Rock ‘n roll is a feeling. Rock ‘n roll is an energy. Rock ‘n roll is an amplified, electrified update on 12-bar blues and r&b. Rock ‘n roll is an exploitation of marginalized people. Rock ‘n roll is a revolution. Rock ‘n roll is the ultimate commodity. Rock is dead. Rock ‘n roll is here to stay.
All of these contradictory statements are somehow true, in some circumstances or from certain viewpoints. Any artform that’s nearly 100 years old will have accumulated vast swaths of meaning and psychic resonance in that amount of time, like a cosmic lint ball growing to the size of some Lovecraftian horror. And anyone attempting to make that music will have to wrestle with that legacy in one form or another if they have to harness the electrified, adrenalized revolutionary zeal that rock ‘n roll is capable of, at its best.
In 2018, it can sometimes seem like the simple act of getting out the front door when the sun’s gone down can feel like a powerful act of violent rebellion. With so many distractions whirling around our heads like tiny imps around St. Anthony, sinking sterling fish hooks into our subconsciousness and making us dance like meat puppets, it can take a major force of will to get out to see a show on a weekday. That’s also why this rock ‘n roll revolution is so goddam essential. Being on the dancefloor, neck and neck with people from all walks of life, rich and poor sweating and crying together, beating cheap cracked concrete like rabid racehorses – the crystalline walls of SELF begin to crumble and crack. In this narcissistic world of constant ego-gratification and self-involvement, these walls can get THICK. Even more, with it being so hard just to stay alive, let alone thrive, that thickness is even a necessary act of self-care, at times.
the crystalline walls of SELF begin to crumble and crack. In this narcissistic world of constant ego-gratification and self-involvement, these walls can get THICK.
Wellington, NZ’s Hex most assuredly took advantage of rock ‘n roll’s revolutionary ardor and trance-inducing capacity for trance on a subdued Thursday night on the intimate, barely-elevated stage of Portland, Or.’s Turn! Turn! Turn! Hex deal in a mixture of 21st Century avant garage pop – think Vivian Girls or The Dum Dum Girls – combined with some classic Indie/College Rock, as it can only be done in New Zealand. Think indie staples like The Pixies combined with New Zealand stalwarts like The Chills with a bit of XPressway/Flying Nun grit and fizz.
Hex’s sound, at first glance, is at times somewhat poppy, especially when delivering hyper-catchy garage pop boogaloos. These poptastic tendencies are delivered with a doomy epicness, down-and-dirty sludginess, and a bit of shoegaze detachment. Basically, as most great garage rock bands do, Hex offer you an invitation into their practice space. It just turns out they’re summoning eldritch deities along with whirlwinds of ecstatically clamorous guitar lines and pummeling drums. The air seems to glow with glitter while a dark wind from some unforeseen dimension blasts yr cheek like a 14″ subwoofer.
The spell came to full fruition on this weekday show at Turn! Turn! Turn!, thanks in large part to Hex’s musicianship. Hex are traditionally a trio from Wellington, NZ, but they fleshed out the lineup responsible for the essential The Hill Temple with a second guitarist. A lead bass player gives a unique low-end and rhythmic thrust to Hex’s alternating epic balladry and fun-loving freakouts. The drumming is one of the true standouts of this incredible temporary quartet from beneath the Southern Cross. The mohawked-and-pierced powerhouse managed to find nearly every way to subdivide a 4/4 beat into whirling dervishes of ritualistic, hypnotic ferocity. The drummer hits like a velvet-wrapped sledgehammer yet still maintains a delicate balance with the other three. Such is Hex’s unique chemistry on stage, and one of the lynch pins to their sound.
The Hill Temple borrows its name from a structure outside of Wellington, NZ where tarot is taught. The Hill Temple is dedicated to empowering witch’s all over the world. So are Hex, avowed pagans and ardent feminists. Hex’s lyrics are adorned with goddesses, dripping with divine femininity, laced with strong mythological heroines and rich and rife with sisterhood. Hex sing down from the mountaintop, reminding us of “the burning times” when witches were persecuted just for being themselves. Hex are here to remind those days are long gone, yet the fight rages on. Women and marginalized people of all kinds are still regularly persecuted for daring to be different all over the world. Hex stand up and cry enough! They just happen to do it in an extremely catchy and well-executed way. For those who like their witchcraft a little postmodern, who summon Baal and Demeter by playing Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Hex are your new High Priestesses. Hail.
Hex are playing several shows as part of SXSW 2018. Make sure to catch ’em and fall under their spell!
Operating out of Portland, Or., J makes electronic music and DJs as dessicant, hosting a weekly radio show on Freeform Portland, Morningstar: The Light In The Darkness. He also plays in the band Meta Pinnacle with his partner, the visual artist/illustrator Lily H. Valentine, with whom he co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective/production company.