Sleigh Bells

Winter Came Early with an Assault of Sleigh Bells

Sleigh BellsJust over 12 hours after the fact, I think I’m still a bit buzzed in a completely non-alcoholic sense from the events of early this morning at Metro.  The venue was the site of a very special (and very late) engagement with Brooklyn buzz group Sleigh Bells.  This duo has had a hell of a year highlighted by a much-talked about appearance at South By Southwest and locally at Pitchfork 2010.  It was at the latter where they headlined one of the two main stages, playing 2nd bill only to the final act of the night which was itself nothing short of the Second Coming for indie rockers: the return of Pavement.

The duo of Sleigh Bells (guitarist/producer/songwriter Derek Miller and vocalist Alexis Krauss), as is so often the case, are the victims of their own good work.  The hype surrounding them has been deafening ever since the release of their debut record ‘Treats’ in May, but judging by the gig last night, the hype is well founded.

There was an earlier show at Metro, and the club re-opened at 11:30 for this late one.  I popped in for a pint next door at Gingerman to kill some time, not to mention wait out the queue, which had not just stretched north along Clark Street, but AROUND the corner and down Racine for 1/2 a block!  In 7 1/2 years in Chicago, I’ve never seen that.  I was pleasantly surprised at that sort of a turn out of people, each of them apparently not too worried about any responsibilities just a handful of hours later in the morning.  The set time for Sleigh Bells?  1:20AM.  The number of people who wouldn’t have cared if it was 3:20?  Every single person in attendance.

The energy was already turned up several notches during the set of opening act Pictureplane, who did a noble job of keeping this eager and restless crowd occupied…but all hell broke loose once Sleigh Bells took the stage.

Sleigh BellsTheir music is a face-melting bombardment of noise pop/dance beats/Phil Spectre-esque female vocals/hip hop grooves/and attitude.  What instantly drew me to ‘Treats’ is the über processed and overmodulated vocals of Krauss, as I’m a fuzzy white noise fan going all the way back to the days of Jesus & Mary Chain.  But I don’t think any member of that band has ever burned more calories on an entire tour than Sleigh Bells do in one gig.  From the first note, the crowd was electrified as if someone threw on a switch and those who had a spot right up against the stage were thoroughly squashed for the rest of the night (and seemed to love it).  From my spot above in the balcony, the crowd on the floor mixed dancing and jumping around with good old fashioned moshing.  Even the guy dressed in a banana suit who started the show toward the back was soon front and center in front of the stage getting bounced about.

Forget the fact that only two living people are on the playing guitar (Miller) and one simply bringing the energy with her vehement stage presence and vocals (Krauss).  She works it.  She flaunts it.  And nobody could get enough of it.  She even finished the show with a hefty stage dive into the crowd.  The rest:  the drums, keyboards, sequences, rhythms & beats, come from a laptop.  Now, don’t for one second pull that music-purist stance insisting that anything done with electronics on stage is ‘not really music’.  This is a PERFORMANCE.  Just ask the 1,200 people wedged into every available square inch of Metro, none of which stood still at any moment of the hot-minute (35, in all) show.  Now, could some in attendance feel ripped off with a 35-minute set?  They could, I suppose, but let’s consider the fact that they have one album to their credit, and more importantly the 2am curfew that had to be abided by.  Besides, at that hour of the night and considering their feverish tempo and energy..I’m not sure anybody in the room could have even handled any more.  It was literally like a storm that swooped in, hit hard, and was gone.  If you were there, you know what I’m talking about, and consider yourself lucky for having witnessed it.

I’m not one to often share crappy video from phones, but at least this one will give you somewhat of a glimpse of what went down last night.  PS:  Don’t watch this if you’re epileptic.

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