A mix tape containing Abba, Mary J Blige and Fleetwood Mac ends abruptly, and as they gaze with trepidation at the tower of Marshall amp stacks above them, a furious torrent of unidentifiable death metal pours down upon tonight’s audience. They’ve already warmed to TEETH!!!, who were a riot of primal screams, pounding percussion and Kill Bill-style sirens. They’ve also danced themselves dizzy to JD Samson’s MEN, who manage effortlessly to be simultaneously confrontational and euphoric. However, half-blinded with white light and deafened by a high-decibel barrage of distorted bass crunches, the onslaught provided by Sleigh Bells is something else entirely.
Tearing straight into 'Infinity Guitars' and 'A/B Machines', Alexis Krauss is initially only visible as a hooded silhouette against a bank of strobe lighting, but still compelling to watch. During ‘Kids’ she prowls menacingly along the edge of the stage and, much like Alice Glass or Alison Mosshart, enthusiastically whips her hair, leans into the crowd and grabs at the sea of outreached arms below. Derek Miller prefers to lurk in the shadows, casually embarking on a full-scale invasion of the auditory canals. Such is the cacophonous wall of sound which ensues, it’s often difficult to determine whether he’s playing a guitar or firing a machine gun at us.
Having served their apprenticeships in both hardcore punk and bubblegum girl-pop, it’s easy to see why label boss MIA gave her the nod of approval. It’s essentially Atari Teenage Riot juxtaposed with Destiny’s Child (and we’re frequently reminded of the potential greatness of that rumoured collaboration with Beyoncé, should it ever surface). Tonight, a celebratory 'Crown On The Ground' ends with Alexis diving head-first into the pit of raised hands. And that’s it. Ten short, sharp blasts of visceral ‘Treats’. No messing, no compromising and no encore. You wouldn’t want it any other way.
By Kevin Robinson