Live Review: Ex Hex & Sheer Mag at The Echo

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Last week, Ex Hex sold out The Echo, playing tunes from their truly enjoyable, upbeat album Rips. Described by some as power pop, the band frequently reminds me of The Cars, sans keyboards and with more guitar solos. The group’s three members – singer/guitarist Mary Timony, singer/bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris – deal out loads of retro-styled energy and catchy choruses. If you’re not familiar with them, their video for “Don’t Want to Lose” (with its nod to “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains”) is a good place to start.

The first opening act was local band Side Thing, about whom there seems to be very little online. I only caught the very end of their set, but they sounded raw and energetic, and their singer seemed fond of yelling out strange non-sequitors. The second act was Sheer Mag from Philadelphia, whose single “Nobody’s Baby” has a great video.  The band played hook-laden ’70s rock with impressive lead guitar, surprisingly contrasted with a surly punk vocalist. A fan-run Facebook page for the band mentions that Rolling Stone called them “a gang of punks with a not-so-secret love of Seventies classic rock,” which makes a lot of sense. It definitely worked musically, but it was odd that the guitarists appeared to be having a great time, while the singer seemed perfectly miserable. The band was very tight, however, and had well-crafted songs.

Ex Hex came out afterwards to some nice excitement from the crowd, Timony and Wright brandishing matching red Gibsons. They seemed plagued by sound problems that the other bands didn’t have, which is unusual for the headliner, but Wright, especially, made up for it by an enthusiastic performance. It was awesome to hear live versions of tracks like the rockin’ “New Kid”, The Cars-esque “How You Got That Girl” and the upbeat “Waterfall”. I did notice that Timony’s vocals were weaker than on the record and couldn’t tell if it was a sound issue or just an off night for her. I’m not familiar with her older solo work, but it’s interesting that an iTunes Editor’s Note on Rips says, “Longtime Timony fans will notice the difference in her voice. Trading in her hushed vocals for a full-throated wail, here she sounds tough and assured.” It’s possible that it’s hard for her to maintain that live.

It was an enjoyable night all around, but this was one show where I experienced real rage over the fact that every time I tried to take a picture, five other cell phones were in the way. I suppose that’s hypocritical because I was doing the same thing, but do everyone’s phones really have to be so damn big? You can watch the whole show on the person’s phone in front of you these days. *end rant*

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Brave stage diver at left! It wasn’t really that kind of crowd but they caught her.

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Photos by grumpy old lady Simone Snaith for The Beat

Simone Snaith

About Simone Snaith

Simone Snaith writes young adult and fantasy novels, and sings in the indie rock duo Turning Violet. A fan of scifi, fantasy, the supernatural and most things from the '80s, she enjoys reviewing music, books and movies. You can read about her own books at simonesnaith.com.
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