Ex Hex, Tweens, Pink Mink
Triple Rock Social Club
July 20, 2015
I go to a lot of shows. Sometimes it’s nice to be surprised, and that’s what Monday night entailed. I was at the show strictly for Tweens, whose debut I dug last year, and I didn’t bother to check out much Ex Hex in advance. I watched a YouTube clip or two, but it failed to mention some key marketing: feat. Mary Timony, ex-Wild Flag and lots of ‘90s influence. In other words, what I thought would be a minimally attended Monday night show was a pretty full room filled with a variety of ages. Actually, “variety” is pushing it. It was mostly people in the 40-50 range and they were clearly satisfied with the late night out.
Getting started, I only caught 2 songs from openers Pink Mink. They’re a solid local band I’ve already seen this month, so I took my time getting there before they talked back and forth on stage with some entertaining banter before ripping into a closing “Hidden Beach.” The audience was engaged but, knowing their material, I thought the sound was off. That was a recurring concept throughout the night, which is unusual at Triple Rock.
Cincinnati’s Tweens were next, a young three piece that includes members of Vacation. I point that out because that band is often overlooked, even if Bridget Battle is the front piece of Tweens, and the lone band member who does not play in Vacation. It was my first time seeing them, and it was a little surprising in that Tweens is a record I’ll call trash-pop, but live it was definitely more of a grunge vibe. Of course, Battle’s uncombed bleach-blond hair was a part of the mental influence, but everything from the screaming yet relatively mild-tempered movements on stage reminded me of that era and mix of rage and apathy. In fact, the first thing I put the notebook was “Live through This,” though I’m a bit embarrassed about that goofy note taking. The takeaway was that were the record is peppy, the live act is raging, coarser and less danceable. The sound was quite muddy to kick off their set and it really didn’t sound good but with a slow evolution at the board it picked up both in terms of quality and in audience reception, turning into a great set about halfway through. By the end, the band had the audience in hand, no small feat for a relative unknown opening for a band like Ex Hex, and it convinced me that Tweens was no fluke. There was a lot of presumably new material not off their debut, and the new record looks like it will carry less pep whenever that time comes.
The recurring theme of the night, besides women who rock, would be bands in Chuck Taylors—always a good sign, though I can’t articulate why. Shoes aside, Ex Hex carry some serious musician chops. The songs are guitar-happy and filled with big guitar moments that the band makes no hesitation in showing with posturing on stage. At first the posturing was amusing, but it did get a little tiresome over the course of the full set, with almost every song drifting at some point into a solo. The band take a big musical influence, ranging from 1970s arena rock to 1990s Lookout/Kill Rock Stars pop. At its best it’s poppy and clean with a bouncy, slightly unpredictable wave throughout. The three piece weren’t very energetic onstage, mostly remaining stationed by their mic stands and slowly moving the guitar/base up and down, Guitar Hero style, but seemingly wooden. It was almost a slow motion posturing. While I enjoyed their music well enough, my takeaway was that a CD from Ex Hex is probably better than the live show, which is not a typical feeling when heading home. They seem to be a solid band, but just not all that fun to watch.
All photography by Loren Green.