Sleigh Bells at Grand Central, April 30

View photos from Sleigh Bells at Grand Central here.

Sleigh Bells
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Grand Central, Miami

Better than: Playing cowboys and Indians.

Yeah, 45 minutes is a pretty short set. But you can't blame noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells for the quick performance. They only have one album, Treats, under their belt and most songs clock in under three minutes. But for each quick song, Derek E. Miller and Alexis Krauss make sure to pack a lot of punch.

In front of a wall of Marshall amplifiers, they had the sell-out crowd at Grand Central thrashing and mashing to every track. Krauss, sporting a number 23 "Slay Bells" jersey, quietly sang through song after song while Miller supported her with backing vocals and guitar.

We are still reluctant to say Treats is the amazing album critics made it out to be. (The songs all start sounding the same after a while.) But the fact that Sleigh Bells can make sense out of such chaos is impressive. Whether it's the high school marching band romp "Riot Rhythm" or the swagger of "A/B Machines," the hooks are undeniably catchy. Fan favorites, "Infinity Guitars" and "Rill Rill," had the crowd loudly singing along with Krauss.

But the duo owe as much to EDM as it does to New York punk. As quick and dirty as every track may be, Miller's production is complex and heavily layered, which must be hard for the duo to replicate live. It reminded us of the time we saw YACHT live at the Electric Pickle. Instead of trying to recreate its sound live, YACHT kept it simple with prerecorded tracks, leaving them to focus exclusively on the singing. It worked well.

It's obvious, though, there is a live aspect to Sleigh Bells. In addition to being on guitar, Miller had array of pedals and switches nearby. How much of what we heard was prerecorded (if at all) was unclear to us. That said, the translation of Sleigh Bells' songs into a live performance works however Krauss and Miller do it. We can only imagine part of the fun is figuring out exactly how they manage to accomplish the feat. 

If you saw Sleigh Bells' performance as tour opener for LCD Soundsystem at the Fillmore Miami Beach, you can't help but note the similarities to the show at Grand Central. The expansive Fillmore stage caused a disconnect between the duo and the crowd -- although we clearly remember fans gladly eating up the entire performance. Yet Grand Central's smaller digs definitely suit the duo better. This allowed for better crowd interaction from Krauss.

If there was one sore spot to last night's show, it was the obvious absence of Brazilian band CSS, who due to contractual obligations with Ultra Music Festival was not allowed to perform so soon after the event. (CSS and Sleigh Bells are currently on tour together.) A pity, really, considering the size of the crowd at Ultra for CSS's performance was perhaps a third of that at Grand Central last night.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: The louder the better.

The Crowd: A tri-county gathering of South Florida hipsters. So much irony under one roof.

Sleigh Bells' Setlist:
-Intro ("Iron Man")
-"Crown on the Ground"
-"Tell 'Em"
-"Riot Rhythm"
-"Infinity Guitars"
-"Rill Rill"
-"Straight A's"
-"A/B Machines"

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Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran