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Music

Sleigh Bells Don’t Tinker with Success at the Fine Line

The noise-pop vets brought along two great openers.

Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells
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Sleigh Bells made a triumphant and rambunctious return to Minneapolis at the Fine Line Saturday night. After rescheduling the tour for their sixth album release, 2021’s Texis, the band—known for filthy guitar riffs, infectious hooks, and pissed-off head-cheerleader vocals—gave fans exactly what they wanted. And the opening acts left fans stunned even before Brooklyn duo Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss appeared. 

Neither bandmate is a stranger to performance: Miller started making noise on the guitar as a teenager in the metalcore group Poison the Well, and Krauss’s background lies in theater and television with experience in a pop band as a teen. After they linked up in 2008, their debut album, Treats,  staked their claim as gritty, blasty, rhythmic noise-pop pioneers. With 14 years and half a dozen albums behind them, they’re sometimes criticized for a lack of growth. Sure they’ve added more instrumentation, and certainly, they stand out less in a musical atmosphere where bangers from hyperpop acts like 100 gecs, Dorian Electra, and (R.I.P.) Sophie crush listeners’ skulls on a regular basis, but it must be noted Sleigh Bells walked so those bands could run. In a musical arena that makes it tougher for them to stand out, what makes them unique? In an increasingly narcissistic world, Sleigh Bells, especially lead singer Krauss, is a band that gives a shit about the people in the crowd. 

When she’s not on stage, Krauss is advocating for spending more time outdoors. An avid adventurer who spends time kayaking, rafting, hiking, and climbing, she invests energy in empowering high school girls and gender-expansive youth through rock climbing with the leadership program she co-founded, “Young Women Who Crush.” And that’s not just a hobby: Krauss is also a wilderness first responder and New York state-licensed climbing guide. Online and onstage, she’s playful, personable, and creates spaces where people feel welcomed, which was reflected in the opening acts chosen for the Texis tour. 

Local Afro-Latina musician turned restauranteur Moodie Black kicked off the night with her signature otherworldly noise rap. Glitch-stricken visuals and beats hammered through the Fine Line during her performance. Some moments of the set were spooky and hypnotic, with droning, grinding drum machines and the noise of slapping chains carrying through the room while Santa Muerte imagery flickered on the screen onstage. Red lights flashed like a warning while echoing vocals resonated as singer Kristen Martinez swapped between spitting fast-paced raps, ghastly moans, and guttural screams, pulling the crowd into her emotional landscape. Martinez ended the set symbolically by tearing down her image as she ripped away the screen that was showing videos of her throughout her life, leaving the amped-up crowd ready for the next performers, N3ptune and Rusty Steve. 

N3ptune’s bio describes him as a “proudly queer singer/songwriter, producer, dancer, model, actor, and director.” I would describe him as a totally captivating performer with star power that rivals some of the best pop divas out there today. The genre-bending, gender-playful performer was in full command of himself, whipping long braids around as he clapped ass, did the splits, and vogued in a one-piece bodysuit and a neon green fuzzy jacket he removed after the first song. N3ptune bounced from punky, venomous hip hop lines (“I’m the bully not the bitch”) in songs like “Wedlock” to countrified gospel and blues into tracks like “White Pony” and “Black Horse.” 

Rusty Steve’s sizzling guitar riffs, with a fuzzed-out tone that immediately summoned the spirit of Prince’s signature solos, made each song grittier and more sensual.  One industrial tune had a nearby friend saying, “That sounded like Beyonce meets Nine Inch Nails!” They hauntingly covered Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” adding a moment of slow, soulful stillness to an otherwise rowdy set. Despite the variance in the genres, the one perfect throughline was N3ptune’s impressive vocal range, from Toni Braxton lows to soaring, powerful Lady Gaga highs—and attitude to match. 

The crowd was whirring after the two vivacious openers and ready for blast beats, gnarly riffs, and bubblegum hooks. Blipping blue lights and strobes kicked off as “Justine Go Genesis” began with Krauss singing “Now I’ve got my ticket to ride,” as attendees themselves strapped in, enthusiastically punching the air and bouncing. Miller’s acerbic guitar, a live drummer hitting the skins HARD as hell, chaotic and crushing synths, and backup singing paired with Krauss’s sugary voice kept the momentum going. Throughout the night, Krauss stopped to thank the crowd for being patient with the reschedules. She engaged the fans, chatting with someone with her face tattooed on him, stealing a hat from a crowd member and popping it onto her head for part of the song, then returning it. Later, she checked on a fan who had a failed crowd surfing incident. These kinds of interactions are what make Sleigh Bells fans love the band, moments imbued with accessibility and care. 

It doesn’t hurt that the music was designed for stomping and singing along,  and Sleigh Bells covered songs from their entire catalog throughout the night. Miller’s whining guitars on “Riot Rhythm” set the crowd into near hysterics, “Rule #1”’s plucky, twisting guitar and unsettling glam rock vocals kept the crowd moving, and “Locust Laced” off of Texis hearkened back to the sounds from Treats that keeps fans coming back for more. Sleigh Bells wrapped their encore with another ear-smashing classic, “Crown on the Ground,” as countless sweaty, shiny-eyed attendees screamed for more as they finished. If Sleigh Bells’ set proved anything, Saturday night, it’s that critics be damned; if nothing’s broken, why fix it?

Setlist 

Justine Go Genesis

Riot Rhythm 

Tennessee Tips

Demons 

Rule Number One

Kids

I Can Only Stare

Locust Laced

Bitter Rivals

Infinity Guitars

A/B Machines

SWEET75

Rill Rill 

Encore

And Saints

Crown on the Ground