Outside Lands Night Show Review: Sleigh Bells, Jel at The Independent, 8/11/17

by Dakin Hardwick on August 22, 2017

It may not be winter, but Sleigh Bells are always lovely

The music festival night show: a time honored tradition, when nightclubs around town host a band playing said festival to also play a smaller show after curfew is over at the main event. There is good and bad with these; the good side is that you get your band playing a full length set, in a crowd of just fans in a smaller venue than you’d normally see them at; the bad side is that these shows start really late, you have to get to them from the festival (which is never an easy affair), and it also means that you’ll be working on very little sleep the next day. This might, however, just be because I insist on showing up at doors, and leaving when the last note has played; I guess not everyone else is crazy like me.

I usually don’t do the night shows, because, in my old age, I’ve learned to enjoy getting a solid 6-8 hours sleep a night. However, when the schedule came out this year, I saw that Sleigh Bells, Belle & Sebastian, and A Tribe Called Quest were all due to perform at the exact same time. The Belle & Sebastian late show had long been sold out by this time; however, I was able to squeeze in a ticket for Sleigh Bells, helping simplify my set conflict struggle. That, plus a little bit of parking luck on the side of a friend of mine, made everything fall wonderfully into place.

At Outside Lands, Gorillaz ended their set at 9:55, after which I managed to get to The Independent around 10:45, which is great considering San Francisco / post-event traffic. I caught the second half of Jel, who was just a guy with a laptop doing some chill soundscapes. It was pleasant, but not really much for me to focus on, which was fine; after the full-throttle sensory overload of the day, catching something a little “chill” was really nice.

Sleigh Bells, however, is nothing close to “chill.” Touring as a three-piece, with vocalist Alexis Krauss, guitarist Derek Miller, and supplemented by additional guitarist, Ryan Primac,  this band is a hyper-aggressive noisy powerhouse when playing live. They managed to whip the sun-beaten post-festival crowd into a fiery, moshing frenzy — even without a live drummer performing in the band. Krauss’ voice was strong and forceful; absent was any possible wear and tear that could have come from performing just four hours earlier in a windy, dusty park. The band proceeded to perform a career-spanning set, spreading the songs fairly evenly throughout the night. The set only calmed down slightly during the stunning ballad off last year’s amazing Jessica Rabbit, “I Can Only Stare.”

It was an amazing evening, and I didn’t regret coming out for a second. It was well worth me slogging a bit the next day, as that set was pure magic. To my mind, from this experience, Sleigh Bells are the reason people pay to go see live music; they take you to that space of pure, unadulterated energy and joy that lets you leave whatever might be going wrong, and just enjoy life for a night. All that stuff will still be there tomorrow to deal with, and, after a Sleigh Bells set, you might just feel a little more energized and confident when dealing with it.

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