BY JOHN B. MOORE
The D.C.-based trio EX Hex may only have one album to tour off of, but this indie power pop/punk band has managed to turn that frustratingly short set into a thing of beauty. It’s been six months since they released their debut, Rips, on Merge, and since then the band has been touring constantly and managed to hone their set to a tight hour covering every track off the album and a spirited cover of Sweet’s “Fox on the Run.”
The show was originally slated for the much smaller Boot & Saddle, but moved to the Union Transfer after selling out, bringing out about 200 hundred to the venue for the Sunday night show. The cowboy booted, pompadoured local A.M. Mills opened the bill followed by a solid set by another local band, indie noise pop outfit Sheer Mag. Just minutes after Sheer Mags’ guitars stopped ringing out, Ex Hex took to the stage with a no-frills set up; even Sheer Mag had a small banner behind them when they played, but the only thing on the stage for the headliners were two amps, an orange drum set and two open guitar cases. The band kicked into “Waste Your Time” and the momentum never let up until the guitarists laid their instruments into the open cases an hour later.
The band stirred up ghosts of everyone from an amped up Cheap Trick with distortion pedals to The Go-Go’s, The Coat Hangers and Richard Hell on a sober night, though a wall of guitar buzz and waterproof-tight rhythm section mixed with wildly addictive melodies. Obviously the Williamsburg scowl, a standard feature with most current New York indie upstarts, hasn’t made it down to D.C. yet as Ex Hex seemed to actually be (gasp) enjoying themselves on stage, feeding off the audience and each other with drummer Laura Harris twirling her sticks like Bun E. Carlos and singer/guitarist Mary Timony (also in the side project Wild Flag) and bassist Betsy Wright doing the 1970’s guitars player face off on several occasions.
There wasn’t a lot of audience banter aside from the random “You guys are awesome” or the encore Sweet cover intro “This is a fun one,” but the band pulled off a remarkably solid, inspired set that served as a reminder to all other bands that slog through similar clubs night after night that you are still allowed to have fun when you’re playing your music live.