I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Salem music scene in the 90s was totally righteous, dude. Sorry/not sorry. Maybe I’m part Grumpy Old Man, “In my day, all the clubs in town hosted bands playing original music. AND WE LIKED IT!” There were so many bands drawing large crowds that venues were cropping up in the most unlikely places. Anyone remember the Ethiopian restaurant Queen of Sheba? Even the Westside Station was a major hotspot in town for all original bands from up and down the I-5 corridor. In fact, it was at the Westside Station that Eugene prog-rock band Henry’s Child was given a recurring spot in their Thursday night rotation in 1994. Didn’t take long for this edgy, high energy act to pack the place and quickly moved to the much coveted headliner spot on Saturday nights.
Their frontman, Andrew Smith was and is the ultimate showman. My memory of those days are foggy, but I distinctly remember Smith as a full-throated, crazy man devouring the stage dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange. They put on a technically tight and equally theatrical performance. Ah, those were heady days. The band says that Salem is where they broke out. Yeah. Salem in the 90s was a place that you could get noticed.
And they did get noticed by owner of Elemental Records, Jon Boldt. Elemental boasted such artists as Jolly Mon, Anzio Bridgehead, Sweaty Nipples and Floater. How about that lineup? Henry’s Child was signed to Elemental in 1997 with their second album, “Clearly Confused.” Go to their bandcamp page and listen to them all. Their first album, “Mumbles and Screams” has one of my favorite tracks, “Pinball.” Their music is definitely progrock punctuated with strong vocal melodies, reminiscent of Mr. Bungle. And there is a little bit of that Northwest 90s thing thrown into their own original sound. But as I sit here listening, their songs hold up, partly because of Smith’s interesting, deep and sometimes funny lyrics.
Now you may be wondering, why the article on a local 90s band? Are you really THAT sentimental? Well, yeah. But also, Henry’s Child is back in the studio recording a new album, “Almost Gone”, and they’re out playing shows again. They played a few last year, including a sold out show at WOW Hall in Eugene, and now they’re heading back to Salem where it all started. I sat down with singer Andrew Smith, bass player Thom Tessandori and guitarist Rich Clinton at their practice space, here in Salem (Drummer Doug Cramer couldn’t make it). They maintain their practice space here, even though only one member lives here. It’s a testament to the affection they feel for our town. After all, this is where it started for them. Additionally, Henry’s Child got quite an honor in 1997. They received a preliminary Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Rock band. Out of over 2,000 acts, they made the cut down to 43 bands. But you know, that was the year Radiohead’s “OK Computer” came out.
Their new album is still in the works; it’s expected out late spring. But, they’re coming back to Salem on February 11th to The Space Concert Club with local prog band Aether Theory and Seven Second Circle, also a melodic prog-rock joint comprised of three members of Henry’s Child. It’s gonna be a prog-rock extravaganza. You should come see some Salem music history and also a group of masterful musicians.
As an aside: If the title of this article rings a bell, it’s lyrics to the song “In Heaven,” sung by the lady in the radiator from David Lynch’s “Eraserhead.” The main character, Henry had a child. Therein lies the origin of their name.