Onstage, The Hex Tremors are stirring up two hells of a frenzied combustion. Drummer Benny Christ, face down, is pounding bloody death out of his drum kit with sweaty fists, an unholy racket sandwiched somewhere uncomfortably between the lubricated precision of a Peace Sells Megadeth and the drunken starfish-chewing of a surf-salted Cramps. Unfazed, guitarist/vocalist Scotty Long is in full facial contortion, screaming about Jezebels to somebody three towns over, while writhing like a sick minister to a deceptively amped-up blues grind.
A few feet ahead of them, in the sparse mass of onlookers, swinging long hair collides with pomaded pompadours in some messy approximation of a mosh pit. Drunk girls sway and kick, while even 30 and 40-somethings bounce their music-smart heads in submission. One look at any face in the room and you can almost see a laugh. Not a laugh of judgement, but just an effusive, uncontrollable outburst of the "these guys are fucking great" variety.
And when the two worlds meet, it's even sloppier. A lone beer can flies from the front square into Christ's head an act that would send most into a bar-floor scuffle, but in this case it doesn't send anything at all. Christ just keeps his head down and his beat alive. It's just a gesture of appreciation here.
"We used to, especially in Back Booth, get pelted with ungodly amounts of PBR. It went from being a little bit at first. By the time we started playing at Back Booth at Sunday Night Mutiny on a regular basis, I would literally be soaked from head to toe in beer," Christ later says. "And my drum set is covered with crystallized PBR. It's disgusting."
The Hex Tremors formed their caustic duo about three years ago following Long's exit from local indie-experimentalists Telephone. That's when Long picked up the guitar.
"He had never really played guitar before," Christ says. "He picked it up and tuned it down to a G, because he had been listening to Robert Johnson and a bunch of old blues, old Delta blues guys. He called me over, just to see what would happen, and we ended up a writing a few songs the first couple of days."
The blues angle, in this context, has naturally morphed into conversational comparisons with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but even that legendary whack-job would have to go some distance to fit into Long's (literally) twisted head. Asked about their music, Christ is short on words.
"It wasn't a preconceived notion. It was just kind of what came out of both of us," he says.
The only further evaluation comes from the band's website on Myspace, where they proclaim themselves "a hopped up blues rooted rock 'n' roll murder scene." Indeed.
The chalk lines should soon translate onto CD. The band has nine tracks currently being mastered for its self-titled debut, which one has to assume was easier to produce without projectile dollar beers aimed at their heads. As to whether that will signal bigger things for the band, Christ will only divulge that he thinks they have "potential for cultish appeal." And that would probably be enough.
"Playing drums is kind of like therapy," Christ supposes. "I get to beat the shit out of a drum set for 45 minutes and then I feel better."
The Hex Tremors
with Sex Slaves, Sunshine Artillery, Lightning Mouth, Jeanie & the Tits
9 pm Sunday, Feb. 26
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