Unless you’re a construction worker, there probably aren’t many reasons you’d find yourself in the industrial part of Brooklyn where BK Steel is situated on an ordinary evening. Nevertheless, the new venue is fast becoming a hot spot for live shows – especially with mid-week lineups, like last night’s, that redefine how cool a Tuesday can be. The one-two punch of NYC’s Sunflower Bean, supporting the acclaimed Brooklyn-based noise pop duo, Sleigh Bells, made for a locally-rooted show that pulled in a substantial crowd, even in the bitter cold.
“We’re from New York City…it’s the best city!” proclaimed Julia Cumming as Sunflower Bean strolled on stage to the sound of loving applause, already laden with song requests and shouted compliments. As guitarist Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Farber got the room rocking hard to “Burn It,” Cumming tore into the basslines and let her confident, effortless vocals tie everything together. Like the private NYC show they played a few weeks ago, Sunflower Bean supplied a mix of favorites from their 2016 debut, Human Ceremony, as well as a nice taste of their new record, Twentytwo In Blue, which is due for release on March 23rd. Sneaking in a surprise between songs, they also announced they’d be playing another NYC show at the Bowery Ballroom on April 26th. In a shimmering all-white suit that was pure rock & roll, Cumming flipped her hair over her face, wielded her bass like a weapon, and excitedly jumped in time with Nick as he strummed. While the early crowd was clearly obsessed and impressive in size, the rising band remained humble. “If you’d told me five years ago that we’d be opening for Sleigh Bells,” Cumming said incredulously, “I would have slapped you in the face!”
Later, when Sleigh Bells appeared, they showed the same level of admiration for their openers. “I first saw Sunflower Bean at Baby’s All Right like three years ago, and I was like, ‘Fuck! Who are these kids?’” recalled frontwoman Alexis Krauss. “So to have them on this tour and see how much they’ve grown is amazing.” With their own supply of lasers and a barrage of strobes in store, Sleigh Bells kicked off their set with the defiant beats of “Blue Trash Mattress Fire,” showing off the tremendous breadth of Krauss’ vocals and the rapid-fire guitar work of Derek Miller. Combined with the loud and snappy percussion of their backing tracks, the full effect was a sound that shook your bones and controlled your pulse – and the audience was eating it up with pleasure. Their first fit of screams seemed to push the band’s energy over the edge, and without hesitation, Krauss (wearing a bright red Miami Heat jacket) was all over the stage, thrusting her mic stand into the air and throwing her body into each note she sang. “Fucking Brooklyn!” she exclaimed after a nice thrashy start. “I’ve got to catch my breath – you guys are too much!”
“It means so much to have you guys come out,” Krauss added warmly. “I see a lot of familiar faces that have been coming to our shows since like 2011, so this city means a lot to us.” Their fans responded with unrestrained affection and hands held high in the air, fully prepared for the next opportunity to dance. It came quickly, of course, and Sleigh Bells’ unique flavor of infectious, hard-hitting pop rock was infused with adrenaline throughout their 13-song set – which was topped off with a 3-song encore of “And Saints,” “A/B Machines,” and “Rill Rill.” And long before she had jumped into the crowd to soak up the energy, Krauss had summarized the whole night in just a few breathless words. “Seriously… I can’t stop smiling,” she confessed. She wasn’t the only one.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley