Review + Photos + Setlist: Sleigh Bells Tells 'Em How It's Done at the Firebird, Thursday, October 28
A deafening buzz surrounded Sleigh Bells even before the duo released its debut, Treats. The hype was somewhat perplexing: While its elephant-sized crunkbeats, razor-honed guitar riffs and Alexis Krauss' slam-poet-butterfly vocals are certainly arresting, the band's music isn't hugely groundbreaking.
Jon Gitchoff Sleigh Bells at the Firebird.
But after last night's sold out Firebird show, Sleigh Bells' appeal became crystal clear.
First and foremost, the band's music is fun. It's music in which to be immersed, music to be felt, not dissected or analyzed. Thanks to a giant wall of Marshall half-stacks - eight, to be exact - the band's iPod-based rhythmic backing tracks and Derek Miller's industrial-metal guitars blasted through the packed venue. The fingersnap rhythm to "Kids" and the stepping-team syncopated foundation of "Infinity Guitars" in particular resonated -- the hyped-up crowd swayed, swelled and waved their arms along with the beats. Krauss' vocals, while flecked with distortion on the album, came through loud and clear in concert - breathy and angelic when called for, and laden with tough b-girl attitude when appropriate.
Yet Sleigh Bells' aggression isn't based in malice; it's based in something far more primal and positive. The band's having just as much fun onstage as the audience is. (Consider the concert experience shared exuberance that's egalitarian, not parasitic.) And unlike many other newer bands, apathy isn't a word in Sleigh Bells' vocabulary. Miller moves around the stage constantly, circling around Krauss as she acts as the band's vocalist-cum-hype-woman. (Their movements are the only stage gimmicks besides venue lights.) There's no trace of pretension or attitude anywhere.
Sleigh Bells emphasized this about halfway through the set, when some equipment problems cropped up as the duo started to play "Treats." The band joked about it being stand-up comedy time; Krauss then singled out an audience member who came to the show sporting a
Burger King plastic crown and called him onstage. She lead the audience in an a cappella snippet from "Crown on the Ground" and promised he could come back onstage when they played the song. When Miller had further monitor problems a song later, the crowd displayed crossed-fingers in the air for luck when asked by the band to do so.
It's a testament to Krauss and Miller that they handled the unexpected intermission in a completely laid-back, chill way. Many other artists would've thrown a diva fit or complained; Sleigh Bells apologized for the delay.