I arrived at the Ex Hex show a few Friday nights ago excited and ready to dance. I’ve long been a fan of Mary Timony’s music, since discovering her by chance on a Lookout! Records podcast back in 2006 (a discovery which caused me to associate her with the label when in fact she had released but one album with them, a solo effort coincidentally entitled Ex Hex), and after a series of missing shows by Wild Flag (Timony’s last project which included members of Sleater-Kinney and The Minders), I knew I had to see Ex Hex.
All of which is to say (mostly in lengthy parentheticals) that I knew going into this show it had all the pedigree of something I would dig and boy did Ex Hex deliver. Sure, I could comment on how I coveted Timony’s sequin dress and pink tights ensemble, but the real winning combination on stage was that of Timony, bassist Betsy Wright, and drummer Laura Harris. The three women had a great energy on stage and their interplay, whether Timony and Wright were trading lead vocals or giving the crowd a bit of a show with theatrical poses, was truly electric.
All three are seasoned performers and it’s apparent, not because they’ve worked it down to a science but because they know how to take a setlist consisting of more of less a different sequence of their album and keep the audience engaged and on their feet. An extended jam during Beast had Wright taking center stage, nearly swaying into the audience who hung on her every lunge. Timony and Wright often met and crossed guitar and bass, equal parts rock heroes and girls sharing a secret.
Tracks like How You Got That Girl and Waste Your Time make reference to mainstream rock of the 80s but in a way that, for lack of a better word, is enjoyable. Taking cues from the energy and hook-centric qualities of this style of music, Ex Hex doesn’t seek to elevate this style of music but take from it what works so well and make it their own, not recontextualizing or even reinventing but adapting to their own strengths and interests to an effective and, above all, fun end. Another highlight was the show’s opener, Don’t Wanna Lose, and Radio On may yet be my key track for that early spring, putting on sunglasses and pretending it’s properly nice out feeling.