I’ve been told at least once that Sleigh Bells suck live. The first time I heard “A/B Machines” I was told that the devastatingly energetic combo of roaring guitar and synthesized beats would leave the audience bored and generally nonplussed. I was told there’s not enough variety to their sound, you’ll find yourself drowning in the monotony of metal riffs and 808’s.
My experience at the Sleigh Bells show last night, provides copious amounts of evidence to the contrary. A relatively young turnout meant that there would be plenty of energy coursing through the crowd, and after we finally got rid of the spectacularly underwhelming first opener, a DJ named Jel who called himself a BJ artist (because he uses buttons not discs, cute), Class Actress took the stage. Elizabeth Harper’s brand of bouncy 80’s synthpop is like a dancey, female fronted version of the Cure. Her electro hooks woke the crowd from the Jel-induced slumber of the first act.
Sleigh Bells consists of Alexis Krauss and Derek Edward Miller, although the duo brought along an extra guitarist – no doubt to increase the decibel level. Miller, formerly of hardcore band Poison The Well, churns out crushingly anthemic riffs while Krauss layers falsetto, almost cheerleader-esque vocals on top of it all. Leather-clad and sporting daisy dukes with jet black hair and a real penchant for kicking your ass, Krauss is not your typical cheerleader. Her enthusiasm spearheaded a set that left my heart racing and my ears ringing. It’s the unholy intersection of hip-hop beats and the texture of metal and hardcore. The result is breathtakingly pissed off, and intrinsically youthful. Play “Comeback Kid” for anyone wearing a clean polo or over the age of 50, and you’ll probably get a face full of scowls and a lecture on how shitty music is nowadays and blahblahblah, who cares about them anyway.
The set up was intimidatingly simple, stacks on stacks of Marshall amps and lights littered about the stage. There was nothing to distract you from the music, although the sheer volume of it all made it pretty hard to ignore. It’s now a full 48 hours since the show let out, and there are still remnants of “Infinity Guitar” bouncing around in my head. From the first golden distorted wail of the guitar, Sleigh Bells had the crowd in fits. Some of the band’s newer material is less anthemic and robust, but even those tracks were met with singing and energy. Old favorites like “Kids” and especially “Rill Rill” had the entire crowd singing along.
With the guitars at their loudest, the lights pulsating with the 808’s, the fog machine filling the stage, and Krauss at her siren best, the Beaumont Club was transformed into some kind of dystopian underground uprising against our robot lords. The reckless abandon of the guitar and sugary sweet vocals make for an unbelievable contrast, all cast to hip-hop rhythms that make it impossible to stand still.
After this show it’s abundantly clear to me that Sleigh Bells is meant to be heard in a live setting. Recordings are wonderful, but the sheer energy and rebellion that bursts from the duo’s live set is addictive. Absolutely all of my reservations about the bands live chops were power-blasted away by endless riot rhythms so loud I may never fully regain my hearing, but I wouldn’t trade this ringing in my ears for anything.