Members of Norman rock band Hellen Kelter Skelter had tipped-off that Sleigh Bells are hot right now and they were correct. Well before the NY-based punk dance duo were scheduled to take the stage hundreds of fans were packing in tight front and center. It was Saturday evening, April 5, with the show set to begin at 8 p.m. on the east “lawn,” actually traffic circle, next to University of Oklahoma’s student union. The free concert was organized by OU’s student activities committee who did a professional job with all aspects including punctual start and conclusion times.
Ejecta opened the show. It’s a side project for Leanne Macomber of Neon Indian and Joel Ford of Ford and Lopatin. Ejecta played an upbeat flavor of synthesizer-reliant pop featuring Macomber’s stratospherically high soprano vocals. The songs were of the “You won’t see me anymore” and “One more kiss” variety performed at hyper-tempo. College boys wearing modern grunge were silly dancing together. Sorority girls still in fairy adornment from visiting the nearby Medieval Fair wandered into the ever-growing crowd. It was one of the largest gatherings for these campus concerts in recent memory. Between numbers Macomber got into a “I love you” and “I love you more” repetitive shout-out with members of her audience. It was precious.
After Ejecta finished their set there was a genuine sense of excitement in the crowd and sense of building anticipation. Sleigh Bells blasted on stage with their stellar tribute to r&b vocalist Minnie Riperton (1947-1979) titled “Minnie.” Front person and lead vocalist Alexis Kraus lit up the night with a fiery eye-opening stage presence. She’s a hot and happy powerhouse of a singer and performer. Anyone unfamiliar with Sleigh Bells’ music had to be unprepared for this exciting introduction. The duo’s oft-repeated description as being “noise pop” is totally off-base. Sleigh Bells’ song composer Derek Miller stalked the stage in camouflage shirt and trousers, wielding a tiger striped guitar.
“Oklahoma, you guys are too f------ good to us, this is too good,” Kraus said about the screaming response after their first number.
Right about then a cold light rain began falling which appeared to have no impact whatsoever on the audience. The show was too good to leave. Kraus never stopped moving. She was a whirlwind, one foot up on a monitor, singing with head thrown back and dashing from one end of the stage to another.
“It was the best of times/ It was the worst of times,” Kraus sang from the title track of Sleigh Bell’s album “Bitter Rivals.”
It was nearly 30 minutes before the duo relented from their torrid opening pace for a slower number. Stylish Kraus was wearing a short black jacket with leopard print trim and multi-zipper black hot pants revealing lacy top nylons. She had plenty to say between songs, leading her throng in a Boomer-Sooner chant and teasing them about the band’s next day show being in Texas.
“OU, you better show Texas what the f--- is up,” Kraus hollered, encouraging them to dance more.
The rain wasn’t letting up but Sleigh Bells didn’t either, piling on ever more dance music.
“You guys all right? You’re not too wet are you. Clock to the beat, here we go, you ready,” Kraus said before locking into a jungle soul percussion-heavy knock down.
At this point guys were starting to crowd surf toward the stage. Sleigh Bells was down for this and promised successful surfers a place on stage. By the show’s finale the entire stage was packed with former members of the audience. The duo concluded with happy birthday greetings to “Abby and Kay” but didn’t sing the traditional song. It was more like an acapella chant. By this point Sleigh Bells had their happy damp crowd in the palms of their hands.
Sleigh Bells' vocalist Alexis Krauss had stage presence-plus at their OU performance.