Henge brings energy to Port Townsend music scene

By Robin Dudley of the Leade
Posted 8/11/15

Launched on the stage of a school production of "Romeo and Juliet," a local band called Henge is bringing new energy to the Port Townsend music scene, including a slot on the stage at the Uptown …

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Henge brings energy to Port Townsend music scene

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Launched on the stage of a school production of "Romeo and Juliet," a local band called Henge is bringing new energy to the Port Townsend music scene, including a slot on the stage at the Uptown Street Fair this Saturday, Aug. 15. Henge follows the Young Fiddlers, starting at about 10:30 a.m.

Most of Henge's young musicians are students in the Port Townsend School District's OCEAN program, whose spring 2014 play, a postmodern, dystopian version of "Romeo and Juliet," featured a roving band of music makers. In fact, two members of Henge had the title roles in the play: Noah Morningstar, 17, played Romeo; and Keira DeLuna, 17, played Juliet.

Austin DeLuna, who plays percussion, including the cajon, a box-shaped drum, explained how the band got its name. The director of "Romeo and Juliet" asked them to look more like a band, and Tanner DeLuna drew some matching lines on everyone's faces. Austin said the lines looked "like a henge, like a Stonehenge." Hence the name.

"It started as a jam band," said Rowan Matkins, who describes herself as "the official band mom, sort of the manager." The kids play music at her house, and "people come and go."

"The Momager," quipped Austin.

"She feeds us," Keira said matter-of-factly.

The other core Henge member is Kalan Hatton.

"They started coming over to our house, doing jam nights, a couple years ago," said Keira. They play acoustic rock, acoustic pop ("acoustoc rop," Austin joked) and some "folky stuff," said Keira, who plays ukulele, sings and writes songs that they play. At a recent impromptu performance in Chetzemoka Park, Henge performed a song written by Keira that had a driving beat and moving lyrics. "I hope the notes are sweet and the words taste right," she sang. "I sing this song for you till the morning light."

Enjoying the music and clearly used to it, Matkins' granddaughter Isabelle clapped along, did a little dance, and went to pick a flower and gave it to Keira. The vibe is definitely “family living room.” "They all spend a lot of time together," Matkins said. And they practice in her living room. "We have more instruments than furniture." Banjo, ukulele, electronic keyboard, four drums, mandolin, violin, cello, pennywhistle and nine guitars.

"People pretty much come into our house, and we say, 'What instrument do you play? Oh – we have that,'" Austin said.

All but Hatton are OCEAN students.

"There's something really amazing about the culture being created there that's helping the kids really blossom as artists," Matkins said of OCEAN. Daniel Molotsky teaches guitar and other instruments, and has been in partnership with the Andy Mackie Foundation, Matkins said. "Every kid has some exposure to music." Port Townsend musician and storyteller Aimee Ringle helped Austin learn the cajon.

Hatton, 26, met Matkins and her crew a few years ago at the Mountain View swimming pool. "I started working at the pool, where Rowan and the girls were working," Hatton said, and he started joining them to play music. "Pretty soon, jam night became a regular thing, and it kind of evolved from that."

Matkins said Hatton is "the engine" of the band. A graduate of Sequim High School, he's played in a number of area bands and is "sort of their [Henge] band mentor," Matkins said.

For the Uptown Street Fair gig, they have two set lists prepared, including "the imminent-baby set list," because Hatton's partner, Phaedra, is expecting, and due any day.

They're also planning to record a demo in Morningstar's garage, which he said is "mostly my music room." The demo will include at least two originals, said Morningstar, Henge's resident sound engineer, as well as the especially danceable "Sing" by Ed Sheeran and "Down in the Valley" by The Head and the Heart.

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