Best of SXSW 2010: Broken Bells, Sleigh Bells. Any more bells?

SLEIGH BELLS + Saturday, March 20 at Fader Fort

Our videographer P. Nick Curran was lucky enough to catch it on video: right up there is the moment SLEIGH BELLS became stars. Not that they were without buzz coming in. They emerged blog-famous from CMJ this winter; MIA's putting out their album in May. And there's no secrets about their appeal: ex-screamokid Derek Miller blaring feelgood metal riffs, ex-popsinging siren Alexis Krauss earning her tattoos with updated Digital Hardcore swagger, iPod handling the rest. Their best songs are nearly devoid of singing, geared towards chanting, and driven entirely by pulverizing rhythm. By the time the duo took the Fader Fort stage on Saturday – right before Bone Thugs N Harmony threw down with Lady Gaga – they were bathed in hype, not to mention in Hollywood-grade klieg lights and Styx-level machine-made fog. They’re not that big yet, and most of their songs felt better suited to sweaty basements, preferably with a junk PA and a strict under-30 door policy. But there were notable exceptions -- their underground hit "A/B Machines" imagining what "Galang" would sound like with axes and Marshall stacks; Miller whipping out AC/DC-like power chords and Lemmy-worthy metal chug; and their soon-to-be-smash "Crown on the Ground" levelling a crowd of streetwear nerds with air-raid guitars, earthquake synth stabs, and a Bomb Squad beat.

Here's some more highlights from their weekend:

VIDEO: Sleigh Bells perform "A/B Machine" at the Mad Decent Carniville [video by Michael Brodeur]

BROKEN BELLS + Wednesday, March 17 at Stubb's

Day one, SXSW 2010: AOL gets off the first must-read Tweet of the afternoon, announcing that Danger Mercer is gonna play a pop-up lunchtime gig in a parking garage on Red River, down the street from the Mohawk. Badges will not help you at these things. By the time we got there, kids were lined up for three blocks and hanging off the second-level chain-link fence to get a glimpse. Like this: 

So we had to wait until later that night, and even that was a sketch. Stubb's now seats about eight million people, and putting Broken Bells on right before hometown heroes Spoon guaranteed 40 billion pounds of humans in a 10-million-pound sack. The buzz gig was supposed to be Hole (until it turned out to be Muse), but Wednesday night was the crowded-est. And for good reason. The Danger Mouse/Shins thing is oddly better live than on record -- anything sounds better with people hanging from the balconies, but the band was crisp, clear, and epic. And fucking dark. Even without the right drugs, you could sense the downward spiral tugging at Mercer's high end, just as surely as his jangling guitars kept him above ground. 

Here they are in daylight:

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