Last Night: Sleigh Bells at Respectable Street on Thursday, July 8

Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss is beyond happy about audience participation (click to view).
Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss is beyond happy about audience participation (click to view).
Photo by Ian Witlen

Sleigh Bells
With Po Po and Nerve City
Respectable Street, West Palm Beach
Thursday, July 8, 2010

View slideshow from the concert here.

That bullshit adage about girls wanting to be Sleigh Bells vocalist Alexis Krauss and guys just wanting to know her didn't apply Thursday evening inside a balmy Respectable Street. No gender boundaries here. Everyone wants to be what Krauss is on stage: passionate, free, and never occupying the same spot twice. On the venue's modest-sized stage, she maintained spatial originality by climbing atop the speaker cabinet, trust-falling into the crowd, and leaning her head on guitarist Derek Miller.

For about 38 minutes, the hardcore-meets-pop duo's crunk beats, metal riffs, and arena-sized energy unlocked the slam dancers, fist pumpers, and lyric shouters all eager for the license to swarm the dance floor. Beer and sweat and screams flew through the air close to the stage, while the more subdued onlookers kept a safe distance away from the shifting crowd tides. 

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With only an album's worth of material to work with, there wasn't a huge amount of suspense regarding the set. From the rocket guitars of "Tell 'Em" opened the night, to the comedown jam "Rill Rill" melting in the center, and "Crown on the Ground" providing a fierce finale, observers who have had access to the music via the internet for a lifetime in hype years shouted along with each song like this was the band's fifteenth visit to Florida and not its first.

For each, Krauss and Miller were backed by a thudding, roaring backing track, which interacted well with her vocals. A minor sticking point: all of the jarring guitar work Miller muscled through was too low in the mix. For any Poison the Well fans -- plenty cheered when his South Florida roots came up -- it was hard to get a live feel from something so difficult to hear. Nothing like that afflicted the sinister garage rock of Nerve City

and Po Po's neon-painted surf rock in the earlier sets, but neither caused a Sleigh

Bells-level surge in the room either.

Ultimately, the stage belonged to Krauss' flying hair and endless dominant poses. It has been mentioned before that this woman is a former teacher, and it will likely come up again -- because her performance was entirely interactive. Slapping hands, sticking the microphone into the faces in the front row, and eliciting sing-alongs are all tried-and-true to keep audiences enraptured -- but everything about her devotion to the crowd, dotted with local musicians in addition to the standard Flaunt Thursday attendees, felt like her granting her pupils a free period to do exactly what they wanted.

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