Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells drops to her knees belting out Treats tracks at Soho in Santa Barbara, California, October 18, 2010. Photo: justinwagner.com
Seriously, Sleigh Bells ought to consider changing their name to Slay Belles, as this is what they do: they slay the crowd with an onslaught of persona, rock guitar, and deep-boom beats. When they played Soho on October 18 in Santa Barbara, California, the band was forty-eight hours free of a short run with LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip that culminated a couple nights before at the cavernous Hollywood Bowl in front of thousands. When you take the energy needed to captivate such a place as the Hollywood Bowl and stuff it into a club for three hundred, the result can be raucous and oftentimes explosive. Case in point? Monday night’s show.
The band reworked the music club into a proper “club” club. Traveling with lighting, strobes, a wall of Marshall full-stacks, and an energy rarely seen, Alexis Kraus and Derrick Miller turned the intimacy into an inferno for thirty-plus minutes, playing all the tracks off this year’s debut, Treats. From the outset that included a loud metal intro via Metallica, the duo took over the stage with a fervor that did not subside. Track by track, the band stormed through as a storm raged outside, interacting with fans up front and going all out for the “crazy” Santa Barbara attendees.
While some might sniffle that the album gets tiresome after some repeated listening, the live arena for Sleigh Bells is a venue for which the professionalism and recent touring have paid off. After having the expanse of grander stages recently, to be compressed into the small environ brought an intimacy to the show and also made you feel as if you were locked in the cage with two rabid animals. While lightning cascaded from the outside of the venue in through the windows, the band’s lighting complemented tracks like “Infinity Guitar,” “A/B Machines,” and the Pitchfork-approved “Crown on the Ground.” The tender—relatively speaking to the rest of the onslaught—“Rill Rill” delivered mid-set gave Derrick a chance to swap guitars, wipe the sweat off his face, and limber up for the remaining slaughter.
The intensity of Sleigh Bells is rarely, if ever, seen in Santa Barbara. The last time I can recall such intensity was when another Brooklyn band, TV On The Radio, played the club just about four years ago. They too were ascending the ranks of the rock pyramid and were also days off an ear-shattering triple bill that summer that included Nine Inch Nails and Bauhaus. Here’s the deal. Set up shop in Brooklyn, release some jams, and get on a summer tour with some big acts. Then when the tour is over, immediately hit the small venues on your own headline tour and kill it.
Words & Pics by Justin Wagner