Day #186: Hot Chip – “Ready for the Floor” (Soulwax Remix)
Philippe, Ali, and I spent our night parked in camper chairs at a weirdly half-crowded Sleigh Bells/Hot Chip show at Merriweather Post. I don’t know if the minimal attendance was the result of potential concert-goers being overly cautious (we had been sacked with rain most of the week, and today was our first with sun for most of it), or that they just didn’t know what to make of these bands who sent Sunday out with a full on blast. The crowd seemed young and easy-going enough, and the setting intimate enough, that we could have probably gotten a game of tag or something going on the lawn. It was just that kind of night. A perfect setting for a rescue- mission, and by chance, giving our friend reason to savor the last hours of freedom – before an impending 2-month rotation from hell. I was sure the Hot Chip show could provide the remedy.
Sleigh Bells took the stage first, maybe as shared headliners. I haven’t figured that out. I’m not too familiar with them. When they arrived on scene, they were one of the more successful co-ed synth duos. I don’t know how that image got stuck in my head, because singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Miller are well older than the skinny hoodie duos (these!) I’ve been lumping them together with. I liked “Rill Rill,” so that was encouraging. (If I don’t already know a band before I see them at a show, I prefer to go into it blind because sometimes, the live version turns out to be a much better introduction than a recording).
The band is promoting their second album, Reign of Terror, which came out earlier this year. In an interview before that, Krauss prefaced it by saying that this time around, “It sounds really huge, so there’s going to still be tons of volume.” It certainly is. The stage setup was about as minimalistic as you get for something that still requires plugging in: Alexis on vocals was flanked by Miller and their touring guitarist, Jason Boyer. All three stood in front of two sets of 2 x 3 stacks of huge Marshall amps.
If Howard Moon discovered a new note between B and C (appropriately called Howard’s Note), I think Sleigh Bells discovered the hybrid for volume. A singular hybrid representing this perfect meld of metal and electronica; a thunderous clap and bass kick played at full volume. They could a crack in the Hoover Dam with that, and they used it a lot.
Honestly, how are these guys not deaf as shit?
But it’s just the strangest mix of sounds, including the melancholia lyrics of some songs. Like the way a song is if the tempo keeps changing unexpectedly. But, naturally, with that kind of volume and the lights and everything, the kids were really into it. Or at least, most of the kids who bought tickets for the covered seating section appeared pretty amped as the cameras for the Jumbotrons passed over them. They probably knew what to expect for this show.
Sidenote: to the girl in the neon shoes at the show – if you ever read this, can you tell me where I can find a pair of those?
But maybe Sleigh Bells have created what they have as a result of sort of divergent backgrounds. Miller came from the hardcore scene, which explains the metal aspect. And Krauss, this tall, dark-haired, tattoo-clad woman in sensible shoes – the typical “hard rock chick” look – who took the stage came from completely opposite roots. Her Wiki page (which Ali guessed might have been written by a proud mom) notes that she was in an ad for Nickelodeon Magazine where she dutifully winked for the camera, and later did stints in bubblegum pop bands. Then the pair crossed paths in Brooklyn — and more specifically Williamsburg (what the hell is it about that place?!!) — and BAM! Sleigh Bells!
But, being more of a fan of pure electronica (my brother introduced me to a lot of stuff by European DJs over the years), I was anxious for James Murphy’s (LCD Soundystem) DJ sets (damn you Sound Hound for not recognizing a single remix!) and of course, Hot Chip, who currently reside on Murphy’s DFA label. You know, it’s the whole beats and bass and minimalist vocals kind of thing that gets you moving if you’re so inclined. When that happens on a big stage, drenched in lights and big sound, that’s when music becomes primal (a raver somewhere is probably going “duh!”). Almost like being at a dub show, although dub tends to be primitive in the direction of being sexual.
Anyways, I would almost be willing to say that Hot Chip is one of the best live bands, except that it’s a little harder to really feel that energy standing way back on a half-empty lawn. The London sextet have been around for more than a decade, so they’re all a little older. And plenty goofy looking. Like, their song, “Night and Day” (the way I feel about you baby/In the middle of the night/There’s just one thing that I can do/To make me feel alright) is a lot funnier when you realize it’s this 5-foot chubby Englishman in a sort of mock collar singing all this (they’re hardly the first of funny-looking dudes making beats). But, then here’s these guys you wouldn’t expect, and next thing you know, they’re joined on stage by Questlove for a late-night stint on Jimmy Fallon’s show. See, the nerds did inherit the Earth.
I wonder if they come up with a lot of these songs while on the dance floor at a club somewhere. Like, “Hey, I went out with the guys tonight, and then this event happened, and I came up with something for it and it goes like this.” And, it becomes the rough sketch for “Ready for the Floor” or “Over and Over.” Something like that. And, they play with that kind of energy, too, everyone compelled to move as they’re putting together all these hi hat hits and guitar strums and synthesizers and everyone. All they needed was for the stage to start rotating, but I guess that’d be a little too campy, if not altogether distracting. And, what’s really great about that stuff is that it’s almost never the same. Bands must get really tired of performing the same songs over and over again, but it seems like if Hot Chip does, they just tweak and add some new sounds, and suddenly, that old song is fresh again.
They came to rock the party, and they did (except that whole unexpected cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”). Take note, Hot Chip is a band best consumed live. Get close if you can.