Sleigh Bells and Hot Chip @ The Warfield

10/20/2010

Sleigh Bells: “Infinity Guitars

[audio: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/11598506/Sleigh%20Bells%20-%20Infinity%20Guitars.mp3]

Sleigh Bells and Hot Chip are playing at the Warfield, and I’m supposed to review the show. I know this. But I’m jet lagged. I’m on German time. My body is screaming for currywurst and sleep. Fortunately, afternoon whiskey and power naps are a decent substitute and I make it to the venue on time and feeling smooth.

Sleigh Bells’ stage set-up consists of two microphones and eight Marshall amps all stacked at the front of the stage, and nothing else. I am immediately suspicious. Where are the instruments? The guitarist walks out with a guitar and answers my question. Distorted dance beats with a heavy bass line kick up. There is no DJ, only the guitarist and the singer. But music is blaring from somewhere. It’s very loud. The singer comes in with her lilting, sing-song vocals, which the guitarist punctuates with a few riffs, but the musical heavy lifting is being done by the pre-recorded tracks.

I hate to criticize Sleigh Bells for not having a backing band, but this is a bit extreme. Have you heard the album? Then you probably don’t need to see the live show, because seventy percent of it is the rhythm tracks on the album cranked to ten. It occurs to me that the only way the set will be different or unique is if someone makes a mistake. And literally, just as this thought enters my mind, the guitar comes unplugged, sending roadies scrambling across the stage. Am I telekinetic? Maybe.

After Sleigh Bells do their thing, it’s time for Hot Chip to take the stage. Like Sleigh Bells, they are also an electronic dance band, but they play all their instruments live. Hot Chip has a unique sound. Listening at home, it always sounded to me like electro Paul Simon or maybe a dance version of The Smiths. But as soon as they kick into their first song, I realize I’m wrong. I see their outfits and their stage presence and their attitude and how it meshes with their music, and it all clicks.

Have you ever seen Revenge Of The Nerds? Remember that scene when the nerds put on a concert and blow the jocks off the stage? That’s Hot Chip. They are the reincarnation of nerd rock. I think John Hughes should rise from the grave and make another movie just so the Ducky character can wear a Hot Chip button on his jacket. It just fits so perfectly. Listen to a song like “Thieves In The Night” and tell me I’m wrong. I admit that sometimes the movie in my head is so awesome that it overrides reality, but whatever the reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I stood at the back of the crowd and visualized 80s romance montages with tears and pouring rain and misty memories and last chances and just general teenage drama and I was totally entertained. Next time I’ll bring popcorn.

-Written by Erik Thybony and Photographed by Victoria Smith