Maximum Ames Music Festival Concert Review: Ex Hex with The Depaysement, Annalibera and Foxholes

Melissa Garrett

Cozy booths and a wrap-around bar lead the audience’s attention toward the Deano’s stage on night two of the Maximum Ames Music Festival. Overloaded with drum sets, guitars and microphones, the stage is surprisingly accommodating to each band.

From the moment Foxholes opened the show, the crowd shifted closer to the stage and immediately nodded along to the music, which often featured strong percussion and guitar.  The five-member indie rock/alternative ensemble from Des Moines had four men—two on guitar, one on percussion and one lead singer—and one woman on guitar.

All members are quite composed, but the guitarist holding the baby blue guitar shakes his shaggy bangs enthusiastically throughout the set, smiling and nodding along to the lyrics. They all wore earthy-colored button-up shirts and skinny jeans, but the main singer, Trevor Holt, added a jacket, for a more polished look.

“Thanks for coming out tonight. This place is f***ing nice,” Holt said to cheering fans.

Halfway through the Foxholes lineup, the songs became more dynamic and upbeat. The positivity and playfulness of their tunes are empowering, especially for the 40 to 50 people crammed up by the stage to see them.

One fan screamed, “I love you, band! Yeah, band!”

Also from Des Moines, Annalibera set up the stage with Anna Gebhardt at center stage. The blonde parted her hair at the center, which softly flows to frame her face, and has defined brows and bright lips. Just before the show, she unzips a larger black hoodie to reveal a green romper with shiny, gold buttons, paired with opaque black tights and black combat boots.

Gebhardt is flanked by two male guitarists, one of which wears a black t-shirt and flannel shirt and the other wearing hipster glasses with his red and white-collared polo with tight skinny jeans. The drummer has styled blond hair with a form-fitted black t-shirt. All in smiles, the band hugs before the show starts, singing along to the radio playing.

Annalibera’s Gebhardt has a hauntingly, beautiful tone quality that is both rare and unique. Chillingly enjoyable, there is an intoxicating quality to her voice, which is twangy yet strongly alternative rock. The band overall reminds me of Florence and the Machine with the addition of strong male vocals, but Annalibera is clearly unique.

Though the lead singer averted her eyes away from the audience frequently during the performance and seemed lost in her music, everything she did added to the overall performance, which was phenomenal. The band smiled and seemed to enjoy their music, often head-banging along and swaying to the beat. The effortless, gorgeous quality of Annalibera won over the crowd, as Gebhardt’s voice is heard floating above the crowd.

“Thanks again to the Maximum Ames Music Festival for having us,” Gebhardt said. “I’m going to keep playing every year.”

Originally from Japan, The Depaysement is a rock/punk/funk/blues band comprised of four men, who know how to keep the crowd excited. All dressed in blue t-shirts with “The Depaysement” in white lettering, tiny yellow shorts and colored sweatbands.

The Depaysement took command of the stage, constantly running around stage and hopping around in a hardcore-parkour manner, getting on top of speakers wearing superhero masks and pretending to be characters in a wrestling match. At one point, there was a staged fight between two masked men, one from the band and one who crossed through the crowd from behind the stage area, and the band member threw fake punches at the man, until he was brought down.

With fists pumping and the floor noticeably shaking from a number of audience members jumping up and down, the band stole the stage and captured the hearts of the fans, as smiles erupted all over the room. They even had a xylophone and played the big top circus intro slowly, then quickly, to entertain the crowd. As the song rapidly increased in pace, so did the jumping audience members, much to the band’s delight. The band started a fist pumping, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” chant, that evoked loud cheering.

Even though vocals were pitchy in places and could almost be compared to a drunken karaoke performance by the final few songs, the audience was so entertained that it did not matter whether the vocals were solid. The beat of The Depaysement’s music had strong percussion aspects and the band members had the highest levels of energy I have ever seen. Their blue t-shirts were unforgiving when it came to sweating, but the band was clearly enjoying themselves and pleasing the audience.

“This place is [the] hottest venue in the world!” the lead guitarist and vocalist screamed.

When the band finished their set, the audience began cheering loudly and chanting for an encore, to which the band obliged. The band chose a jaunty, upbeat tune for their final selection and invited the crowd to sing along, in a repeat-after-me style.

One man in the audience enthusiastically said, “That was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen!”

When Ex Hex took the stage, the audience became packed together tightly, and were as close to the stage as they could be without standing on the platform with the band. Traveling all the way from D.C. for Maximum Ames, the fierce trio were similarly dressed in black graphic t-shirts, leather, and Converse high tops.

Frontrunner, guitarist and vocalist Mary Timony and bassist/vocalist Betsy Wright each flanked the stage, with drummer Laura Harris toward the middle-back of the stage. Timony wore a tight, black leather skirt with fishnet tights, while Wright and Harris opted for black leather pants. The three women looked composed and excited to perform, and brought red and white wine to drink.

Opening the show with their hit “Don’t Wanna Lose,” Wright lets her hair down and whips it around as she beats on the drums. Timony stands in place most of the time, while Wright walks around more and takes a knee to strum on her bass. Timony and Wright often looked at each other and at Harris and crossed necks of their instruments to face each other, which made the crowd go wild with excitement.

“Maximum Ames!” Wright said, to the adoring crowd. “Give it up for these guys who put on this festival.”

Ex Hex’s musical style is upbeat and never slows down. The crowd cheered loudly and begged for more after each song, pushing each other to get toward the front and reaching out to the singers, hoping they will make eye contact. 

Their song “Games” evoked a mosh pit, and there were so many people near the front of the stage that it was hard to tell how many people were in the room. With the crowd clapping and stomping their feet, the smell and glistening sweat of the audience was noticeable. Most if not all audience members were nodding their heads and swaying to Ex Hex, pumping their fists in the air.

By never slowing down, the band kept the high energy of the crowd throughout their set, which ended about 30 minutes earlier than what had been scheduled. Yells and chants for an encore performance led the band to sit together and chat to debate whether they should play one more song, but all were in smiles and quickly took swigs of their drinks before resuming their positions on stage.

The crowd roared and clapped when Wright said, “It’s not hard to convince us to play another song. We like it.”

Ex Hex chose “F***ed on the Run” as their final song, which brought down the house. Upon finishing the song, all three members of Ex Hex smiled and waved to the audience, who waved back, and Timony blew a kiss to the audience. Grinning among themselves, the band immediately began talking to one another and went out into the audience to interact with fans.

The lineup for the second night of the Maximum Ames Music Festival was thoughtful and genius. There was not a single moment where the audience appeared bored or dissatisfied, and each band was unique and enjoyable. The unforgettable evening is likely stay imprinted on fans’ memories.