TVD Live: Ex Hex at
the Black Cat, 5/1

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | Even before the release of their debut full-length album Rips this past October, local DC rock trio Ex Hex had been labeled as “fun.” The reputation formed during interviews and at their first shows, and came out in their early music. They play with this lighter side on Rips while still showing off the immense rock and roll experience of each band member. Dance glam and catchy pop tunes meld seamlessly with harder punk-inspired riffs and no holds barred guitar solos.

So it was no surprise that the band’s hometown crowd at the Black Cat last Friday night was waiting impatiently for the dance party to start. And when guitarist and lead singer Mary Timony (Autoclave, Helium, Wild Flag) and bassist Betsy Wright (Childballads, the Fire Tapes) came out in matching black sequins, with drummer Laura Harris (The Aquarium, Benjy Ferree) following close behind, it certainly looked like they were ready to have some fun.

But the party didn’t quite start right away. Timony launched right into “Don’t Wanna Lose,” the opening track off Rips. The sound was off with the vocals too quiet and the reverb too heavy. The noteworthy energy that makes the album so addicting was missing.

But a few songs in, something changed. The sound had been fixed, and the band members seemed to loosen up and started filling the space.

Timony shined when she was able to show off her guitar skills. Ex Hex started as Timony’s project, named after her 2005 solo album, and she wrote most of their songs. Mid-way through the set, Timony broke out on the fast, easily excitable “Beast.” Her guitar solo was a strong, intense highlight of the show.

Wright looked the part of a punk bassist. Sporting a mop of black hair, Wright exhibited a tendency to lean in to Timony’s guitar, lips snarling, digging into the music. And then, she would smile, maybe laugh a little. For punk, it was unexpected. For Ex Hex, it seemed exactly right. Given how well she’s got the rock and roll bassist act down, you never would have guessed that she played keys and hadn’t picked up a bass until Harris and Timony approached her about Ex Hex.

By the end of the main set, the trio’s sound was loud and tight, the chemistry between the three—particularly the back and forth between Timony and Wright—was undeniable, and the crowd was dancing nonstop. Offstage for just a second, Ex Hex came back on for the encore. They started off with “All Kinds of Girls,” the 1977 track from punk band The Real Kids. It was the right choice for them, bringing strong energy and vocals from all three women. The night ended with “War Paint,” the crowd enthusiastically clapping along.

In almost exactly 50 minutes, Ex Hex had played through every song on Rips, and a couple of covers. Just like their album, it was fun, fast—and over too soon.



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