Blakkstone Hexx - Keeping Rock & Roll Alive
It was a frosty, foggy night, and my headlights just barely cut through the swirling brume as I pulled into Crossfield. I parked in front of the Jack’ n’ the Throttle Bar and made my way inside. Soon enough, Blakkstone Hexx took to the stage, and the entire atmosphere changed. The dark, damp chill of the night was pushed aside as guitars wailed and drums rang out. The oppressiveness of the evening made way for good, fun rock & roll.
“You kind of get picked up by the music and carried along for a ride together.” That’s lead guitarist Lemmy Hangslong, talking about playing on stage with Blakkstone Hexx. “Really, it’s a lot of fun. And when you’ve got an audience in front of you enjoying it, it’s that much better.” After seeing them play together, it’s clear that this type of sentiment is one of the defining elements of the band. Blakkstone Hexx isn’t here to save the world, stir up a revolution, or even necessarily get radio airtime; they just want to keep rock & roll alive.
The origins of the band couldn’t be any humbler. After moving to Calgary and starting a family and a career, Hangslong put out an ad on Kijiji in 2011 looking for band members, and Blakkstone Hexx was born. Some members have come and gone since then, but the current lineup features Hangslong on lead guitar, Al X on lead vocals and guitar, Stacey Vasaline on bass and Les Talent on drums. “It’s all about the personality,” Hangslong mentions when chatting about the members of the band. “A lot of people can play music but…it’s a lot of work, there’s not a lot of money, and you’ve gotta love it.”
And Blakkstone Hexx definitely loves it. The entire night during their 3+ hour-long set, the band never stopped having fun. They joked among themselves, engaged with the audience, and performed with a level of energy and passion you don’t often see. Moreover, this was their first gig since Hangslong had been out for surgery! Sporting 9-inch scars on both of his arms from a procedure to alleviate pain and numbness associated with cubital tunnel syndrome, Hangslong was up on stage all evening, shredding riffs without a care in the world.
Where does that energy and drive come from? In a moment of introspection, Hangslong takes a moment to break it down for me: “We’re kind of the last of a breed of real rock bands – the hard-working, the still-hungry. We’re not doing it to be mega-rock-stars, we already know that. We’re doing this because we truly love it. We’re the last of a breed of true rock bands that are out there doing it for the love it. It’s still about the true connection amongst each other in the band and with the people we’re playing for.”
It’s that love of rock – that passion to play and entertain and connect – that I felt in Crossfield watching Blakkstone Hexx on stage. It was palpable – I imagined at moments that I could reach out and pluck it from the air. I didn’t know what it was that night, but after speaking to Hangslong, it couldn’t have been more obvious.
“We truly believe in entertaining and connecting with the audience we play to,” Hangslong summarizes for me. “We’re a rock band, and we don’t make any bones about that.” Truer words have never been spoken. Catch Blakkstone Hexx live when they play Legends in Strathmore, on November 25 and 26.