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Review: Sleigh Bells at the Vogue Theatre 

click to enlarge ROGER KISPY/ GETTY IMAGES
  • Roger Kispy/ Getty Images

Sleigh Bells, AraabMuzik
The Vogue Theatre
Friday, October 26

Sleigh Bells is the Queen of indie rock, if the only song Queen ever wrote was "We Will Rock You." This isn't a bad thing though.

They brought their EDM/thrash/metal/cheerleadercore to the Vogue Theater Friday night and gave a dazzling performance that successfully channeled the attitude of school spirit and sustained the adrenaline rush of your favorite team winning the game. It was a sonic seminar about kicking ass and celebrating yourself, with punishing, tinnitus-inducing guitar lines and crunk beats.

The night began with an underwhelming performance from AraabMuzik, an Akai MPC savant known for recent work with Cam'ron, Fabolous and Busta Rhymes. I had hoped to hear material from his excellent debut Electronic Dream but instead was treated to a dubstep-heavy set featuring a few Skrillex covers and all the marks that have made American dubstep the most mind-numbingly homogenous genre in electronic music (accelerating BPM snare hits followed by "the drop" of a wonky distorted bass line with some vocal samples haphazardly spliced and shoved into the mix). After the wonder and awe of seeing AraabMuzik's incredible technical prowess subsided, we were left with a set of monotonous dubstep songs using the same bells and whistles as all the Rusko's and Skrillex's of this world.

Then Sleigh Bells arrived in full form, backed by a stack of Marshall amps, a striped flag and plenty of possible-seizure-inducing strobe lights. On paper, Sleigh Bells are a comically ridiculous band. Singer Alexis Krauss arrives on the stage wearing denim shorts and a studded black leather jacket; songwriter-guitarist Derek Miller and back-up guitarist Jason Boyer both wear jean jackets and play jagged Jackson guitars. They have no rhythm section to speak of -- instead, Miller manipulates the rhythms onstage from what I presume is a series of foot pedals (Side note: Sleigh Bells have the most punishing electronic beats I've ever heard live, like Thor's hammer ricocheting against your chest). But they somehow make it all work. I was worried their gimmick had become a bit trying - -- seeing them live showed me I was devastatingly wrong.

They opened up with "Demons" from their recent album Reign of Terror before going into fan favorite "Crown on the Ground." Midway through the song, Krauss stopped the music because of a technical difficulty. It looked like the rest of the band wanted to carry on to the next song, but Krauss (after eliciting screams from the crowd) made sure "Crown on the Ground" was played again. It was a humbling gesture -- one that demonstrated a communal bond Sleigh Bells attempt to establish with the crowd at every show. They carried on with their uplifting set that included a unique rendition of "Born to Lose," "Kids," "Riot Rhythm," "Infinity Guitars," "Comeback Kid" and anthemic closer "A/B Machines." Overall, it was a deeply satisfying show and for the night at least, the Vogue Theatre was transformed into Wembley Stadium replete with chants, cheers, and the sort of the feelings "We are the Champions" was written about.

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