FRIDAY
July 26, 2019 | doors at 8:00pm
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Zero Mile presents:
EX HEX
Spider Bags | The Preakness
  • $16
  • $18
  • ADVANCE
  • DAY OF SHOW
Ex Hex
When Ex Hex exploded onto the scene with their unfettered brand of rock and riffage, the power trio for our generation had finally arrived. Made up of Mary Timony (guitar, vocals), Betsy Wright (bass, vocals), and Laura Harris (drums), the group’s 2014 debut Rips was a gleaming collection of tightly wound gems that scored Best New Music honors from Pitchfork, the top spot on Magnet Magazine’s Best of 2014 list, and No. 11 in that year’s Pazz & Jop critics poll. Near-constant touring throughout 2015 and 2016 established the band as a force to be reckoned with: an audacious three-piece distilling rock music to its essence with formidable skills and a reputation for frenzied and unabashedly fun live shows.

On It’s Real, the group’s forthcoming second album, Ex Hex’s commitment to larger-than-life riffs and unforgettable hooks remains intact, but the garage-y, post-punk approach that defined Rips has grown in scale and ambition. What started as a reaction to the blown-out aesthetic of Rips would test the sonic limits of the power trio and lead the band on a quest for a more immersive and three-dimensional sound. Vocal harmonies are layered ten tracks deep, solos shimmer and modulate atop heaving power chords, and the codas linger and stretch toward new frontiers of sound. On first listen, you might think you’ve unearthed a long-lost LP carved from the space where crunch-minded art rock and glitter-covered hard rock converge, an event horizon at the intersection of towering choruses and swaggering guitars.

Produced by Jonah Takagi (who also produced Rips), It’s Real was a more collaborative effort than its predecessor. Mary and Betsy could be found writing late into the night, leaning on Takagi to tighten up arrangements. Egos were surrendered in service to the music: Nothing was sacred or precious, and there was a relentless devotion to both songcraft and exploration. Dozens of guitar amps sat mic-ed in the next room, and the group experimented at a frenzied pace parsing countless combinations of instruments, pedals, and amps. They even dusted off Mary’s old Rockman, a small headphone amp designed by Boston guitarist Tom Scholz in 1982. Mary recounts, “It’s only about the size of a Walkman and takes eight AA batteries, but it sounds massive. We read that parts of [Def Leppard’s] Hysteria were tracked through it, and when we finally plugged it in, it blew our minds!”

The opening track “Tough Enough” is punky and defiant, with stacked backing vocals posing the question “Are you tough enough (to let it go)?” that’s resoundingly answered in the affirmative by a searing, triumphant guitar solo. “Cosmic Cave” is a bittersweet rave-up with shimmering phased guitars, a gooey-candied chorus, and beamed-in “whoa-oh-ohs” that add a touch of melancholia to the frenzied speed-of-sound pace. The ferocious and anthemic “Rainbow Shiner” is what Wright describes as “a victory song.” Her mordacious central riff is coupled with dueling guitar-god solos that explode from the stereo spectrum. The starlit “Another Dimension” has it all: pounding drums, palm-muted humbucking chugs, soaring harmonized vocals, and a stark, ethereal bridge that sends listeners deep into the lush sonic landscape that the band set out to create.

Ex Hex were already one of America’s best guitar bands—but on It’s Real, their musical savvy has thrillingly combined with anything-goes curiosity, studio experimentation, and a dedication to refinement, resulting in an album that’s ready to be played at maximum volume.
Spider Bags
Four years after releasing their Merge debut, Frozen Letter, Spider Bags return with an LP that ascends to new levels of aural punch and perspective. The years that elapsed between records were crucial in enabling that progress to take place.

Recorded in Memphis at Bunker Audio by Andrew McCalla (who also engineered 2012’s Shake My Head), Someday Everything Will Be Fine leverages the limitations and glory of the Tascam 388, a vintage recording/mixing device that’s acquired a mythos via its association with legendary records by Dinosaur Jr. and others. Unlike the error-erasing editing software Spider Bags frontman Dan McGee has favored in the past, the Tascam’s charms are more immediate, and it has a visceral resonance all its own.

Someday Everything Will Be Fine, which is about the importance of saying f**k it and dancing to a rock and roll record, is an album only Spider Bags could make.
THE PREAKNESS
The Preakness
Despite the fact that the band shares its name with a 134-year-old horse race, The Preakness can trace its genesis to the 21st century technology of Myspace. Guitarist Brandon Arnold began posting homemade four-track recordings on the ubiquitous portal in 2005, eventually catching the attention of bassist Tracy Clark, who felt that her sense of harmony would be the perfect foil for Arnold's subtle pop melodies.

The band finally came to fruition in early 2006 in Atlanta, when Arnold (ex-Licentious 5) and drummer Tim Genius (ex-Bon Vivants) were winding down from other projects. Arnold re-connected with Clark, who was already playing in Silent Kids and the Blue Hour, and The Preakness was born. The potential of Arnold's early demos, and what Clark saw in them, became apparent right away, as lo-fi four-track charm gave way to explosive jangly pop, reminiscent of 80's and 90's college radio staples like Let's Active, Sebadoh, Superchunk, and Yo La Tengo.

Playing its first live show in April 2006, The Preakness became an instant attraction in Atlanta. The band would go on to play such festivals as Corndog-o-rama, The Other Sound Festival, and the Paste Rock and Reel Festival later that year.

The band recorded an EP's worth of material with Matt Glagola engineering (Glagola would later join the band as its drummer in 2009). Four of those songs made their way onto a 7" EP, Demons, which was released on the Eskimo Kiss imprint in 2007.

The Preakness enlisted pop savant Jason NeSmith to engineer its full-length debut. Recorded in early 2008 at NeSmith's Bel Air Studios in Athens, A Class Act fulfills the promise of the Demons EP and the rave reviews of those early shows. As described by Creative Loafing: "Each song condenses epic emotions into short vignettes brimming with metaphor and jangling emotions." "What They're Saying," "I Thought I Was in Control," and "On the Couch" all previously released on the EP, find their way onto A Class Act. Also included is a cover of Smog's "A Hit."

The band stays active in the Atlanta scene by playing in other side projects, though The Preakness remains the band's primary focus. Arnold now plays bass in Silent Kids, which coincidentally was one of Clark's gigs before joining The Preakness. Arnold also plays with the Liverhearts, as does Glagola. Clark currently also lends her talent as a multi-instrumentalist to Mary O. Harrison and the Tiny Tears.
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