After five shots of Maker’s Mark, one shot of Jameson, and five Sculpins my head was whirring like a ceiling fan. One of my contacts had become blurry. And my Converse shoes had become Pollocked with warm beer. Tower Bar’s lighting is charcoal and ash; a viscous black that is only perforated by the occasional shock of a passing car’s high-beams. It’s easy to feel like Blanche DuBois of a Streetcar Named Desire in this kind of place. I’m wearing a Winona Ryder shirt and a Mississippi Studios hoodie, both of which, after several spilled pints, are clinging to me like a surfer’s wetsuit. It’s disgusting. In the middle of this orchestrated chaos, Ex-Girlfriends are baying with a possessed, fang-baring, glee. Tarra Thiessen is howling, driving her foot down into the sternum of every show-goer at Tower Bar. When she lets up, briefly, Heather Marie Cousins assumes duty as vocalist and equipment bruising virtuoso. Cousins racks the shotgun by spinning in a heap of wires, mashing the microphone, and roaring on the floor of the iconic City Heights venue.
The one-two punch of Thiessen and Cousins may be the best in rock music today. The two Brooklyn-based artists aren’t afraid of rattling the cages of audience members, bellowing into the abyss, and playing hard, molar-grinding, music. Cousins’ unflinching power hums and pops: Here’s a musician that understands the topography of a venue, the snapping electricity of a venerable live performance, and the palm-striking lunacy of being wholly invested in the moment. Thiessen’s platform for attack, meanwhile, is contained ire: the artist buoys her vocals with adroit rage. Christine Hill lays the groundwork for the guttural deliveries with grimy, syrupy bass and Monika Knapp punctuates on the keys. Ex-Girlfriends play fast, loud, and hard. Here is a band that cranes with confidence, rolls out powder kegs, and work together as a fully-functioning, devil-may-care unit. Go. See. Them. Live.