Last night the El Rey Theater pulsed with excitement. Between its glowing red walls the sold out crowd thrummed with speculation as the shards of crimson light that fell from the chandeliers illuminated their impatient faces.
It was the first headlining show Sleigh Bells had ever played in LA, and with the exception of the few who had made it through rush hour traffic last Friday to catch them at the Hollywood Bowl, when they opened for LCD Soundsystem, everyone wanted to know if the rumors were true–rumors of a show so loud it rendered your earplugs worthless and a front woman who could get even the most self conscious attendees to jump and down with wild abandon.
A year ago, this band had burst out of Brooklyn with a fiery EP which had won them critical laurels (including a recent LA Weekly feature) and a record contract with M.I.A.'s N.E.E.T. Recordings and as their debut album swept over the country, the band had toured everywhere but Los Angeles.
When the curtains rose, four blue lights blazed into the crowd as church bells and heavy metal rained from the speakers as a fair warning about what was to come.
Sleigh Bells is comprised of two seemingly conflicting elements that have harmonized to form a new sound. Take a hardcore guitarist who played with Poison The Well and a singer who spent her youth in the teeny bopper band Rubyblue and add some giant drums and synthesizers and you've got the beginnings of the Sleigh Bells sound.
They hit us hot and heavy right out of the gate. In front of four mammoth-sized speakers, dressed all in black Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller took the stage opening with their latest single “Tell 'Em” which had a bass beat hit like a thunder clap between lightning strikes of industrial synths. Krauss thrashed around as if every note was new to her and had to be felt through every fiber of her body. Encouraging the crowd to sing or scream along, she blasted through the set with only a slight pause for the lovely, low key “Rill Rill” before crushing them with the mallets of sound that make up “Infinity Bells” and “A/B Machines.”
Cranked up all the way to eleven, Sleigh Bells blazed through their album and within the span of thirty minutes it was all over. With the last notes of “Crown on the Ground” ringing in their ears, the dazed crowd staggered out into the moonlight, unsure of what had just happened to them, as if they had just had a quickie in a bathroom stall with a complete stranger and now couldn't remember their name or how they had gotten certain scratches and bruises. Some stayed in front of the stage, like jilted lovers chanting “Sleigh Bells! Sleigh Bells!” in hopes of an encore that never came.
Fast and dirty, the set felt like it was over as soon as it began. The only real shame was the the backing tracks came pre-recorded to perfection through the speakers, so there was no hope of spontaneity within the set. Yes, Krauss and Miller sounded amazing, but most of the production was not on stage. As thrilling as their live show is, it would be nice if it was…well 100% live.