Mary Timony should not be sounding this good at this late date. Most rock artists who are over three decades into their career are on the decline, mired in a grim cycle of diminishing returns. But not this masterly guitarist/vocalist, who since 1991 has led excellent, idiosyncratic bands such as Autoclave, Helium, and Ex Hex, as well as being a part of the Wild Flag supergroup and maintaining a sterling, if sporadic, solo career.

Timony and her current group—guitarist/backing vocalist Betsy Wright, bassist Chad Molter, and drummer David Christian—brought the leader's unconventional yet catchy songs to vivid life at a sold-out Clock-Out Lounge on Friday. Newsflash: indie rock's not dead; in Timony and company's hands, at least, it's in positively radiant health.

They're touring in support of Timony's new album, Untame the Tiger, her first solo LP since 2005's Ex Hex. It's a potent comeback record born out of the grief of a long-term relationship ending and taking care of terminally ill parents.

All members were in command from the first song, "No Thirds," the liberating opening cut on Tiger. Launching with Molter's sternum-rattling bass, the song shifted into cool, cruising rock mode with guitars all glorious chime and clangor. Contrasting with Timony's lively deadpan delivery, Wright's backing harmonies did Mike Mills-like heavy lifting, and she and Mary engaged in some electrifying guitar interplay. It quickly became apparent that Wright—who only contributed backing vox on Tiger—was a crucial addition to the touring unit.

Some of that electrifying guitar interplay. Brittne Lunniss

Leaning heavily on the new record, as expected, the band proved why this collection is one of indie rock's peaks of 2024. And despite being elite musicians, they barely showboated. When Timony and Wright faced each other in tight, '70s-arena-rock dueling style, it seemed like a gentle parody of hoary rock machismo. In this live context, "Looking for the Sun" really blossomed, transforming into a majestic stomp with a wonderfully warped guitar twang and Tom Verlaine/Richard Lloyd-like entwinements. Getting folks to dance to a song with odd, proggy chord progressions is damned special.

I was hoping Timony would do "On the Floor" from Ex Hex and, blessedly, she did. With its flinty guitar attack and relentless momentum, it's one of Mary's hardest and greatest rockers. "The Guest" was a tour de force emotional roller-coaster about loneliness, while "Dominoes" hit like an unearthed new-wave classic (maybe like a more muscular Go-Gos?), as Timony and Wright's voices blended lusciously. Any radio station not putting this in heavy rotation is fucking up.

Timony ended the night with a stunning rendition of Helium's peculiarly charming prog opus, "Walk Away," with each musician exiting the stage in stages, until it was only Christian pounding out the martial beat. Not only was this a cool strategy, it cleverly revealed the song's building blocks.

For music that's marinated in sorrow, resignation, and rue, it sure made the crowd feel good. That's the magic of Mary Timony. 

Rosali rocking, with tea in tow. Brittne Lunniss

I didn't have sky-high hopes for the North Carolina-based Rosali. These modern, guitar-playing singer-songwriters tend to blur in my mind into a beige stream of pleasantness. After you've heard Julie Driscoll/Tippetts, Joni Mitchell, Annette Peacock, etc., it's hard to get too excited about their epigones. But Rosali Middleman and her stalwart band acquitted themselves well, focusing on the just-released album, Bite Down. 

Rosali has a vibrant, supple voice that allows her to fruitfully extend vowels and wring maximal emotion without relying on histrionics. (On Friday night, she was drinking tea onstage, which may be a first for an American rock musician.)

Rosali's songs are rooted in folk- and country-rock traditions—e.g., Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young & Crazy Horse—so innovation's off the table. Instead, Rosali and her competent group of dudes—including lead guitarist James Schroeder, a dead ringer for the late Groundhogs leader Tony McPhee, and bassist David Nance—hook you with their considerable melodic chops and often go off on instrumental breakdowns that belong to the J Mascis school of gnarled wailing—unfiltered expressions of ecstatic anguish. 

Their last song was an epic, slow-burn ballad that unexpectedly featured spectral guitar foliage and a wicked, abstract freakout. It made me wish Rosali had explored this wilder side more often.  

Mary Timony setlist

01 No Thirds

02 Don't Disappear

03 Looking for the Sun

04 Not the Only One

05 On the Floor

06 The Guest

07 Dominoes

08 Leon's Space Song (from Helium's The Magic City)

09 The Dream

10 Summer


11 Untame the Tiger

12 Walk Away (from Helium's The Magic City)