by Grant Foskett
Less than twenty-four hours before Sleigh Bells were due to take the stage, I still had no idea they were performing in Boston. So when I got a Facebook notification telling me first, that they were playing and second, that WRBB had a pass that no one else could use, I was ecstatic. Sleigh Bells have long been one of my favorite bands because of their insane energy and unique sound, so I was expecting a great show. And despite my already high expectations, I was still blown away.
The show opened with a quick set from New York artist Sabri. His mellow style and sweet voice were a complete surprise given Sleigh Bells’ music, but his charisma definitely got the crowd moving. Just as Sabri and his band began to win over the room however, he ran out of songs to play, leaving the stage for the main act.
After about a half an hour of waiting, all the lights in the room dimmed and the beginning of ‘Blue Trash Mattress Fire’ off Sleigh Bells’ most recent album began to play. Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller took the stage to a thunderous roar from the fans. Still dark, Alexis began to sing the ethereal opening verse before Derek joined in with a crashing guitar and flashes of light and the show was on. Next came the fan favorite ‘Riot Rhythm,’ complete with crashing drum machine and a demand from Alexis that “everyone fucking join in on the chorus,” and you better believe everyone did.
Sleigh Bells jumped from year to year, playing a song from each of their five albums before the set was halfway over. And surprisingly even the critically panned and fan-ignored ‘Bitter Rivals’ sounded fantastic live. Alexis introduced it, saying it was one of her favorite songs because it samples her dog, before crouching down to perform the admittedly odd sighing and moaning that starts the track. She then jumped up to scream the opening line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!” to a crowd that was jumping to scream it with her.
The initial set ended with the bombastic ‘Rule Number One’ and ‘Crown on the Ground,’ after which Alexis said thank you and the band walked off stage. The crowd absolutely erupted in cries for an encore and sure enough, the duo walked back on stage shortly after. Alexis then asked for silence to perform the quietest and most emotional Sleigh Bells track, ‘And Saints.’ As a band that relies so heavily on deafening electric guitar with a backing drum machine, ‘And Saints’ stands out as a soft spot in the band’s discography, which made it all the better to contrast the screeching ‘A/B Machines’ that came next. The only words to ‘A/B Machines’ are “Got my A Machines in the table, got my B Machines in the drawer,” which made the song the perfect opportunity for Alexis to do a trust fall off the stage and crowdsurf her way through three minutes of simple lyrics. Finally, after returning to the stage, Sleigh Bells finished the show with their most popular song, ‘Rill Rill.’
As the show came to a close, with ears still ringing, I walked out into the cold, January night imbued with Sleigh Bells’ insane energy. I can say pretty confidently that no show I have ever seen compares to the atmosphere Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller can create with merely a guitar and a microphone. If you are at all a fan of Sleigh Bells, I recommend seeing them live: their recording and production often just cannot fully grasp the energy that makes Sleigh Bells so fantastic.