Hey music fans! Today’s post is a review of a stellar show Alex and I caught at the Great American Music Hall in SF, back on April 23, 2019. I have been a fan of Mary Timony for over a decade, and she’s a performer that I will catch at every opportunity. Once of my favorite shows of last year was “Mary Timony plays Helium” in which Mary and band performed selections from her awesome 90s band Helium. But tonight we were on hand to see music by Mary’s current band Ex Hex.
This would be my second Ex Hex show, the first being back in 2015 (?) when they had just released their first album, Rips. The second Ex Hex album It’s Real came out in March of this year. Let me just say that It’s Real is one of the best, most fun records of 2019. It’s chock full of satisfying rock and roll anthems. Definitely one to crank up on the stereo and let the riffs wash over you.
Opening band was Marbled Eye. They are a four-piece noise rock band that at times reminded me of Sonic Youth. They were technically proficient and played with brain-melting intensity. They were driving and not particularly melodic, but I did really enjoy a couple of the songs. I noticed that Mary T. was hanging out in the crowd checking them out. I think it’s super cool when the headliner is out there checking out the opening bands.
Next on the bill was FEELS. I didn’t know much about this band, but I had checked out a couple videos before the show and thought they seemed promising. They are a 4-piece outfit from LA touring behind their second album Post Earth. As might be inferred from the title of the new album, FEELS have something to say about our materialistic society and the danger it presents to our planet. Alex and I chatted with singer/guitarist Laena Geronimo before the show. Alex, in his usual clueless way, referring to her somber expression on the album cover, “why do you look so serious?”. Laena, kind of at a loss for words, “the situation is pretty bad …” And I have to agree with her.
Let me just say that FEELS performance at GAMH far exceeded my expectations, and I am now a FEELS fanboy. Their set was the perfect balance between musicianship and rawness, with a healthy dose of rock and roll attitude. The music kicked ass, and they were fun to watch. Amy Allen the bass player occupied center stage and was the coolest, moving in time to the bass grooves. Our friend Laena held down the right side of the stage, and Shannon Lay, also on guitars and vox was on the left. The songs were audacious and unpredictable. Michael Perry Rudes on drums provided a tasteful and inventive scaffolding. The guitars would riff in counterpoint to each other, creating interesting sonic textures, with Allen’s muscular bass lines bouncing through the mix. Anyway, I was totally impressed and picked up the CD and the t-shirt, which I am wearing right now. Would see again in a heartbeat.
In interviews of Ex Hex they often say “Ex Hex is about making the kind of music we like to listen to.” A lot of Mary Timony’s previous work (Helium, solo records) are like baroque castles of sound, and the lyrics are fantastic and dreamlike. Ex Hex is much more straight ahead, with catchy beats and satisfying riffs, with a nod to the glam & metal bands of the 70s and 80s. Anyway, it’s clear that they had fun making these songs, and even more fun playing them.
In addition to Mary Timony, Ex Hex consists of Betsy Wright on guitar/vocals and Laura Harris on drums. Bassist David Christian was pulled in to allow Wright to play guitar (Wright played bass on the the previous tour). It’s such a pleasure to see good musicians that are having a great time. Mary was relaxed and flashing her quizzical smile. She has a delicate way of moving, and I love watching her slender hands moving on the fretboard and the little flourishes she makes with her right hand when she strums. There was a nice balance between Timony and Wright as they traded off on vocals and lead. And of course there were plenty of over-the-top rock and roll moments with Wright and Timony jousting with their guitars, or leaning on each other while they jammed. It was a totally satisfying set and a great wrap up to a great evening of rock and roll!