Ex Hex tore through a set of rock ‘n’ roll that lifted the gloom of a Monday night in foggy London.
As we’re standing outside the Scala on a murky night in Kings Cross Ex Hex drummer Laura Harris comes running towards us, carrying what looks like her cymbals, and is frantically ushered into the venue just before the doors open. We would later discover that she had been stuck in Geneva due to the fog. So, this was the gig that nearly didn’t happen.
This trio from Washington D.C. released their debut album, ‘Rips’, in October 2014. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes long, it’s a raucous rush – “twelve songs about underdogs, guys stealing your wallet, schoolyard brawls, and getting bent”. It was one of my albums of last year and I’ve been waiting to see if they would be as much fun live as they are on record.
They come on stage and go straight into the bouncing beat and pure powerpop of ‘Don’t Wanna Lose’. Their music is infused with a late seventies rock sound, but it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a band that’s imitating what has already taken place – it’s like they’re creating it from scratch in front of you, such is their passion and energy. Does it matter that you could compare them to bands like The Runaways or The Pretenders? No. Why? Because when you’re grinning from ear to ear after one song, you realise comparisons are irrelevant. The only issue is that they sound quiet and at the end of the song there are unanimous cries to turn the volume up.
The sound guys duly oblige and the volume is increased before they continue to tear through the set. Mary Timony’s vocals are the ideal purring but punky mix of Blondie, Chrissie Hynde and Belinda Carlisle. Her twisting guitar solos wrap perfectly around Betsy Wright’s wandering bass lines, which mesmerise the audience when she plays a solo on ‘Beast’ within touching distance of the front row. Harris’ drumming is explosive and keeps the pace as fast and furious as her sprint down the Pentonville Road.
‘War Paint’ is my highlight of the set. The riff is to die for. It tantalises and teases throughout the song, which is just not long enough. It ends with Timony’s guitar solo and I’m left wishing for a rewind button so that I can go back to the beginning and dance through it again.
A cover of ‘All Kindsa Girls’ by The Real Kids from 1977 may be an obvious choice from a retro point of view, but it still gets the vivacity injection of their unique attitude and ends up sounding fresh.
When Wright nearly lands in the front row, whilst playing her bass sitting on the barrier during ‘Everywhere’, she turns to thank the guys who prevented her from falling and this sums up the night for me. Ex Hex are obviously enjoying themselves but also manage to include the audience in their exuberance. The whole crowd is rocking with them and the atmosphere in the venue is surprisingly warm and friendly for a London show.
With Ex Hex there are no gimmicks. They’re unpretentious. They’re ridiculously good fun. They’re pure rock ‘n’ roll and, yes, they rip.
Don’t Wanna Lose
You Fell Apart
Waste Your Time
How You Got That Girl
Hot And Cold
All Kindsa Girls
Photos © Rhiannon Ormerod