In 2012, after my junior year of high school, Sleigh Bells’ debut album,“Treats,” was the noise-pop soundtrack of my summer. Those screeching, blaring guitars and machine gun-like drum machines stole my heart immediately.
Fastforward to last night — Sleigh Bells performed at Newport Music Hall and made my heart explode in the best possible way. The road to recovery will be long after this show.
But before I get into Sleigh Bells’ set, I have to talk about its opener, Tunde Olaniran. I had not heard of him prior to last night, but his set made a fan out of me. The Flint, Michigan, native flawlessly and effortlessly combined hip-hop, soul and electronica to create beautiful and infectious dance beats. If that weren’t enough, on stage with him were two incredibly talented dancers who he managed to dance along with while rapping and singing his heart out.
I think I can safely say that Olaniran was the best and most well-received opener I have ever witnessed at a venue like Newport. Anyone who hasn’t heard of him should look up his work.
I will admit now that I am not as familiar with Sleigh Bells’ last two albums as I am with “Reign of Terror” and “Treats.” There is something about the production in its newer music that I am not as attracted to — it sounds too clean and polished.
Also, a problem I keep having at Newport is the sound. Sleigh Bells already makes very bass-heavy music, and the sound system seemed like it was only concerned with bass and low-end, so a lot of the melodies and treble got lost, making some of my favorite tracks nearly unrecognizable at first.
That being said, everything Sleigh Bells performed, be it old or new, was incredibly fun. Vocalist Alexis Krauss and lead guitarist Derek Edward Miller, the two founding members, know how to give the hardcore treatment to everything they perform.
Krauss might be one of my favorite performers I’ve seen live. I don’t know how, but she managed to sing her trademark sugar-sweet vocals, mixed with emphatic screaming, while also running and throwing herself around stage the whole time. She seemed to be everywhere at once.
Miller, ever the yang to Krauss’ yin, hung back looking solemn and stoic as he focused on ripping his guitar. The different energies the two musicians brought to the stage were interesting to watch, and is also possibly a reason they work so well together.
Most of the show was one big blur, likely from all the head banging I was doing, which I take as a good sign. I can’t remember the last time I was at a concert with this level of relentless energy; it felt like the entire crowd — myself included — collectively lost its mind.
Building on that point, I want to say that I am not usually a violent person. I love mosh pits and general rowdiness during shows as an idea, even though I am usually not brave enough to participate. However, towards the end of the show Sleigh Bells hit the audience with “Infinity Guitars” and “Demons” right in a row, and I kind of really wanted someone to punch me in the face.
Despite not being physically assaulted, last night was just about everything I wanted from a Sleigh Bells show, and I can’t wait for the next one.