Gig Review: Sleigh Bells – Channel [V] Online

Originally posted on [V] Music website.

Venue: Metro Theatre, Sydney
Date: Jan 19, 2013

For those that survived what is now officially known as Sydney’s “Hottest Day Like Ever You Guys OMG” last Friday, the following evening at the Metro Theatre offered up an alternate way to melt one’s face off with Brooklyn-based noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells bringing a veritable heatwave of their own. Replacing hot air systems with heavy guitar riffs and scorching UV rays with shrieking serenades, the end result was much similar: a whole mess of people reduced to sweaty, soggy puddles that once resembled human beings.

Brissie lads DZ Deathrays opened the proceedings (for this fashionably late attendee anyway) with a tight, energetic set unfortunately only witnessed by a small, mostly stationary crowd. Off the back of their ARIA win last year, the boys impressed with their technical skills, busting out their brand of thrash/punk rock with a certain expertise and vigour but not even popular single ‘No Sleep’ was enough to stir some punters awake. It seemed most were saving energy for the main act and rightly so as that familiar “I’m in an oven” sensation was already in place when the lights finally dimmed and Sleigh Bells took the stage.

Seeing Sleigh Bells live isn’t an experience for the faint-hearted. From the opening explosion of heavy-guitar and synth sounds to the very final scream of frontwoman Alexis Strauss, Sleigh Bells create a soundscape that continuously hits you hard and doesn’t let up its aural assault for 70 minutes. The constant thump of bass challenged not only my body (seriously my internal organs were all like, “Hey man WTF is going on out there?” and I’m all like, “Shut up pancreas you’re not the boss of me”) but also the very integrity of The Metro’s foundations, at times I feared Sleigh Bells would be the last thing I ever heard as I was crushed to death beneath an electro-pop induced cave-in.

The key to Sleigh Bells unique sound has always been the marrying of these dense, violent guitar riffs and deep synths with the startlingly talented vocal work of Alexis, at times sweet and angelic, at other times raw and brutal. Alexis really is the life and soul of the band, she completely owned the stage for the duration with seemingly no part of the Metro off limits. She flailed, rolled, leaped and surfed with a relentless, intensely chaotic energy all the while belting out a bewildering vocal array. Seriously someone should attach a generator to this walking energy drink of a woman; it could probably power a small town (okay, like really small, like Centre for Ants small). It was a slight shame, however, that the other 50 per cent of Sleigh Bells wasn’t really given his moment to shine, with Derek Miller mainly kept to a silhouette despite several blood-curdling guitar solos where he could’ve taken the limelight.

You’ll find it hard to find a Sleigh Bells song that is longer than four minutes, which is highly appropriate for the short-attention span of the Gen Y audience and also allowed for them to get through almost their entire catalogue. The 16 songs executed were taken equally from their 2010 breakthrough album Treats and their slightly darker sophomore Reign of Terror from last year, although the biggest crowd reaction came during the older material with ‘Tell ‘Em’ and ‘Riot Rhythm’ both causing mass shit-losing from the punters.

My highlight would have to be the stripped-back opening to ‘Born to Lose’ where Alexis’s voice really took control of the room. The saintly vocal work over an unprecedented gentle guitar was however short-lived when 30 seconds in the band unleashed a heart-stopping wave of bass and synth that knocked you upside the face like a turkey slap from God and rendered anyone older than 50 in the room immediately dead (just jokes there was no one there that old… at least I hope not, otherwise RIP).

A failed stage dive, a technical issue saved by the witty banter of Alexis and a four-song encore later and we emerged from the Metro sweaty, sore and with 70 per cent less hearing ability. If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger then I should probably thank Sleigh Bells for the epic workout I received simply listening to their live show. That’s definitely my kind of gym.

Mitch Feltscheer – @mitchfel

Set List:
1. Demons
2. Crown on the Ground
3. True Shred Guitar
4. Kids
5. End of the Line
6. Born to Lose
7. Comeback Kid
8. Straight A’s
9. Leader of The Pack
10. Tell ‘Em
11. Treats
12. Infinity Guitars

13. Rill Rill
14. Never Say Die
15. Riot Rhythm
16. A/B Machines

Discovery of the Week – Night Engine

Hey remember that thing where I do a write up of a new musical discovery and post it online once a week? Remember how strictly I adhered to that commitment? Hahaha me to! It’s fun to remember things. Well whilst consistency goes and fucks itself, I’m back with a new band, a not-so-new sound and the familiar locale of the UK indie-rock scene (Stop it with the awesome indie music UK just stop it!).

The online buzz for UK art-pop outfit Night Engine (both NME and the Guardian have touted them as ones to watch in 2013) is fairly ridiculous considering the group currently have more band members then songs. A single listen through of the three songs they have available on their SoundCloud though and the anticipation surrounding the London boys is more than vindicated.

Listening to Night Engine with their tight, funky guitar riffs and the Bowie-esque vocals of frontman Phil you’d be forgiven for thinking you had travelled back to the early 80’s and were in fact rocking out to Talking Heads (in which case WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Go out and save John Lennon or something jerk!) Regardless of the brazen throwback style of their music, it’s a sound which feels very much like a breath of fun-air and a break from the more reserved fare the indie/alt music scene has been pumping out lately. Personally I’d much rather bounce around a smelly, sweaty room to these guys then sway gently to Alt-J’s latest droning single.

With a full length record out later in the year Night Engine are destined to fill my shamelessly-fun band of 2013. It’s nothing new, in fact it’s decidedly old, but it’s boisterous and enjoyable as shit and in a year where Jareth himself is to make a comeback, Night Engine could very well find a substantial audience ready to throw themselves around to upbeat, funky rock.