My first introduction to the Sleigh Bells was fittingly enough, in New York. I happened upon the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar and wandered into the Lacoste party. It was fashion week after all. The joint was full of Gossip Girl actors, paparazzi, models and of course my most favourite thing, an open bar. It was a surreal sort of party, something you would only expect from your Upper East side, Cecily von Ziegesar-esque, rock star wannabe wet dreams.
Yet, what held the most sway with me was the duo from Brooklyn that approached the small stage by the ornate marble fireplace and rocked that party‘s socks off. With sensational dark flowing hair and thick bangs, Alexis Krauss was captivating. Sporting a fish net top and tights with Converse All-Stars, I was mesmerised by her energy and the Native American tattoo on her upper left arm. This chick was rocking it to the nth degree. Guitarist Derek E. Miller may not have been where most of the attention was being focused, but he is definitely the backbone of the group (songwriter and producer as well as guitarist), as Krauss is indeed the voice.
So, I was more than eager to check out the Sleigh Bells on home soil, here in Melbourne. Playing in the Prince of Wales Bandroom on a steamy St Kilda night, I ran up the stairs of the entrance with full hearty eagerness. Scoring an ace position to the left of the stage near the sound guys I got to witness Krauss and Miller deliver their noise pop debut album Treats to a heaving Melbourne crowd.
Krauss was decked out in her usual attire of skull bone leggings, acid wash denim jacket (that was quickly done away with) and a basketball jersey with the word SLEIGH scrolled on the back with the number 99. With his hardcore band background, Miller wore a heavy commando style camouflage jacket and ripped out the opening song with guitar held high and Marshall stacks backing him up.
With an aptitude for rocking out with her hair flailing wildly, stamping her feet and screaming with such melodic precision, it’s little wonder Krauss is such a crowd favourite. The throngs of guys and girls near the front held out their hands in adoration, screaming the lyrics back to her as Krauss held out the microphone and lunged into the horde. Performing a chaotic set crammed to the brim with heavy bass, frenetic drumming and thrashing riffs – the Sleigh Bells sound is head-banging stuff with a booty-shaking outcome that you can sing back to.
Tracks included Tell ‘Em, Infinity Guitars, Riot Rhythm and the well known tune circulating the airwaves, Rill Rill. The latter was performed by Krauss stag on stage, and is their most laid back tune, sans screaming and colossal bass kick.
And with that, with smoke still hanging in the air and the flash of the stage lights still reflecting off our retinas, Krauss slammed down her mic and promptly walked off stage. It was possibly the shortest set I have ever encountered. As a reviewer, I sometimes adore short shows. It means I can lock down all I need to in a shorter period of time. I live by the rule that a good short show is better than a long shit show.
Plus, the Sleigh Bells only have the one album that runs for 32 minutes. Unless you want them to lengthen every song, do covers or talk a lot of crap in between songs, then there isn’t much more you can expect from them, besides a decent set, which I believe they delivered.
In their defence, they did have a truck load of support acts lined up (obviously to counteract their short set and not disappoint too many people). However, Chris Baio the bassist from Vampire Weekend (strange that he has turned his hand to DJing) had to cancel his appearance due to blizzards in the States. And Sydney electronica outfit Seekae also cancelled (not too sure what their story was). So the task of supporting Sleigh Bells was left to Rat Vs Possum and Purple Sneaker DJs (who had to play twice – before and after Sleigh Bells).
Either way, Sleigh Bells are becoming a bit of a big deal, especially being signed to M.I.A’s recording label. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell am staying on their noise pop sleigh, no matter what the destination.