Twelve Marshall speakers face a large crowd inside Austin music venue La Zona Rosa. It’s a foreshadowing of the night’s headlining performer: noise-pop group Sleigh Bells.
The duo (occasionally a trio during tours) put on a blistering set this past Wednesday.
Opening up for the Brooklyn noise rockers was electronic DJ Sumsun, whose set was enjoyably adequate, but felt misplaced. Sleigh Bells’ general audience consisted of fist-pumpers who every once in awhile, did not mind a light shove and loved jumping around wildly. Sumsun’s set did not really promote such action, and the music was a big factor of it. Musically, Sumsun’s set was great. Melodic loops blended into percussive bubbles that exploded upon contact with piercing lasers. But the mid-tempo jams brought the energy of the crowd down a few notches, and it did not return until Sleigh Bells took the stage.
Half of the audience remained inside during Sumsun’s set, while the other went outside and conversed, drank and smoked. The inside crowd felt more like a pity party—a group of individuals that obviously did not want to lose their precious position near the stage. So they stayed and applauded Sumsun whenever he completed a few songs, and willingly clapped to a song when requested.
Sumsun’s performance was so removed from fans’ expectations that the crowd seemed to have a better time listening to La Zona Rosa’s in-house music. I can’t blame them though—featuring Dr. Dre, the Notorious B.I.G. and others, La Zona Rosa’s playlist had the crowd more enthusiastic than Sumsun’s laid-back electro jams.
Honestly, the best part of Sleigh Bells’ set was opening up with a Lil B song. Judging by the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm and praise to the almighty “Based God,” I assumed that I was the only one who seemed to catch the unconventional introduction.
Once the music started, I found myself getting bored, rather quickly. Sleigh Bells live does not differ much (if at all) from Sleigh Bells recorded. Sure, the energy of the crowd and spontaneity of frontwoman Alexis Krauss breathed new life into the group’s repertoire, but it was nothing spectacular.
Even personal favorite “Treats” came off as lackluster. A song whose reverberated riffs and electronic drums usually win me over immediately, had no effect at all.
Sleigh Bells is not a bad band. They’re like the demented evil sister to groups like Purity Ring or The xx. Sleigh Bells do not embrace sadness—they punch it in the face with riffs you would expect to hear at Warped Tour.
Seriously, that thought plagued me during and after Sleigh Bells’ performance. The group is essentially the bridge between Warped Tour shred and hipster pop-stardom. But I digress.
Sleigh Bells live bring nothing new to the table, that differs significantly from their recordings. Sure, you may get a few additional hollers and possibly a sweaty Krauss to touch briefly (once again another perk of tolerating a decent opening act, to be front row for the main attraction), but such minor changes were not worth the $23 price tag of the show.