If the prospect of a self-described “transcendental black metal” band, a fuzzed-out noise pop duo, and a powerhouse dancehall DJ all playing under the same roof doesn't sound at least oddly intriguing, then Saturday night’s show at The Ritz would probably fall somewhere on your fun scale between finger-web paper cut and cold shower.
Naturally, with my impeccable timing and precise knowledge of exactly when a show starts, I missed the opening set by Brooklyn black metal outfit, Liturgy, which frankly sucked. Fronted by Columbia grad and black metal theory essayist (no, really) Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Liturgy plays a brand of seemingly ironic, but surprisingly well-crafted black metal that feels much more at home in a snowy Norwegian forest than the city apartment it was likely crafted in. According to fellow friends at the show, Hunt-Hendrix and drummer played much to the cold shoulder, shock and near-disgust of the Ritz’s vast majority, which fits right in line with their genre's beautifully fuck-you ethos.
Sleigh Bells were next. Shrouded in a thick fog and backed by a wall of half-stacks, the duo and an accompanying guitarist entered the stage, launching into “True Shred Guitar” off their upcoming LP, Born to Lose. The track itself sounded a bit discombobulated and quickly fell to the wayside as front woman Alexis Krauss commanded all attention, half due in part to being a total babe and the other for notoriously working just as much as an emcee or cheerleader as she does as a frontwoman.
That’s not to say that Sleigh Bells’ sound doesn’t absolutely annihilate in a live setting, though. Their blend of crunchy, Black Album-era toned guitars, pummeling machine drum beats, and Krauss’s soaring, angelic vocals, was born for the confines of a dark, musty concert hall like the Ritz. Highlights off their instantaneously classic debut LP, Treats, were all played with the matched vigor and chest rattling intensity as the album.
I wish I could say the same for the five new songs, including the opener. Maybe this isn’t the place for compositional analysis, but if these songs are any indication, their upcoming LP is going to be a far cry, a cuddly kitten if you will, to the saber-toothed tiger Treats was. I’m lumping five songs into one here, but if I was, say, being chased by the fuzz after a high-stakes bank robbery, there’d be no question that Treats would be a way more fitting soundtrack to the roar of my El Camino speeding down the highway than the majority of this handful.
Regardless, Sleigh Bells mesmerize in a live setting. Their collective on-stage energy could easily compensate for many more pitfalls than they actually possess and the sheer spectacle of it all is well worth the time.
Diplo rounded out the night with a trunk-bumping flow of everything from dancehall to reggae, dubstep, hip hop and seemingly whatever else came to mind (Marylin Manson’s “Beautiful People” anyone?). This was that time of the concert where the alcohol and other illicit substances had really seeped into many a’ bloodstreams. Diplo’s hyped-out DJ set, sprinkled with his various remixes and Major Lazer tracks couldn’t have been more fitting for a crowd largely willing and able to break it the fuck down to anything with a semblance of a pulse. His set at Deluna Fest in Pensacola last year was a little wilder and definitely ballsier in musical scope, but Diplo held it down well for his own 90 minutes.
Overall, this deranged line-up (even just between Diplo and Sleigh Bells) should work as an indicator of just how fun small-scale crossover shows like this can be. In the internet age of endless hyperlinks and rapid fire entertainment, maybe transcendental black metal, noise pop, and a world-renowned DJ set all in one night isn’t exactly as crazy as it first seems.