Warsaw, Brooklyn, NY
October 16, 2015
Review by David Chiu
It was a special evening when the indie rock trio Ex Hex performed in New York City this past Friday and not just because it was part of the annual CMJ Music Marathon (the group was part of a bill that included fellow Merge Records acts Titus Andronicus and Spider Bags). As announced from the stage during Ex Hex’s set at Brooklyn’s Warsaw, the night marked the two-year anniversary of the band’s founding, and the occasion to acknowledge singer/guitarist Mary Timony’s birthday. With those in mind, the stars were perfectly aligned in Ex Hex’s favor that night as the group, which also includes, bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris, delivered an exhilarating set.
Ex Hex’s debut record Rips was released around this time a year ago, and its combination of indie, punk, and glam rock influences (think of the Runaways, the Ramones, Nick Gilder, and ’70s power pop fused together) translated really well on stage. Throughout the Warsaw gig, Ex Hex’s sound felt like more in the tradition of an arena rock show than your typical alt-rock one in a small dive. In this live setting, it was the opportunity for the trio to develop the songs beyond their studio incarnations (each of them clock under four minutes on Rips), thanks to some impressive instrumental playing individually and collectively.
As with the record itself, there wasn’t a wasted moment during the approximately one-hour show as the band rolled out pretty much rocker after rocker with such songs as “Don’t Wanna Lose,” “How You Got That Girl,” “Hot and Cold” “War Paint,” and the finale “Everywhere”; Ex Hex also threw in a cover of the Real Kids’ “All Kindsa Girls” that’s not from the album. Perhaps the high point of the set was the group’s performance of “Beast,” in which each member showed off her instrumental prowess, especially Wright on the bass (one Twitter user at the CMJ show commented that it was the first time he saw a bass solo involving tapping). Best known for her tenure with Helium and White Flag, Timony delivered some electrifying guitar work with such ease and dexterity. And Harris provided both taut and rollicking moments behind the drum kit.
It’s seems rare for an indie rock band these days to wear its radio-friendly punk-meets-glam influences on its sleeve while still sounding contemporary and fresh, but Ex Hex accomplishes that quite effectively. Overall the magnetic chemistry among the members was in full display at the Warsaw gig, and the result was the crowd’s enthusiasm. The alt-rock veteran Timony has again hit her stride with this latest project following Wild Flag—hopefully Ex Hex’s debut won’t be a one-off thing but the beginning of more to come from the trio.