Concert Reviews

Over The Weekend: CSS and Sleigh Bells at the Granada Theater

Sleigh Bells, CSS
Granada Theater
April 22, 2011

Better than:
sticking around for the headliner, apparently.

Perhaps it was to be expected given the circumstances at the Granada Theater on Friday night -- Sleigh Bells, who couldn't be hotter at the moment but only have 35 minutes of material, had to tour with CSS, who hasn't released an album in three years but has two to their name and another slated for this summer, in order to fill out a proper bill  -- but the exodus that came after Sleigh Bells' set and before Cansei de Ser Sexy's still stood out, if only because it was so massive it couldn't be ignored.

As if reason alone didn't already make it clear, the fact that a third of the crowd had left the venue by the time CSS was 30 minutes or so into into its offering definitely did: Despite CSS getting top billing, this was a Sleigh Bells show.

No surprise, really: Sleigh Bells' Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss have been the darlings of the indie scene for well over a year at this point, spurred on by 2010-released debut full-length, Treats, which smartly blends noise-pop, distortion and a lo-fi sheen into arena-ready offerings for the hipster set, and this was their first ever Dallas appearance.

They didn't disappoint: Strutting and posing before a row of Marshall stacks that recalled a Dinosaur Jr. set, Miller and Krauss, whose live set is indeed Shazam-able given how much of it is pre-recorded, offered the crowds exactly what they wanted -- high energy, incredible volume and, well, Treats in full because that's all they have to their name at this point. Which was fine, and all that could expected -- right along with the driving guitar play from the black-clad Miller and the coquettish fronting and cooing from Krauss. The concept: Sensory overload, and plenty of it. When not being blasted by the sheer volume of the performance, audience members were swept up by the background strobe lighting. When the strobes halted and the volume dipped, it was Krauss, clad in a red, Chicago Bulls-aping basketball jersey that read "Bells" where it should've read "Bulls," hyping the audience up through clap-alongs, jump-alongs and any other -along one can conceive.

It was a fully entertaining offering -- in the way that Sleigh Bells are expected to entertain, and to a T, over the course of their full, it's-all-they-have 35-minute set. The crowd seemed pleased and contented. And enough so to leave the venue entirely, it became clear. Upon the completion of their set -- for which there was no encore -- the audience turned and high-tailed it, creating a foot-traffic jam at the venue's entrance until CSS' set began.

Those people never even looked back at the stage. Shame, too. Entertaining, if formulaic and expected, as Sleigh' Bells set may have been, CSS' was more so, and specifically because of its unexpected highlights.

The band -- yes, a full-on band that can create their own music and needs no pre-recorded piped-in sounds -- shimmied with glee, smiles spread on their faces throughout their hip-shaking and cowbell-filled offerings. But despite their efforts and their own ploys -- lead singer Lovefoxxx entered the stage dressed as a matador and slowly stripped down to booty shorts and a half-shirt -- the air was already let out of the room. The balcony, which had been full thanks to the venue's being sold-out on this night, had been completely vacated. CSS and its members didn't seem to care through their 45-minute offering and 15-minute encore. Nor did the super fans down front.

But it was tough to ignore.

Hype had reared its ugly head at the Granada on this night. And, fun as it may have been in the moment, it felt somewhat shallow.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
People seem to either love or hate Sleigh Bells. Many of my friends hate them and like to give me crap for seemingly loving them. Thing is, I don't really love them. I like them very much -- as a sign-of-the-times band, a lightning-in-a-bottle thing. I'd like to see more out of them in the future, but I wonder how much of their success was just being in the right place at the right time. Now that I know that they perform a good, entertaining show -- if one that also felt a little manufactured -- here's hoping that's not the case.

By The Way:
Lest it wasn't clear from the tweets that filled the Granada Theater's video screen tweet-fall board between Arrested Development quotes, yes, Glee's Mark Salling, a Dallas native, was indeed watching the show -- or at least Sleigh Bells -- from a private booth on the balcony.

Random Note:
What's the common courtesy at play when you go to a show to see an opening act? Are you supposed to stay for the headliner? Is it bad form not to do so? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman