Two of the last year’s most hyped and typed names, Sleigh Bells and Neon Indian, sold out their third consecutive show in San Francisco last night. It was at the Rickshaw Stop and the only all-ages of the bunch. More importantly, it was a chance to prove staying power beyond the amassed buzz of blogs and magazines.
Both names could be seen steadily on any music hub during the past 12 months: Rolling Stone said Sleigh Bells released one of the best songs of 2010, Pitchfork dubbed them both ‘rising’ bands, and Spin demanded we listen with their “songs we must hear now.”
You get the point. Sleigh Bells and Neon Indian have built up a lot of attention and expectations. One of those bands showed up and proved themselves last night, and the other was overshadowed and easily forgotten.
This band from Texas has become synonymous with the term ‘chillwave.’ The loose genre has seemed to blanket any dreamy, distorted group that’s gotten attention lately, and has become a cheap, almost tongue in cheek label for the trendy music.
Enter Neon Indian. They’re a good band, there’s no questioning that, but for the most part it ends there. Quirky, sunny melodies are in style, and hell, I love it, but there needs to be more substance to the bands live show.
Front man Alan Palomo’s music isn’t particularly shallow or poor, in fact he has some great instrumental vision. But last night at the Rickshaw their sound was not very empowering and left the crowd mostly still. Maybe they were tired, it’s the band’s fourth show in the Bay this week, but they didn’t even seem excited when playing tracks off their upcoming release Heart:Attack.
Overall the set was a little too mellow, even through stony dance tracks like “Terminally Chill.” The songs didn’t translate very cleanly and the fun that their recorded sound exudes was barely tangible.
Neon Indian may have just been born at the right time, but they have yet to prove themselves as more than just Palomo’s day-dreams pressed into an audio file.
Talk about a “Deadbeat Summer.”
By the time Sleigh Bells set ended I felt like I had just been electrocuted in a cold shower. The four massive Marshall full stack amps that loomed on the back of the stage all night – each equipped with a saber of blinding light – were foreshadowing the power that was to come with the Brooklyn duo.
The two walked out to Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” instantly putting the focus on their heavy metal influences. From that moment on Sleigh Bells blasted through songs off their debut album, last May’s Treats, each of which seems to be a grimy hit in its own right.
On stage it’s just singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller, but they bring more than enough energy to fill a venue. I saw them over a year ago, but both seemed a hundred times more confident in their band and performance last night.
Alexis prances around like a taunting cheerleader, firing off falsetto lyrics right in people’s faces and locking fingers with screaming fans. Derek plays it cool, walking around dropping well-placed, crunchy power chords over massive beats. At times they would meet in the middle of the stage in a flirtatious huddle. Both demanded energy then shoved it right back.
The combination is lethal. Two songs in and I had forgotten that Neon Indian even played. A couple more and I was dripping in my sweat. Well, some of it was my sweat, but it’s hard to tell when the crowd is climbing all over each other. The atmosphere was explosive. I haven’t seen energy like that at a live show since Ozzfest or the crusty punk shows that got held in a local church.
That momentum was held until the last song, “A/B Machines,” though we got mercy breathing breaks during tunes like “Rill Rill” and a few other moments when Alexis was alone on stage.
The hype around Sleigh Bells was huge, but their sound has proved even bigger. I just can’t wait for the next time they come around.
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