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Sleigh Bells @ Mad Planet

Oct. 26, 2010

Oct. 28, 2010
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Tuesday night’s concert from the hyped Brooklyn noise-pop band Sleigh Bells was the kind of genuine, hot-ticket event that Milwaukee doesn’t see often. That’s not to say that the city doesn’t host its share of buzz bands—at least a handful travel through every month, but the most high profile tend toward the Pabst Theater and Turner Hall Ballroom, spacious venues more than able to handle the demand. Sleigh Bells, however, was booked at Mad Planet, the cramped and darkly lit Riverwest dance club with low ceilings, limited sightlines and a basement-like ambiance. The show sold out quickly, leaving desperate fans searching for tickets on Craigslist. In other cities, none of this would be particularly novel, but in a city pampered by central downtown venues with ample seating and dependable 8 p.m. start times, the show was a rarity: a heavily hyped concert fans actually had to work to attend.

Following opening sets by Sundelles, an innocuous pop-punk group, and Pictureplane, a “witch house” DJ whose clunky set sapped the crowd’s energy, Sleigh Bells began their brisk set shortly after midnight, backlit by strobe lights. Because of the venue’s short stage, diminutive guitarist Derek Miller was invisible to all but the closest audience members in front. Bombshell singer Alexis Kraus was easier to spot, partially because of her height advantage, partially because she was so frequently airborne, leaving a trail of tossed black hair with every jump and every flail of her head. She was less front-woman than hype-woman, hovering over the crowd, inciting them to clap and squeal along to the band’s incessant, blown-out backing tracks.

Including the encore, the performance was only 32 minutes and it felt even shorter, though thanks to that brevity there was never a lull in the set, never a moment when hands or cameras weren’t in the air. By 12:40 Sleigh Bells had exhausted their scant songbook; the audience wanted more but the group had nothing more to give. When the lights came up after their encore, Kraus directed the energized audience to “keep it going for the house DJ!”—though, since there was no house music, the crowd filtered toward the exit feeling like diners at a tapas restaurant, happy with their meal but not quite full.

Photo by Nadia Olker


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