Sleigh Bells at First Avenue 11/02/12
Photo by Erik Hess
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Friday, November 2, 2012
On Friday night, to a teeming First Avenue mainroom, Sleigh Bells raised a proverbial toast: to Minneapolis, to the pride of a second album and -- most importantly -- to anyone anywhere who's irritatingly endured a subpar set clinging to the pivotal desire for one thing: more volume. There's no hyperbole in saying that they blew their audience's ears out. They did. And it's important to note that the awesomeness of the sheer decibels pumped through First Avenue's new system could very well have been a positive game-changer for the doubting Thomases of the crowd. But this was supplementary to what truly made their performance exceptional.
Antics are everything. Just one day earlier, Crystal Castles' Alice Glass proved this with predictable booze-swilling depravity. For Sleigh Bells, the impression is primarily aesthetic and the moment Alexis Krauss furiously burst onstage clad in a Parental Advisory crop top and leggy, high-waisted shorts, the audience was bathing in her sweaty, Brooklyn palm. Add the psychotic, machine-gun riffs of Derek Miller and Jason Boyer back-dropped by their trademark Great Wall of Marshall and, well, you can imagine the intensity of what began as a brief "intro."
Swelling into a furious rendition of the not-so-subtly dark "Demons," Krauss heightened the immense appeal of her dichotomous presence. For one: the studio sound of her vocals doesn't do her justice. In a live setting that was evident. The occasional, inevitable flatness doesn't need to be scrutinized because A. I don't know what brand of supernatural earplug could allow anyone amidst those speakers to hear themselves, and B. She was scream-singing for over an hour. Common knowledge suggests her voice should have frogged into a tired Macy Gray. Bottom line: she sounded way more vocally talented than the albums show and it was--coming from one of the aforementioned "doubting Thomases" -- impressive.
Photos by Erik Hess
The set had definite highs without ever really veering off into anything less than a code red on the stimulation level. "Crown on the Ground" marked the highest of highs, the siren-like guitars feeding off of Krauss's exponentially building energy. Their single from Reign of Terror, "Born to Lose," began notably slowed and silenced, a clever tease that made the shattering climax all the more enjoyable. "Comeback Kid" proved the point where Krauss, so immensely surfing the positive waves of her spirited audience, began literally surfing (the crowd), a trend that would continue. Crowd-surfing is amusing because no matter how many artists do it (a lot) it seems to always be one of the X-factors in a show that makes it "totally awesome." It was totally awesome in its improvised sense but it was also awesome because it was coming from a demure indie babe.
Really, their time in the spotlight melded into one, long, droning assault of noise in the best possible way. They didn't predictably save their mainstream-ish hit "Rill Rill" for the encore, instead incorporating it into the set and filling their comeback with the trance-like "Never Say Die" off of Reign of Terror followed by a couple more sound-building tracks from Treats. To reiterate, the noise was a huge part of the experience of their show.
It's hard to become bored or unimpressed when the energy of the music quite literally, never abates. But the real mark of the kudos that Sleigh Bells deserve is in the fact that they are aware their own "wow" factor. They don't need to feel inauthentic or overhyped in the fact that they use a drum machine, or -- in every sense -- a hype woman with a beautiful voice. To any mistaken skeptic that doesn't "get" or appreciate the music sense of their project, it's indisputable that they are pretty astounding artists and entertainers.
Photos by Erik Hess
Personal bias: I'm way more appreciative of loud music but I've always been cautious of Sleigh Bells' hype. I'm sold now.
The crowd: Young, tuned-in music heads searching for the ultimate party/an excuse to take ecstasy. Though a good amount of the people I randomly chatted with had purchased their tickets to see Araabmuzik.
Overheard in the crowd: LOL. Not a damn thing. The inside of your own brains followed by three hours of ringing eardrums.
Random notebook dump: Araabmuzik drew a sizeable crowd for an opener and he definitely built partying enthusiasm considerably. His set was heavily fixated on dubstep, not necessarily typical of the entirety of his repertoire. But he played those tables faster than a thrashcore drummer at a house show and it was incredible to watch.
Another notebook dump: Available for purchase at the Sleigh Bells merch table were Bulls red basketball jerseys that on the front read "Slay" and on the back, "Bells." Would I have dropped 65 bones for one? No. Do I secretly hope that my boyfriend snagged me a Christmas present on a bathroom run? Yes.
Crown on the Ground
True Shred Guitar
End of the Line
Born to Lose
Leader of the Pack
Never Say Die
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