this was obvious. Wagons took the stage and after some witty banter with the folks at the show kicked right into the foot stompin’ honky tonk infused “Willie Nelson” setting the stage for a damn fine night of tunes to come. Flanked by his key board player and guitarist/bass player/stand up drummer Wagons prowled around the stage even jumping into the audience a time or two as he wailed into the mike sounding like a mix of Nick Cave, Elvis and Lee Hazelwood. The set list was littered with killer tunes from the latest EP Expecting Company?. They ripped through a boisterous version of “Unwelcome Company” and “I’m In Love With Mary Magdalene” may be the best song he has in his repartee. The 9+ minute version of “A Hangman’s Work Is Never Done” to close the show was full of brooding rhythms and Wagons enlisting the crowd to aide in fake choking noises. A nice addition to the show was Elvis’ “Separate Ways”, Wagons nailed it as he gave it his own personal flair. In addition to killer music Wagons’ witty banter and humorous commentary creates a total package that leads to a great live show. He makes the audience a part of the show and that is always a bonus. If you ever get the chance to see Henry Wagons live, just do it.
For those of us that got there early we were treated to a nice piece of local music. Mike Snowden has made a life of building his own guitars out of cigar boxes then playing some damn fine blues music. He took the stage to open the night and when the hum from his hand crafted instrument faded the room was impressed. In addition to rotating between multiple guitars, some with four strings some with three, he also played a bad & snare drum with is feet. The one man band rolled through tunes from his latest album Evil, like “500 Mason Jars”, “Devil’s Hand” and “Mr. Evil”. He closed out the night with awesome versions of “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “Blitzkrieg Bop”. When he was done I was impressed and cannot wait to see him play live again. He plays around town if you get a chance take in a show.
When the evening was done a great time was had by everyone there. Henry Wagons is on a path to do some great things. His music is original and fresh to the ears but his traditional influences make it welcome and familiar. If you get the chance to ever see him live jump on it because soon it is going to cost way too much and be way too hard to get tickets to see this man wail and moan. With ice cold beers flowing and sweet tunes filling everyone’s ears I can’t think of a better time to be in Purgatory.