Ex Hex – Union Transfer – April 26, 2015
All female rock bands aren’t novel. In fact, groundwork was set by riot grrrl nearly 20 years ago. And to that point, across town, on the same night as Ex Hex’s show, audiences could see Speedy Ortiz, fronted by Sadie Dupuis. These bands are often mentioned together as well as in relation to gender politics in contemporary indie rock. That may be because despite a more diverse landscape, historically, it was rare to see women rip ear-ringing guitar solos, much less do so in sequin dresses and fishnet stockings. At Union Transfer on Sunday, this was the takeaway image to go along with Ex Hex’s wonderfully aggressive and infectious sound.
Ex Hex is Mary Timony on guitar and vocals, Betsy Wright on bass and vocals, and Laura Harris on drums. Although they are a relatively new band, with only one LP, 2014’s Rips, Timony is a veteran of the indie rock scene, having played in Helium, Autoclave and Wild Flag. Last night, both Timony and Wright wore sequin dresses that shimmered in front of an equally shimmery backdrop of brass-colored streamers. Harris’s bass drum depicted a spider that was either symbolic of a black widow or a devourer of men—or it was just unsettling imagery. In contrast, the sound was steady, booming rhythms and big, beautiful distortion, led by Timony bending down to adjust whatever knobs or pedals were needed to play the music even louder.
The set list was a quick succession of tracks from Rips, interspersed with new songs and the most recent single, “Hot and Cold.” Each song leapt forward, before falling back in line with other sub-three-minute sound attacks. It was rapid fire, with occasional false starts and breaks for stage banter. Timony playfully acknowledged the men in the crowd, jokingly dedicating a song by saying, “This one’s for the party boys.” Some of them danced wildly and others stood cross-armed, absorbing the music of their WXPN morning commute. But across all genders, Ex Hex played wonderfully within a less than inclusive history of music and expertly within the vacuum of the night. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic