The Brooklyn Masonic Temple, NYC
Party Pop Coated in Metal
Their album had only come out that morning, but when Sleigh Bells‘ front woman Alexis Krauss played Treats‘ most down-tempo track — “Rill Rill” — she paused after the first verse.
“You guys know it? You wanna sing it?” she asked the audience — a packed, sweaty mob that clamored to touch her; this vixenish hipster with heavy, kohl-rimmed eyes has become Brooklyn’s own pop idol. They knew every word. Krauss turned the mic down toward the mosh-pit so everyone could scream the lyrics – “Call your friend / pick up the phone / ring ring call him back / tell him ’bout the new trends.”
The new trends. At least in Brooklyn, that new trend would be Sleigh Bells. Last night’s show at an old Masonic Temple in Bushwick was sold out the week before — a feat for a 500-head venue in a seedy stretch of town. Local mags have literally charted the electro duo’s quick rise in awe. Already signed to M.I.A.’s label (N.E.E.T.) and with heavy press, the band we gave a nod to as Top 25 of 2010 could have sold out Webster Hall. But instead, this week saw them at two local Brooklyn venues that seemed too small and downtrodden for a band of their oomph to play. We wondered if it could be calculated move. Maybe they rose too fast and now they’re buying their street cred? Or they just wanted to come home from Coachella to some place they knew? We won’t pretend to know.
(Check out our awesome slideshow by Joanna Farah — with plenty of close-ups of Krauss and her ardent fans…)
The scene at the Ridgewood Masonic Temple was surreal. On busted up sidewalks, ticket-less twenty somethings in Uniqlo ponchos waited patiently in the rain for stand by tickets. We headed into a schmaltzy / decrepit foyer — carpeted in pink, where an old letter board announcing the day’s activities hung barren. Past that — through swinging doors that opened into the grand hall — all of sweaty Brooklyn was crammed in, with the volume turned high. Upper balconies looked down on the opening band — the bright, peachy Sundelles who played the type of Weezer-ish pop rock that churns up memories of the ’90s. (The band’s last song sounded exactly like Nada Surf…) Not exactly the right fit for this crowd. You could feel the pent up energy in the room. The audience was like a pack of crouching cats, waiting to pounce on pre-fab beats.
Next up was The Cults. Like an LA hipster version of the Partridge family, every member was long and lean, sporting a mane of well-brushed hair. With no MySpace page to speak of, little is known about them… We think they’re from NY? The demure lead singer — in a super mini eggplant-colored smock — looked like their kid sister. After a few childish, twee tunes that sounded unrehearsed and messy, they launched into “Go Outside” — the giddy single on their first 7″, which scored a “9″ from Pitchfork. The audience clapped in recognition. But The Cults only sounded like a bad cover band covering their own material. When they flounced off the stage, we wondered if they had been booked as a kind of depressant — intentionally boring an audience that had come in too revved up. Because where the Sundelles mimicked the ’90s and the Cults looked to the ’60s — Sleigh Bells had sounded, at least on the recordings we’d heard, like something totally new: a mash-up of metal and power pop that we’d described here at MTV IGGY like a “powder-puff coated in chrome.”
As soon as the Cults were off, the audience surged forward to the stage. Derek Miller, swathed in a black hoodie, rushed around plugging things in then went backstage for the length of two or three pop songs. When he came back out with front woman Alexis Krauss, the crowd went wild. Krauss — in a tie-dyed black-and-white hoodie, carried in a tambourine and a bottle of water which she set aside to launch into “Tell ‘Em,” the first track off Treats. “What’s up, Brooklyn?” she asked, and got a roar in return. The mood immediately turned floor-thumping, screeching, moshing, jumping, and sweat-soaked. Beach balls appeared out of thin air along with an inflatable shark. Kids stage-dived and crowd surfed. And the stage — unlit but for a muted purple bulb — was regularly illuminated by the strobe light effect of digital cameras.
See! We weren’t exaggerating how dark it was! Footage of opener “Tell ‘Em’”:
A quick set buzzed through their hits — “A/B Machines” with its hypnotizing chorus; “Infinity Guitars” with its pleasing, long-simmering intro; and “Treats” with its squelchy buzz. They ended on “Crown on the Ground” — the single that solidified the band’s reputation as indie royalty. On the chorus, Krauss mimicked taking a crown off her raven hair and setting it into the audience. And with that — she fled.
After only a minute, Krauss wandered back on and jumped into their girliest, poppiest hit track, “Rill Rill.” Everyone sang along. And when the band signed off and the house music came up, Krauss and Miller lingered at the front of the stage — shaking hands and chatting with the Brooklyn kids who launched them. This band may be at the crest of the hype wave, but we’d like to believe they’d rather be playing a seedy DIY show in the middle of Brooklyn than anywhere else.
– Joanna Farah and Adriane Quinlan
Crown On The Ground