Mr. Henry – El Mocambo (Toronto, Ontario)
Young teens loiter outside in the bitter cold as New York City’s Mr. Henry takes the stage on the first floor the El Mocambo. The club’s main stage upstairs is reserved tonight for an All Toronto High School Battle of the Bands. Mr. Henry’s frontman Dave Slomin jokes, “We all have fake IDs that says we’re 15, and when we finish down here, we’re going to sneak upstairs and kick some Canadian butt.”
Despite the weather, there is a fair crowd huddled together up front. Toronto continues to receive just short bursts of Mr. Henry’s big sound. Last time they were in town, they played a designated 40-minute set at the NXNE Festival. On tonight’s bill, they’re the first of three bands and are only on stage for 45 minutes. Even with this time constraint, the band displays considerable depth, drawing from a grab bag of influences that include Counting Crows, Buffalo Tom, Steve Earle, Son Volt, early Byrds and Leadbelly.
Tom Spagnardi’s heavy bass drives the first couple of songs, including a pop charged number about heartache called “100 Miles”. Just when it seems Mr. Henry is another alternative-rock band, lead guitarist Steve Conte bends his B string with a hipshot and in effect turns his Telecaster into a steel guitar. He peppers a number of songs in this fashion. Slomin’s 12-string Epiphone lends a country-folk sound to some tunes. Ultimately, though, Mr. Henry is mainly a rock band; country works its way into their set, but only as an accent.
Highlights of the set included the raucous gear-jammer “Headin’ Into The Blue” and the uptempo ballad “Do Not Trespass on This Heart”. Mr. Henry closed with a loosely constructed song called “Valentino Dancing” that earned them a jug of beer from the club’s bartender, Brenda.