The dynamic Betsy Wright, bassist for Ex Hex, launched another band last year, forming Bat Fangs with drummer Laura King. The band performed as a trio opening for War on Women at Rock and Roll Hotel on Saturday, Aug. 26, and Paivi got some pix. (Check out her pix of War on Women also.)
Neil Young was right. “Rock and roll will never die.” And no, that’s not an allusion to the seemingly myriad musical festivals or anniversary tours featuring reunited elders of sound like 2016’s Desert Trip — affectionately dubbed “Oldchella” — or most recently, the bicoastal weekend-long fêtes Classic East and Classic West last month. “Rock and roll is here to stay,” thanks to bands like Spoon (whose title is not a reference to the culinary utensil, but an homage to the 1970s German avant-garde collective called Can #themoreyouknow). These indie musicians heralding from the capital of the Lone Star State embody the notion that evolution is a form of revolution.
With the March 2017 release of their ninth studio album, Hot Thoughts, a promotional tour was sure to follow and it did. Their July 30 appearance at the newly renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion was not a solo headlining gig, but they most certainly performed like it was.
In the loose and grungy ’90s, pockets of great music bubbled up, and few places were as cool as Boston, where noise pop quartet Helium formed.
Former Helium frontwoman Mary Timony, who had relocated from DC to Boston at the time, recently championed the remaster of the band’s only two albums, along with another album of rarities, and made an effort to get the band back together for a brief tour. Although that reunion did not occur, Mary took the show on the road herself, playing an opening date to a sold-out room at Rock and Roll Hotel on Tuesday, June 6, to the delight of a much enthralled audience.
Mary Timony, DC’s top guitar ace, first became an indie rock darling in the ‘90s with her Boston-based band Helium, which dabbled in well-written noise pop. Twenty years after the band’s second and last album, Matador Records last month reissued Helium’s records and a new compilation — Ends with And, a collection of singles and other tracks.
To mark the occasion, Mary herself is hitting the road to celebrate the music of Helium in a short tour beginning with a date at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Tuesday, June 6. You still have a chance to buy tickets!
In a few short weeks, Spoon will find themselves in a three-night residency at SXSW, and then the very next day they will release their new album Hot Thoughts on Matador Records. Spoon will then continue a tour that will eventually land them at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, on Sunday, July 30.
Ed Schrader was switched on.
“I wanna give it up for Stoli,” he proclaimed at the 9:30 Club Thursday night, raising his glass. He pauses for a beat. “Oh, I mean Crystal Geyser.”
As he continued to have fun with things he’s “not supposed to do,” he flipped off his shirt, noting he was stopped from doing so in Texas, and introduced “a song about joining the military.”
Ed Schrader and his partner in crime Devlin Rice form Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, and the band were in DC to open for hometown heroes Ex Hex. With the lively pace of a human metronome, Ed dove into his songs with gusto, playing 90 second bursts of punk songs that were distinguished by their surprisingly engaging rhythms.
Somehow in mid-’90s, friends of mine were clued into some good female-fronted indie rock bands — quite a few of them from Boston (including the likes of the Blake Babies and Belly).
Somewhere in the rush of sorting through what was good and what was bad in the ’90s (an arduous task to be sure), I recall hearing Mary Timony’s voice on “Cosmic Rays” off the last Helium album, Magic City. I liked everything about it — the timber of Mary’s voice, the noisepop with psychedelic overtones, the hushed atmosphere, etc. Little did I know that Helium were about to (or already had?) broken up when I heard that song.
As musical output goes, it was a good thing ultimately, as Mary moved from Boston back to her hometown of DC somewhere in there and launched a solo career, which she followed up with a short stint in Wild Flag with the “Sleater-Kinney ladies” as I am wont to say.
But Mary, our city’s finest guitar player, really struck gold with her new band Ex Hex, a power pop trio consisting of herself, Betsy Wright on bass, and Laura Harris on drums. Ex Hex released their debut album Rips via Merge Records in 2014 — and after many shows around the world, they are playing a show tonight, Thursday, Dec. 10, at the 9:30 Club (their first appearance at our city’s foremost temple of music).
Watch Ex Hex perform “War Paint” at the Tree Line Stage at Pickathon on Aug. 2, 2015, in Happy Valley, Ore:
You probably already know Ex Hex if you live in DC because they’ve sold out the Black Cat twice in previous performances. (Read my thoughts via We Love DC after seeing their first show at Black Cat in March 2014.) But if you’ve missed them to date somehow, rest assured Mary recruited her bandmates extremely well. Both Betsy and Laura have previous tenure with bands at Ian MacKaye’s Dischord Records label, and they and Mary share a love of straight-forward, unpretentious punk.
And that is part of the particular genius of Ex Hex: simplicity. Arguably, Mary Timony’s music was more complex earlier in her career — but as she has found her new groove, she has been well served by her undeniably catchy songs, a defiant punk attitude, and her very talented bandmates. Do yourself a favor and go see Ex Hex tonight if you haven’t seen them yet. Good music, guaranteed!
Tickets have been available online, but you may want to buy yours at the door with the show only hours away!
w/ Mac McCaughan + the Non-Believers and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat
Thursday, Dec. 10