When we last caught up with DC’s Ex Hex back in April, they were just about to launch their first official tour, then head down South to record their debut album Rips, due out October 7th on Merge Records. Armed with largely untested material, the trio was visibly excited by their immediate future.
And they were right to be. Last Thursday’s show at the Rock & Roll Hotel showed the Ex Hex is anything but untested, but rather a tight, feisty, and amazingly FUN rock and roll machine. With a sound that pulls in equal parts from the Ramones, the poppier end of the riot grrrl sound, and the guitar driven stadium rock of the 70’s, it’s clear that the band hasn’t just tightened up, they’ve learned how to utterly and completely…ahem…rip.
Getting right to the point, the trio’s authoritative command of the stage and the new material got the front of the room moving immediately; which is saying a lot in a set made up of mostly unknown and unheard tracks from the upcoming album. Front and center (as expected) was Mary Timony’s renowned shredding (Timony is perhaps better known for her work with Helium in the mid-90s and more recently with one-off indie supergroup Wild Flag), but band members Laura Harris and Betsy Wright added to the mayhem with enough attitude and straight up rock-star moves to get even the most pertinacious of wallflowers off their ass and into the sea of practically pogoing heads.
By the end of their quick set (opening for another Merge artist, Hospitality) Ex Hex had run through what one would assume is the bulk of Rips, and more importantly established what kind of band they’re becoming. It’s clear that consistent touring and then recording the album has enabled them to work out the kinks and find hidden gems in their music that might not have been apparent before. Sure, there’s a pop sheen to a lot of the material (Mitch Easter, perhaps best known for his early work with R.E.M., produced Rips), but simmering just underneath is a livewire of pure rock n’ roll electricity that we don’t see often enough these days. Ex Hex knows their history, but if this set was any indication then they’re aiming to make some history of their own.