Studio at Webster Hall
Better than: Actual exercise.
They’re the overdogs now, Sleigh Bells, set to go on tour with LCD Soundsystem next week, setting guitars on fire in videos, performing with M.I.A., and tonight, having their show promoted and streamed live by none other than MTV, who consider them “up-and-coming”–proof, as much as anything, that you’ll never see them in a venue this small again. There is no ambiguity to the way frontwoman Alexis Krauss draws the eye: she is a star, in a now familiar leather jacket (soon shed)/black romper ensemble, her very presence strobing along with the lights and the fists pumped in her direction by this evening’s Studio at Webster Hall crowd, sold out as all hell, and ready to be stage-dived upon. Which, in due time, they will be.
There are a comic amount of amplifiers onstage when this thing starts, four Marshall stacks forming a backline way bigger than this band needs, than any band needs, let alone one whose drums come with their own volume knob. But this is one of many reasons to like Sleigh Bells, who are basically N.E.R.D. if N.E.R.D. didn’t suck and Pharrell knew as much about hardcore as Sleigh Bells guitarist and producer Derek Miller knows about rap, Krauss stalking the stage like some demonic MC, turning “Riot Rhythm” into some unholy hybrid of “Grindin'” and a SOHI Fitness-sponsored push-up challenge. To give you an idea of Krauss’s charisma, people are singing along full-bore with her ad-libs, rendering the mic more or less unnecessary, especially in this modest room, where the crowd is just small enough to be able to achieve a kind of clear and unified separation between various ohs, ahs, and uhs.
Their set is trim and no longer than a half-hour, total. The Sleigh Bells greatest hits show is pretty much identical to the album they released back in May, “Tell ‘Em” crashing into “Infinity Guitars” into “A/B Machines,” the only two respites here being “Rill Rill,” the comparatively sweet, Funkadelic-sampling one that Krauss does solo, and “Kids,” which she has the audience do with her. “Scream,” she screams, and as she glides the mic over the screaming audience, she’s screaming too. It’s a lot to take in, and this is before “Crown on the Ground,” even, the band’s can’t-miss closer, Krauss over on our side of the stage now, locking eyes with some fan in the front row as they sing the song together, deceptively casual before that last fusillade of guitars kicks back in, at which point she launches herself off the stage and into the crowd, unruffled as she’s passed around inches below the ceiling. She’s back onstage in time for Miller to hit one more chord and off they go, bound for what you have to think are bigger things.
Personal Bias: I was a big Poison the Well fan growing up.
Random Notebook Dump: Someone who looks a lot like a certain local music blogger gets onstage during “Crown on the Ground” and starts dancing. This person is immediately returned to the crowd by security.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 21, 2010