Since you’ve clicked the link and I have your attention, I’d like to start this off with a chat about V-Day itself. I don’t have the hatred many people do when it comes to the holiday, and I think it has very little to do with being in a relationship. In my family, Valentine’s Day wasn’t really a romantic holiday as much as it was a full on celebration of the people you love, no matter your relationship to them. We’d always have a special family meal, everyone would get chocolate, it was a damn good time. To this day, I get excited about the holiday, because it’s a great reminder to treasure the people you love, and more than that, to remind them how much they mean to you. I understand it’s a day largely fueled by capitalism and that we should show our love and appreciation for our partners (or friends / family members / coworkers) everyday of the year, but you could say that shit about any holiday.
What I’m trying to say is, I love having an excuse to eat good chocolate (shout out to Rheb’s Candies!) and have a nicer than normal dinner (shout out to my boyfriend!) and if you also want those things you should go out and get them whether you’re in a relationship or not. Take yourself shopping, buy that person you really love working with flowers, treat yourself and a friend to a nice dinner. Do things that make you feel good!
That being said, while I usually spend February 14 braving the crowds and prix fixe menus, this year I switched it up and went to see Sleigh Bells at the 9:30 Club, and it was much better than I anticipated. I wouldn’t call myself a huge Sleigh Bells fan, but like most other people my age (shout out to being 25?) Treat was the soundtrack to most of the parties I went to in college. While none of their albums have captured my attention in the same way since then, there are a few newer tracks that have found themselves on my daily listening rotation.
I was lucky enough to catch them at U Street Music Hall in 2017 and that show was one of the best concerts of my life. Everyone was dancing and jumping around, but no one was being a dick. It was sweaty and intimate and it felt like I was at the coolest house party on the planet. Since the 9:30 Club is considerately larger than U Street Music Hall, I didn’t expect them to be able to replicate the energy and mood of their U Hall show. I was mentally prepared to be a little disappointed and I was ready for the crowd to be sort of weird. I think I have a more optimistic outlook on Valentine’s Day than the average person, so I assumed I’d either be surrounded by hordes of couples making out or surrounded by hordes of single people not making eye contact (or maybe trying to pick each other up). Luckily, it was far more normal than that. With it being a sold out show, it was hard to guess how many couples vs. non-couples were in the audience, but from where I was standing it seemed like a pretty even mixture.
All of that was pretty much forgotten as soon as Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller took the stage. They kicked the show off with “Blue Trash Mattress Fire” off of Kid Kruschev and from that point on the energy didn’t stop. Krauss is a performer that knows how to work a room and it’s hard to take her eyes off of her as she bops around the stage like a ball of energy. One of the things that impressed me at the U Hall show was how they managed to make that cramped room feel like you were in a stadium, and while the 9:30 show didn’t quite have the same effect, the way Sleigh Bells sounds live is astounding. I’ve always though of their songs as less like ear worms, and more like someone has taken a screwdriver to your skull (in the best way), and that’s amplified ten fold live. It’s a carefully crafted wall of sound that you want to dive right into. Their stage set up tends to be pretty minimal, but everything else about the show is larger than life.
I love the 9:30 Club and I don’t want to seem flippant, but it’s the venue where good crowds go to die. For some reason, I don’t know if it’s the size or the shape of the space, but people there just don’t want to move. It doesn’t matter if I’m seeing Chromeo or Best Coast, 90% of the crowd won’t dance. They’ll just stand there silently like hipster parodies. It’s maddening. The crowd at Sleigh Bells took their sweet time warming up, but eventually they started to move… right before the concert ended. Which is really my only complaint about the show. Sleigh Bells started at 9:30 on the dot, and everything was over by 10:20, maybe 10:25. I understand that’s the perfect amount of time for some people, but it felt incredibly short. I’m sure these shows must run Krauss ragged, she’s always moving and actively engaging with the audience. From crowd surfing to jumping down into the pit and singing, I’ve never seen a band that loves their audience the way Sleigh Bells does, but I wanted more. Maybe that’s a feature and not a bug, but it felt disappointing.
Regardless, it was the raddest possible way to spend Valentine’s Day. Losing your mind while Krauss belts out “Rill Rill” is an energizing experience and if I could kick off every morning with a Tiny Desk style Sleigh Bells performance, I’d be a more self actualized human. Whenever Sleigh Bells comes back, I’m going to see them. It’s just too much fun to miss out on.