Brooklyn-based band Sleigh Bells stopped in Des Moines, IA on Saturday, October 27th. They filled Wooly’s, a venue that occupies a building almost as old as the city itself. An old Woolworth’s (the namesake for Wooly’s), the venue retains the look and feel of a turn-of-the-century general store, complete with antique light fixtures and taxidermy animal busts.
During the days leading up to the show, three different people said that Sleigh Bells was the loudest band they have ever heard live. This proved to be true, and the band came to party. On album, Sleigh Bells is a duo consisting of singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller (formerly of Poison the Well). The band is joined on tour by guitarist Jason Boyer. During the soundcheck, six Marshall full-stacks were revealed at the back of the stage, which was an impressive sight in and of itself. Shortly before the set, Miller and Boyer emerged and exchanged a quick high-five before breaking into the opening riff of “Demons”, a track from the band’s second release Reign of Terror (QRO review). As the beat dropped, Krauss appeared from between the amps before exploding into the song with her aggressive vocal style and dance moves – she sings, raps, and screams like a siren. The Halloween costume-clad crowd went wild and the energy level remained maxed-out for the entirety of the night.
The beautiful thing about the band’s live set (and sound, in general) is that they are incredibly heavy, and yet hard to define in terms of genre (they have shared bills with the likes of LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A., and Neon Indian, but also spent time touring with Swedish hardcore band Refused). Sleigh Bells’ beats hit hard, topped off with crunchy guitar riffs and a fair amount of shredding. The combination moves them seamlessly between dance, punk, semi-metal, and even pop at times. It would almost be too much to handle coupled with that it is executed at such deafeningly loud volumes, but for that it all comes together and sounds so damn cool.
It was clear that everyone present was having a good time, especially during crowd-favorite “Rill Rill” – a single from the band’s full-length debut album Treats. During the song, Krauss screamed, “I said this was a fucking sing-along,” before allowing the crowd to carry her around, all the while flawlessly executing her vocals. Other highlights included “Comeback Kid” and “Infinity Guitars”, during which Krauss threw a microphone into the crowd to help with the singing. As the last song of the night started, Krauss yelled, “Pick each other up, throw each other around… do whatever the fuck you want.” Krauss’s command was definitive of the evening – everyone was letting loose and taking in the intensity of the sound pumping off the stage. Miller and Boyer seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves by way of ripping through their guitar parts and intermittently interacting with the crowd. When all was said and done, everyone present was into it.
The show was opened by electronic hip-hop artist AraabMUZIK. The pairing once again speaks to the eclectic nature of Sleigh Bells’ sound. He did a nice job of keeping the crowd energized, powering through re-mixes with impressive hand-speed. Even if one doesn’t appreciate hip-hop beats, simply watching him work with his setup could hold your intrigue for a while. His hands are lightning fast and there is no denying it.