With little fanfare, Neil Michael Hagerty moved to Denver early last year, and began playing out at various Mile High City clubs with a drummer and bassist in tow. While I’ve only kept limited tabs on Hagerty’s post-Royal Trux activities, I was definitely curious to see what the guy was up to. And it was pretty weird. As his rhythm section laid down mind-numbingly repetitive Norteño beats, Hagerty chanted well-nigh indecipherable lyrics — something about farolitos? — interrupted by splatters of diamond-sharp fuzz guitar solos. “The Howling Hex, ladies and gentlemen!” he’d exclaim, carnival-barker-style, at the end of each tune. At the end of that first gig, I wasn’t sure if I liked what I’d heard, but goddamn if it wasn’t interesting.
Interesting enough that I caught the Hex a few more times over the next few months, including several shows during a June residency at the Lost Lake, a Colfax Ave. dive. By then, I was under the spell, those jerky Norteño rhythms becoming as hypnotic as a vintage motorik groove, Hagerty’s madcap guitar work growing wilder and wilder. The Best Of The Howling Hex — not a greatest hits, mind you, but new recordings — captures the idiosyncratic energy of those shows perfectly, fleshing out the minimal sound only slightly. It’s a record that exists a fair ways away from any musical universe I can think of, but it’s worth the trip. words/ t wilcox