Sleigh Bells at Turner Hall. Photo by CJ Foeckler.
In 2010, Brooklyn-manufactured noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells was riding high on the buzz generated by the band’s debut album, Treats, an innovative and infectious effort that highlighted the sultry hooks of gorgeous frontwoman Alexis Krauss, the over-the-top guitar-shredding of hardcore expatriate Derek Miller and a generous helping of drum samples reminiscent of a pep rally gone awry. At the height of its newfound popularity in the indie rock circuit, the band formally introduced itself to Milwaukee with a sweaty sold out show at Mad Planet.
Almost two years to the day, Sleigh Bells returned to Milwaukee with a new-ish album, a “Saturday Night Live” musical guest credit, a “No Reservations” cameo and ample tour experience now under its studded black leather belt. Though some of the initial blog buzz has now faded, the duo had no trouble packing logical upsize venue Turner Hall Wednesday night for a bi-annual reprise of noise and dancing.
Following a grating and 20-minutes-too-long “musical performance” of Skrillex knock-off AraabMUZIK – complete with utterly useless hype-man – the main attraction stepped over the microscopically low-set bar, through plumes of artificial smoke and headlong into an impassioned hour-long set.
Donning her standard attire of white Keds, black fishnet stockings, short shorts and a leather jacket, Krauss immediately endeared herself to the audience by thanking the crowd and steeping her energy to a high level, at which it would stay for the show’s entirety. By the time the second song, “Crown on the Ground,” was through, Miller had visited every free inch of the stage and Krauss’ jacket was flung to the floor behind her, serving as an indication for what was in store.
Though they slid Treats standards “Crown…” and “Kids” in early, Sleigh Bells spent much of the first half of its set in the midst of new album, Reign Of Terror – highlighted by playing the albums singles “Born To Lose” and “Comeback Kid” back-to-back. However, the band – with just 22 songs in its catalog – quickly wore out its wealth of new material, despite Krauss and Miller’s showmanship and playful pushing of one another. The rowdy – even by Sleigh Bells standards – “Straight A’s” signaled at return to old (or less new) form, as Krauss and Co. carried the show home, frequently drawing from the Treats well. After a chest-capsizing rendition of “Infinity Guitars,” the singer picked up a gift pack of Pop Tarts hurled her way. Thanking the fan, Krauss asked the crowd, “You guys ready to take me for a ride?” before crowd surfing.
But all the toaster pastry acceptance and audience-assisted levitation proved to be nothing compared to interaction during closer “A/B Machines,” wherein the band implored girls to climb up on stage and dance as people hugged Krauss and the drum machine’s final measures beat to an eventual halt.