Show Review: Sleigh Bells with Javelin and Elite Gymnastics at The Warfield, 4/5/12

by Dakin Hardwick on April 8, 2012

Photos By Homirah Amiri

The life span of a band under the current hype machine can be rather short. Often times, the hype is so intense that people are sick of you before your first single is released. By the time the second record comes out, all of the ironically facial haired masses will have you filed away under Friendster. The only option a band has if they want to stay alive is to introduce themselves to a whole new audience. Sleigh Bells are at that place. The cool kids that embraced them in the beginning have totally rejected them, and it’s time for genuine music fans to take them in.

First up was Minneapolis duo Elite Gymnastics. This is the kind of band that has a lot of great ideas, but still seems to be trying to figure out what they are getting at. They do a sort of downtempo house mixed with Stomp inspired found percussion. They also hid on a dark stage, with the only visuals being a screen showing karaoke room inspired images with lyrics rolling across the screen.  The songs weren’t bad, but nothing stood out either. It was kind of like watching an unfinished film. The bones of a great band are there, they just need a few more years to get their footing.

Javelin, in middle support, did not suffer from the trappings of Elite Gymnastics. They injected a sense of life that was dearly missing from the show at this point.  Drummer George Langford is only a few degrees away from Animal from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem in terms of energy, but also has an insane sense of rhythm. Singer/bassist Tom Van Buskirk may be a little less lively, but he is juggling bass, vocals, and triggering samples all at once. Buskirk’s gift with a bass is impressive. He handles nearly all of the melodies on his six string, and manipulates it in a way that made it sound like any assortment of tones. They are amazingly eclectic, too. They moved from New Order inspired punky/new wave to LCD Soundsystem-esque electro funk, and even a nod to Pitbull’s samba infused hip hop.

 

Sleigh Bells took the stage rather soon after Javelin’s set- a mere 20 minutes, as opposed to the traditional 30.  They had their now signature backdrop of Marshall Stacks, which doubled as an accidental tribute to Jim Marshall, who passed away the same day as this show. The live version of the band now features an extra guitarist, Jason Boyer, who, like Derek Miller, is an ex-member of Poison The Well. The extra guitars added a whole extra layer of muscular, thunderous riffage to their already ferocious sound. They opened the show with just the two guitar players shredding to a pounding beat. The crowd whipped itself into an instant, sweaty frenzy. Singer Alexis Krauss burst onto the stage after about a minute of pure guitar frenzy, and launched straight into the pure metal of “Demons,” from their latest record Reign Of Terror.

So began a full hour of sweaty, frantic energy. Krauss is one of the greatest frontpersons in rock. From the moment she took the stage, you forgot that there were two guitar players on stage. You didn’t realize that the drummer is a drum machine hiding behind the wall of amps. It was impossible to pay attention to anyone on stage other than Krauss. She is a giant ball of fire with a unexpectedly delicate voice. Her vocals sit gently on top of the ferocity of the backing music. It makes for a very interesting, slightly uncomfortable dynamic that only adds to the power of the show.

The show was pretty evenly split between tracks off both of the bands records. The dance punk of Treats had been recast as thick, meaty metal. The crowd also reflected this. The “hipster” contingent was practically missing, and, instead we had a lot more ponytailed guys in metal t-shirts, with a continuous mosh going throughout the show.  Even during the ballad “Rill Rill,” the crowd stayed moving. Krauss was inspired to jump in, thus singing the second two verses while being carried by the crowd.

If this show is any indication, Sleigh Bells are working hard to move past the sophomore slump, learning how to let their sound evolve without alienating fans. If they continue to play their cards right, we may be seeing them playing for a very long time.

 

Setlist:

Intro

Demons

Crown On The Ground

True Shred Guitar

Kids

End Of The Line

Born 2 Lose

Comeback Kid

Straight A’s

Leader Of The Pack

Tell Em

Treats

Infinity Guitars

Rill Rill

Never Say Die

AB Machines

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