‘It’s going to be all killer and no filler’: Henry Wagons on Geelong’s first-ever epic countrified cocktail cruise, ‘High Seas’
16.06.2022

‘It’s going to be all killer and no filler’: Henry Wagons on Geelong’s first-ever epic countrified cocktail cruise, ‘High Seas’

Experience the next exciting instalment of the revolutionary Stars & Bars Festival as you take to the High Seas for an evening Cocktail Cruise with the one and only Henry Wagons this June.

Henry Wagons needs almost no introduction, he’s a true renaissance man, with a unique swagger reminiscent of a day when front men gave back bucket loads of charm and were shrouded in enigmatic mystery. Unanimously lauded as one of Australia’s greatest entertainers, a Henry Wagons show is a true sight to behold.

Fresh from tearing up the stages, donning his trademark sunglasses and landing his signature leaps at Tamworth Music Festival and Byron Bay Bluesfest, the Melbourne alt-country songwriter and personality is now preparing for the nautical adventure of his dreams in headlining ‘High Seas’ – the one-night countrified event aboard the World Famous Geelong Party Boat, The Hygeia.

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“I’m looking forward to it, it’s been too long since I’ve been on a boat,” Wagons says.

“I’ve played on a boat a couple of times at the River Boats Festival where they take the paddlesteamers up and down the Murray river; I’ve done a ferry on the Yarra River in Melbourne; and I’ve played on a pontoon in Edmonton in Canada which was floating in front of an art gallery so I’ve definitely got my sea legs and I’m ready to make some noise.

“I think this gig in Geelong will be the pinnacle of them all though.”

Making its maiden voyage this Saturday, June 18, ‘High Seas’ is a brand new event from Stars & Bars Festival – a new event series that kicked off earlier this year in the form of a one-day multi-locale musical bus tour around Heathcote.

Created by Lincon Boyd, the brains behind the beloved past NaranaFest, this second instalment of the revolutionary festival invites punters to cruise the tranquil waters of Corio Bay and beyond aboard the famed luxury 20-metre catamaran for a three-hour evening Cocktail Cruise for an epic voyage of musical discovery.

Departing the Geelong Waterfront at 6pm Saturday, June 18, this promises to be an experience like no other. Onboard, punters can indulge in a fully-licenced cocktail bar with professional bartenders on the downstairs inside level, or take in the views of Geelong’s evolving Waterfront and City Skyline from upstairs on the skydeck lounge, while the Hygeia’s on-board chef will prepare an exquisite selection of cocktail canapes to be served throughout the evening’s proceedings.

All your favourite Moon Dog Brewery beverages will be available for purchase at bar prices, with guests receiving a complimentary Moon Dog Fizzer Seltzer on arrival, ensuring the perfect beginning to your time on the high seas. Local Geelong Spirit legends Anther Distillery have also created a lovingly handcrafted Stars & Bars Cocktail to round out the maritime mixology theme, with a distinctly local flavour featuring Anther Geelong Dry Gin will also be available for purchase at the bar.

Of course, it’s Wagons that will be the main pull of this rendezvous alongside special guest and the wildly talented Geelong local Nathan Seeckts – a powerful singer songwriter who effortlessly fuses the sounds of Americana, folk, country and blues delivered with a commanding voice that is equal parts gravel and passion.

Drawing on a broad-ranging swag of influences, Wagon’s live show is renowned for being a high sensation roller coaster ride that ranges from the bluster of sweaty jumpsuit-era Elvis, to the sombre, drunken malaise of Lee Hazlewood. He can touch on the tenderness of a recently heartbroken Roy Orbison while simultaneously embracing the menace of Nick Cave; providing the perfect soundtrack to a winter’s evening on the high seas. For this special show, Wagons will be bringing along his beloved solo band, The Only Children.

“It’s a bit of a rotating lineup, but I have played with these musicians for a long time. They’re some of Melbourne’s finest, so they know what they’re doing, that’s for sure, more so than me,” he laughs.

