Last November, for the first time in my medium-length life, I happily watched as Vexx mercilessly lit the stage ablaze at the sleepy Portland venue Doug Fir. Its performance was astonishing and panic-inducing. As band members ran through the place screaming, everyone in the crowd seemed to be on the same page as to how totally sick Vexx was that night, and everyone felt horrible for the band taking the stage next. It was so crystal clear that there was nothing left of it. The next band looked pale, sweaty and scared compared to Vexx. Exactly like its members had lost all their teeth a moment after winning free bubblegum for life. They had been left with nothing, and everyone knew it. Vexx sure as shit knew it and loved it.
A few weeks ago, this overly excellent Olympia rock & roll band blew into town looking like a bunch of young soda jerks dragged through a Goodwill thrift shop. Again, it were amazing. Night after night, Vexx presents a very strong and exciting case that it should be treated with a refined blend of fear and respect. I’m pretty sure its members get off on us watching while they scorch every inch of earth in their path. Vexx has a staggering presence when performing live, invading every available inch of space and torching it beyond recognition.
But since most of us can’t watch Vexx play every single night, much as we might like to, the band has graciously flung the raging four-song EP Give and Take at us, as a welcome reminder that it is just as intimidating in the studio.
These songs make me nervous. “Black/White” is a lesson in melody being swirled into an electric mid-tempo volcano, all without ever losing the playfully pouty hook. “Walking in the Rain” is an ice bath of a song, seemingly built on conveying a feeling of dread rather than what musically makes the most sonic sense. It works for the tune’s advantage, though, for I feel sucker-punched when the second part of the song kicks in. The concussion it creates is countered by the comfort of Mary Jane Dunphe’s swooping vocal as the band echoes that wet-at-night guitar lick, all made totally possible by a tight-as-heck rhythm section laying down the foundation.
Corey Rose Evans and Ian Corrigan have the ass-end of this band locked down with a zipped-up, body-bag-tight mentality. They serve up the perfect setting for Mike Liebman to saunter into and mop the floor with anyone who thought they knew how to play guitar. Evans wails on her kit, thumping it with joy and determination. She plays with a twisted style of technicality and power, like a speeding car with a marching band tied to its bumper. Corrigan, right alongside, whacks away at his bass, equally as determined but still effortlessly playful, while Liebman annihilates all of the right notes in, under and alongside the vocals of Dunphe. With her vocal acrobatics, she covers just about everything else her bandmates may have missed. She can sing like a second guitar and moan like a bass. She can also thump, snap and tumble like a drummer. Dunphe matches the chaos her band unleashes, directing and then thrusting all of that energy outward, not caring if anyone or anything should cross their path.
They are scary. Scary-spooky. Scary good.
Among other things, Vexx inspires me to take a second to evaluate my overall health. I must consider my stamina as a human over time versus Vexx continuing to bring it like this. My various medium-length-aged systems may not stand up to continuous vibrating from the pure sonic joy that this band owns over me. This stinks, because I wanna like Vexx forever. It is young and fucking ready to unleash in all directions, whether you are or not. And while my insides may be wearing down, I will gladly subject myself to it long after my organs can’t.