This past Monday night at the ’Sco, Ex Hex delivered a set that excited attendees despite the fact that it was on a school night. The Washington, D.C., garage-pop trio features guitarist and singer Mary Timony, bassist and singer Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris. The musicians began playing together in early 2013, creating sounds inspired by glam rock and punk. Their performance was enjoyable but not polished. It was clear that Ex Hex is a fairly new band, though it showed the promise of becoming a spectacular live band later in its career.
Timony has been an active musician since the early ’90s. She has performed in a variety of bands, including Autoclave, Helium and Wild Flag, which formed about five years after Sleater-Kinney disbanded and was formed entirely by members of that influential band. Ex Hex performed for over an hour and played some of its most popular songs, including “Hot and Cold,” which came out as a hit single before the band’s full-length album, and “Don’t Wanna Lose.” Ex Hex’s music does not center around all-encompassing questions or messages. In fact, most of its songs, primarily written by Timony, are about disappointing ex-boyfriends and other relationship problems. However, its songs never feel inundated in self-indulgent tragedy. Instead, Ex Hex’s emotion is stripped down and fast — a feeling only supplemented by Timony’s overtly melodic delivery of the lyrics. Her guitar playing and Wright’s bass playing complement each other well, especially during solos.
At one point in the middle of their set, the musicians took a short break and conversed with students from the stage. “Isn’t this a party school?” Timony asked, joking with the crowd of students and locals. The crowd responded with half-hearted cheers, but Timony did not hesitate to continue bantering. “But aren’t you guys, like, intellectuals?” she continued. Some people laughed, and Wright asked if Oberlin has any rivals in sports. Timony told her it “wasn’t like that” since we’re an “artsy school” and proceeded to ask if our rival was Bard College. People booed as Timony and Wright continued to talk about the distinctly artistic vibe of the school before returning to their set. Overall, Ex Hex had a great stage presence, even though its sound was slightly marred by a lack of experience.
The performers are already attuned to one another musically and stylistically. Since forming, Ex Hex has come out with one fulllength album, Rips. Wright’s two main contributions to Rips, “How You Got That Girl” and “Radio On,” both slide perfectly into Timony’s previously established punk-girl vibe. The band has a distinct sense of trust in each other and a willingness to have fun.
Overall, Ex Hex offered a solid, albeit slightly amateur, performance at the ’Sco. The group had as much fun as possible on stage, and this sense of joy is crucial in leaving a positive impression on an audience.