“We’ll be bringing the twang and the outlaw kind of feel; it’s going to be country. We’re going to play some old songs, some new songs and we’re gonna play a couple of my favourite songs that got me through COVID. It’s going to be all killer and no filler if I’ve got anything to do with it.”

With touring plans on hold throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Wagons was able to keep busy in isolation, trying his hand at online gigs, hosting the online music festival ‘Delivered, Live’, as well as hosting the beloved Double J radio show Tower Of Song. However, it was the return to the stage and being a part of the resurgence of live music that truly lit a fire in the renowned performer.

“I was lucky enough have my radio program to do the whole time which kept me really busy. It’s an anchor to my life. I never wanna lose it. It also extracts me from my own music and forces me to immerse myself in all sorts of other heavyweight songwriting. So that kept the irons in the fire burning,” he says, “but I found I wasn’t really writing too many songs really. I don’t know if it was just a lack of stimuli, you know, I wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything, but now that I’m on the road and all these festivals are happening again and I’m seeing people again, I kind of feel stupid for not having done music in the past couple of years.

“So it’s actually inspired me to really get things going again. And it’s quite inspiring to be on the road and making noise again because that’s what I needed obviously to get the music and the creative juices flowing again.”

Despite feeling more or less uninspired to write music within the throes of the pandemic, Wagons did manage to release two singles in July last year, following up from his 2016 album ‘After What I Did Last Night’. Reworking a song originally written in the early noughties, ‘I Cooked You A Meal’ arrived alongside ‘Everything Is Broken’, which saw Wagons offers his compelling take on a Bob Dylan treatise that perfectly sums up the wild frustration of the shattered situation at the time, in the midst of a slow vaccine rollout and the languishing state of the entertainment industry.

“I think everyone kind of disappeared into their record collections and listened to albums for the first time in years, you know? Everyone had the time to settle back and enjoy music so I found myself revisiting a lot of dusty old records from my record collection and Bob Dylan’s definitely a part of the backbone of it. That song, ‘Everything Is Broken’ seemed to kind of be appropriate for what the world was going through; it was definitely a very strange time to be alive and there were a lot of things that were broken so I found myself relating to that song.”

“I had to do something, I had to release something but there’s definitely more to come. All of the pent-up creative juices and half-finished songs are kind of coming to fruition now. So there’ll be an absolute avalanche of new music for me over the next year or two, I reckon. I’ll be trying out a few new songs at the gig coming up too at Stars and Bars.”

With a busy start to the year – and with no signs of slowing down – Wagons is certainly making up for lost time, making a triumphant return to the touring circuit in a truly spectacular fashion.

“There’s been a few hit outs and moments now where I’m beginning to think things are getting back to normal. You know, the world’s still in a fair bit of chaos and I don’t wanna forget what’s happening, but I also am having the pleasure of being able to have a good time and pedal my wares at the same time. So I feel very lucky. It’s been a great start to the year and I’m glad things are rolling again.

“It was pretty weird [returning to the stage after so long]. I didn’t realize how much I relied on being match fit, you know? I did a couple of things like streaming events and that sort of thing during COVID and I’d find myself losing my voice in two or three songs. So it’s taken a bit of getting used to and I really loved to talk to the crowd and interact so it kind of took me a while to figure that out again, the social interaction.

“But luckily all the Guinea pigs are have all fallen victim to me already and I’m back and ready to go; I’m used to being on stage again, thankfully. So by the time I get to that dock, I’ll be full of a spaghetti jaffle from the Corio Roadhouse, which is a tradition while I hurdle down the highway to Geelong. I’ll stop off by the Roadhouse, get myself a good jaffle then head straight to the port and onto the boat, here we go.”

Boarding commences – with or without jaffles – from 5:30pm from Fishermen’s Pier at the end of Yarra Street on the Geelong Waterfront and the Cruise departs at 6:00pm, arriving back at Fishermen’s Pier to disembark from 9:00pm. There’s also access to an Official Stars & Bars Festival High Seas After Party at a secret Geelong CBD venue for party-goers keen to kick on.

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