Sleigh Bells shine at Rickshaw Stop through pouring rain

Photo of Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells at their concert
Can Jozef Saul/Staff

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As the rain played its own symphony the night of Oct. 24, an electric crowd packed into Rickshaw Stop, hoping to challenge the storm with the one brewing inside. Red velvet lined the walls of the San Francisco venue, serving as a backdrop for the audience’s growing chatter. Decked out in Converse and donning brightly colored hair, audience members mingled excitedly, retelling stories of their first shows over drinks from the venue’s bar. One concertgoer shared that they were on their third Sleigh Bells show of the tour, hopping from venue to venue to ride as much of the wave as they could before it ended.

Underlying the conversations was an eclectic playlist, bouncing from ’90s rap to vintage bossa nova to ’80s rock, perfectly fitting considering the melting pot of a crowd and the music they were excited to hear. Despite the small venue, the concertgoers spanned a wide range of people. The audience couldn’t be defined, but neither could the band — at least not in concrete terms. After an electrifying opening act from punk band Kills Birds, the time had finally come for Sleigh Bells to take the stage.

In the darkness of the unlit venue, Sleigh Bells took the stage bathed in the outcries of their fans. In need of no introduction, “Justine Go Genesis” from their 2021 album Texis pierced the speakers as strobe lights burst onto the scene with a projected light show.

Until it all cut out. Halfway through the first song, all sound and light abruptly stopped, confusing both the band and their crowd. In the brief limbo of technical difficulties, vocalist Alexis Krauss’ charisma didn’t miss a beat, whether the beat was actually playing or not. She immediately recognized a few of the members of the crowd, thanking them for their dedication and even the small gifts they had left in the past. Even fresh off the 11th anniversary of their first album, no intimacy between artist and fan had been lost.

Although the production was back and running for a moment, everything cut out once again during the band’s second song. “Leave the lights on static and just let us play,” guitarist and producer Derek E. Miller shouted out to the lights booth. After a few brief adjustments and a friendly conversation between the tech crew and performers, the show finally returned with just as much force as before, even with slightly less elaborate light schemes.

From that point on, the music was nonstop. Songs from across the band’s decadelong discography wove together seamlessly to construct a thrilling set. At first glance, it would be impossible to place the duo and its show in time. Whether the music came from this year or 2010, the audience clung on to every lyric like they had been listening to it for their entire lives.

Despite the technical difficulties of the strobe lights, the show’s quality took no hits. Under the minimal blue, purple and pink lights, Krauss’ voice was a siren song disguised in guitar, synth and cool drums. Hypnotizing the crowd with her effortless range and a tone like no other, the band felt deep underwater with little glimpses of sunlight peeking through as “Rill Rill,” from the duo’s first studio album, rang out.

Baked into the Sleigh Bells’ nonconforming sound were Miller’s impeccable guitar stylings, uninterested in defining themselves. Accompanied by the atmosphere-setting drums of Chris Maggio and Kate Steinberg’s effervescent synth and vox, everything about the night was tight — the venue, the stage, the set. After the audience begged for an encore, the night may have come to an end, but Sleigh Bells showed that their genre-bending sound is eternal.

Contact Afton Okwu at [email protected].