Show Review: Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian and Oberhofer at The Independent, 5/30/11

by Dakin Hardwick on May 31, 2011

Memorial Day kicked off the first of a 3 night residency for Sleigh Bells, the much discussed and divisive band signed to MIA’s N.E.E.T. Records and featuring the bassist for the sadly overlooked teen pop groups RubyBlue, Alexis Krauss on vocals and Derek E Miller on guitar, formerly of Florida hardcore band Poison The Well. The hype behind these shows, where the first two sold out months ago, while a 3rd, smaller gig at Rickshaw Stop sold out moments after it went on sale last week, is amazing. The question is, does this band with only a single album under their belt, live up to the hype?

Opening act Oberhofer kicked things off, and in the beginning, I didn’t think much of them. They started out playing a bunch of catchy rock songs that sounded a bit too much like The Strokes without the “I’m Bored” sense to them, or maybe Vampire Weekend without the afrobeat. Then, by the third song, they pulled out a xylophone, and that act somehow kicked the band into high gear, and they evolved into an straight up punk band, only with the cleanest guitar tone ever! Band leader, Brad Oberhofer, even progressed into Marnie Stern-styled finger tapping while the band managed to evolve into near chaos only to never, ever, let go of the groove. They had energy in spades, and most importantly, got the crowd dancing. It wasn’t a full on most pit by any measure, but people were moving, and that always is a sign that the opening act knows what they are doing. Since the show sold out long before this band was on the bill, it means that these weren’t “fans” but converts.

Next up was Neon Indian, who “technically” were co-headlining this show. Although I have never seen this band before, we, as a website, have covered them before. And, from what the reviews said, the keyboardist, Leanne Macomber is very pretty. This is still true. The keyboardist is very pretty. So is the lead singer, Alan Polomo. As well as the guitar player and drummer. This is a very good looking band. That has a theremin. The problem was that, despite having things that I truly enjoy in a band, namely eye candy and a neat instrument that you play without touching it, I couldn’t get into them. Their songs all reminded me of the music you would hear while shopping at Sephora. Only they seemed a bit “out of sync,” like they weren’t really listening to each other. Samples were coming in late, the vocals were nearly missing from the mix, and much of the keyboard parts had so many effects going that they were simply off the beat. People in the crowd certainly enjoyed Neon Indian, but I really didn’t feel them. I guess it wasn’t for me.

I think that the venue also realized what an energy letdown Neon Indian was, so the decided to pump the energy up again with a fantastic music mix leading up to Sleigh Bells, which had the crowd getting into serious gear. We had Ace Of Base, Nirvana, Hole, Joan Jett, Guns N Roses and AC/DC. Then, to cap it all off, they started playing Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” only to have Miller come out in front of a huge array of Marshall stack to play along with the Sabbath classic. It was big and loud and totally rock n roll. Krauss came out as well, and they segued straight out of “Iron Man” into frantic glory of “Crown On The Ground.”

The crowd never calmed down during the set. The two piece, Miller simply on guitar and Krauss simply on vocals, had an amazing amount of energy. They didn’t need anyone else, just the pre-programmed backing tracks supplemented Miller’s shredding. One person in the crowd muttered “Where’s the drummer?” and, in some cases a live drummer is vital, but not here. It would only take up space, and these two performers managed to use up all the space on stage quite nicely.

Krauss might be my new favorite front person. She won’t stop moving, yet she always manages to stay in charge. She made her way into the crowd numerous times. Sometimes she stage dove, sometimes she crawled on, and sometimes, just be sheer force of her charisma, she managed to get the crowd to open up so she could sing while walking through the crowd. She is the perfect balance of confidence, chops, theatrics and sex appeal. Anyone looking for a career as a lead singer should study this woman.

The pure adrenaline only mildly subsided during the main set closer of the “ballad” “Rill Rill (aka Ring Ring).” Miller left the stage to allow Krauss to belt this masterful song all by her lonesome, only to have her run straight off stage afterwards. The main set only lasted about half an hour, which was expected because of the amount of material, but still seemed far too soon. The three song encore still wasn’t enough, and the crowd wasn’t going to let them off this easy. Sadly, after 10 minutes of cheers, the houselights came up, and we were all sentenced to go home. Coated in sweat and wanting for more. I guess that’s how we are supposed to leave, though.

Set List

Crown On The Ground

Tell ‘Em

Kids

Treats

Riot Rhythm

Infinity Guitars

Holly

Rill Rill (aka Ring Ring)

Encore:

Rachel

Straight A’s

A/B Machine

 

Photos by the great David Price

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