While waiting for Sleigh Bells to start their half of a double bill with Nas at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater on Saturday, excited audience members explained to friends what to expect (“It's like this guy who plays super loud guitar and a girl with a really pretty high voice”) and discussed the merits of the band's new LP Reign of Terror. Taking the stage in a blast of strobe lights and in front of their minimalist set – a black-and-white banner and a wall of Marshall amps – guitarist Derek Miller, singer Alexis Krauss, and touring guitarist Jason Boyner tore through nearly an hour's worth of material from their two albums.
Krauss has become an increasingly powerful performer since Sleigh Bells' last SXSW appearance in 2010, and the addition of another live guitarist has made them a more dynamic live act; punishingly loud from the start, they now have more modes than blowing the audience's hair back with volume. Two songs in, the Texas heat forced Krauss to ditch the signature studded leather jacket she wears on stage. She then strutted along the crowd barrier during "Riot Rhythm" and crowdsurfed without missing a note of "Rill Rill,” and by the end of the set she was glowing, bangs plastered back on her forehead.
"All right Austin! I want to see you guys losing your shit!" Krauss yelled at one point. It was nice of her to say Austin even though almost everyone was from somewhere else.
The floor crowd pumped their fists and sang along, and the set felt a lot more like a band playing to excited fans than an industry showcase. And that's probably exactly what was going on.