Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex | The Pinhook | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex 

When: Wed., Sept. 21, 9 p.m. 2016
Price: $10



Neil Hagerty is an indie rock iconoclast. As a teenager, playing with Jon Spencer in the raw and scrappy Pussy Galore, he infused classic rock riffs with the band's noisy punk foundation, even convincing the group to record a reverent, if damaged cover of the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street. But Hagerty's greatest early-career success came with Royal Trux, the band he founded in 1987 with his then-partner, Jennifer Herrema. By the time Royal Trux broke up in 2001, Hagerty and Herrema had steered the band from blown-out psych-rock experiments and riff-rock deconstruction into a major-label outfit that churned groove-driven rock with punk intensity.

Despite his unconventional and occasionally confrontational bucking of alt-rock trends, Hagerty's bands attracted a cult following that stuck with him as he went solo as The Howling Hex. In Hagerty's post-Trux career, he's further explored thick riffs that pulse through unconventional tones and sharp rhythms. Hagerty's latest, Denver, is an ode to his adopted hometown, full of stringy Velvet Underground riffs and staccato percussion that would be at home in the Talking Heads' catalog. Hagerty's playful mutation of rock's basic idioms makes Denver feel at once familiar and totally alien.

On "Random Friends," Hagerty unspools a cascading riff that clashes with a dense bass throb and his gruff sing-speak refrains. It's an easy complement to nouveau post-punk acts like Parquet Courts. "Mountain" rides an insistent backbeat—a distant cousin to the Knack's slick new wave—while Hagerty slathers grungy guitar licks across the song's pop veneer. At the chorus, Hagerty and his band belt lackadaisically, "Long enough is comin' real soon/Waiting for respect/Not wrong/Not right."

It's easy to read that refrain as a bitter summation of a career lived at the fringes of a fickle indie rock scene. But the Howling Hex sounds as confident on Denver as it ever has. Taking cues from the ranchera and norteño sounds popular in Colorado, Hagerty and his band sound invigorated as they branch out from their blues-based bedrock. But these expansions haven't changed the character of the band. "We take a very narrow rhythmic thing, then stretch it out to see what happens," Hagerty told Colorado's Westword. "That's the style of music we play: stoned-out jams played over a norteño beat."

Whatever the beat he's marching to these days, Hagerty makes jams that are consistently off-kilter, showing a novel approach to familiar sounds, with enviable nonchalance. —Bryan C. Reed

9 p.m., $10,

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