Never have I seen a show that made me so believe that rock and roll is anything but dead; it is fiercely alive and being re-imagined. Thursday night Ex Hex, with Sheer Mag, Kuroma and Roya, played to a sold-out audience at (le) Poisson Rouge. I arrived sober and left totally intoxicated with the power of what good music can do.
The show opened with Roya, while people were still coming in. Very much a New York City band, their style is laid-back, understated cool. The lead singer has a melodic voice and a casual demeanor. Their song, "Mod with Feeling," encapsulates their vibe. It was their first show in six month, but if they hadn't announced it, I wouldn't have guessed.
Next up the psych-pop quartet, Kuroma, took the stage. The band is currently touring their third album, Kuromaroma, with bands such as Tame Impala and Tennis. The band is fronted by Hank Sullivant, whose previous projects include the Whigs and MGMT. He sings his sweet lyrics with a soft voice, over his acoustic guitar. Trippy, psychedelic pop streams run strong through their rock sound. They have a gritty sound, but weirdly I found myself wishing I was in Hawaiian shirt. There's something breezy about them too; the crowd was into it, dancing from the start.
I have known about Philly's Sheer Mag since this summer, when a friend of mine showed me "What You Want." I was so enamored with the song, I almost hit a pedestrian while driving one day because I was rocking out so hard. The band takes the stage, and their chemistry is like a soul-searing tangible presence. The lead singer is absolutely mesmerizing, her hair dyed like a skunk. She embodies some beautiful, nocturnal creature. Sheer Mag's energy is pure punk, wrestled out of the ether, and through each member's individual mastery of their instrument, tightly wound and organically released. The audience was going wild, hanging onto every sassy but tragic lyric, wound up by the heavy guitar riffs reminiscent of rock of the late 70's, enslaved by the fornication of it all with the drums, the bass, giving birth to a transcendent experience that is so, so rare.
The audience was primed and ready for Ex Hex, so when they took the stage around 11 with "Dont Want to Lose," the energy swimming throughout the showroom was electric. The Ex Hex trio consists of Mary Timony on guitar, Betsy Wright on bass and Laura Harris on drums. They're touring their first and killer album Rips, which is such an appropriate title. Like three witches, each playing their instrument like they were born to do nothing else, they cast their spells on the crowd. Never have I ever seen a band that looked like they were having so much fun on stage. Some of their songs sound like neo-glam rock, like "Hot and Cold," reminiscent of Blondie ballads. Their contemporaries are the likes of Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre. Timony's last but short-lived group project, Wild Flag, also involved Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney. Ex Hex worked the stage with attitude, with grace and with fervid passion. Smiling at each other, Timony and Wright frequently crossed guitars and fell to their knees, surrendering to the stage and to the music.