Late last month I saw Sleigh Bells at the 9:30 Club. Had been a while since I saw them at that venue (they did a co-headlining tour with CSS a few years back that was epic – though the area in front of the stage was so crazy at that show that I opted for a balcony spot this time around). Their most recent show I’d caught was at the Verizon Center opening for RHCP, so clearly this was a much better setting for their ass-kicking music.
Doldrums opened the show with some good dance music, though this being DC no one really danced to it, so the resulting vibe was a little awkward. As they changed over the stage for SB, I was surprised to see so few amps on stage. SB is the only band I’ve ever seen with more amps than Dinosaur, Jr. They literally had a giant wall of Marshall stacks the last time I saw them at 9:30. At that show, the music they played between sets was so loud that I needed ear plugs. This time around they played 90s RnB at a reasonable volume. Fortunately, when they finally came out the volume was just as loud and obnoxious as you would expect from the act. SB and DJ remain the only bands that I ever need or want earplugs for. In Spinal Tap terms, they turn it up to 11.
They are currently touring with a drummer and second guitarist. So that added a different dynamic than just having Alexis and Derek rock out on stage. The set started out a bit lackluster. They started with songs from Bitter Rivals and Reign of Terror (and not even the best songs off those albums) and Alexei’s voice sounded a little shaky. She would get better over the course of the show and the crowd slowly warmed up. I like all three SB albums, but Treats remains their best by far. From the balcony you could see noticeable differences in how the audience reacted to the different albums. Everything would be relatively calm, even with Alexis asked the crowd to dance with her, until a Treats song came on, at which point the crowd would erupt with such ferocity that I was thrilled to be in the balcony, away from and able to watch the ensuing mayhem. I’ve been to many punk and rock shows at 9:30. You’ve never seen a crowd go crazy until you’ve seen a Treats song live. “Kids” was the highlight of the middle of the set. They ended their set with “Infinity Guitars” and ended their encore with “A/B Machines” during which an obese elderly man (60+) crowd surfed. So that was amazing.