The pit was filled to the brim. The stage was empty. With the DJ still cranking out hits between sets, the music and the house lights – as if on cue – cut out completely. The crowd screamed in anticipation of seeing Sleigh Bells tear the Mayan Theater a new proscenium. The thick thuds of bass juddered the floor even if you weren’t near the metal barricades. “True Shred Guitar,” the live opener on Sleigh Bells latest LP, entitled Reign of Terror, appropriately opened the show. Lights flashed blazingly to the drum machines and chorded guitar riffs as Alexis Krauss entered as if out of nowhere, chic in metal-sewn leather jacket and torn jean shorts, and the night began.
There was no denying that Tuesday night’s performance in Los Angeles was a “true shred” because Sleigh Bells brought everything they’ve put out on their two records into a great mix of pulse-pounding noise pop, fantastic lighting set-ups, and a club atmosphere courtesy of the Mayan (interestingly enough, the show was moved to the Mayan from the indefinitely-closed Music Box).
Photos by David Fisch
This performance came after major national exposure from Sleigh Bells’ musical guest appearance on last week’s Saturday Night Live, and it was endearing to see that fans were completely spellbound by the sights and sounds regardless of whether they had been hooked since 2010′s debut Treats or just since SNL a few days before. Just looking back and forth between the performers and the audience, you could tell that this was a band who had clearly made an influence on plenty of today’s music listeners – indie or not. Tracks like “Born To Lose,” “Infinity Guitars,” and “Tell ‘em” had everyone from the balcony to the floor jumping in the air with fists proudly pumping, and Alexis Krauss provided sensual yet spunky flair matched to the bright strobes.
Considering much of their studio albums are heavily processed and compressed to the point that it comes off as lo-fi, the tracks they performed live felt much more established and consuming. Every bit of Derek Miller’s guitar distortion and third member Jason Boyer’s extra chorded power took precedence, and Krauss’ breathy vocals were as clear and poppy as they should have been. Even without the presence of a physical drum kit or drum machine, every ounce of bass coming from the lined-up speakers felt like a canon going off and your body actually took the hit. A track like “Treats” or “Kids” deserved to be heard in such a manner, and it was nice to rock out while getting your aural fill.
When it came to “Straight A’s” and encore closer “Crown On The Ground” – two tracks that utterly attack the senses with their speed and anthemic thumps – the crowd went wild. Not only did Alexis stage dive for a chorus or two, but even people from the crowd were floating around on steady hands. The strobing effect revealed silhouettes of people being tossed in the air, with everyone else in continual movement. It was the kind of thrill and excitement that you rarely see unless you’re at a much larger arena or festival, and to see it happen for Sleigh Bells in a tighter and closer venue was pretty astonishing. Basically, if you weren’t moving on your own, the crowd was going to move you whether you liked it or not.
For only an hour-long set, Sleigh Bells managed to set a precedence that will give each and every show performance for the rest of this year a run for its money. It was an explosion of lights and sounds that could only be imagined by listening to their studio recordings, and only experienced by attending the show and being in the midst of it. Sweatiness and possible ear drum damage aside, the performance at The Mayan was an all-out spectacle – indeed a “true shred” – and it should be said that there is no other way to see Sleigh Bells unless performed in the same fashion. The intensity is just too deserving.
Be sure to check out Sleigh Bells’ sophomore LP, Reign of Terror, out now in various formats via Mom+Pop Music, and also take a look at the latest single “Comeback Kid” performed on Saturday Night Live. If you want to see them live (which I highly suggest you do), the band has announced European shows and a couple of North American shows throughout March (listed below) with more dates likely to be announced soon.
Sleigh Bells Tour Dates:
2/27/12: Manchester, UK @ Manchester Academy
2/28/12: Glasgow, Lanarkshire, UK @ Oran Mor
3/1/12: Camden Town, London, UK @ Electric Ballroom
3/2/12: Manchester, Greater Manchester, UK @ Sound Control
3/3/12: Brighton, Sussex, UK @ Concorde 2
3/5/12: Paris, France @ La Machine
3/7/12: Berlin, Germany @ Festsaal Kreuzberg
3/8/12: Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Melkweg
3/26/12: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
3/27/12: Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
For more info: Sleigh Bells Official Website