Saturday’s show at Revolution was meant to be the first of two South Florida tour dates on producer/DJ/label head Diplo’s extensive “Paradise Lost” tour of our state. For whatever reason, the headliner himself dropped off Fort Lauderdale’s date — though he’ll dutifully appear Tuesday night at Grand Central, in Miami. With a reduced ticket price (and price-difference refunds for those who had already purchased), a later start time, and the addition of Miami’s Jacuzzi Boys to the bill, the show still went on. What’s more, fans still turned out by the hundreds to crowd Revolution for a now-headlining set by Brooklyn duo and Diplo-BFFs Sleigh Bells.
What this crowd of meticulously coiffed and lipsticked women, and their artfully mussed dates, were not there to see, as it turned out, was much by openers Liturgy. Though this fellow Brooklyn act has appeared on this entire tour, the package of performers could hardly be more bizarrely matched. Despite skipping the costumes and rigid rules of most black and extreme metal bands, that is, exactly, what Liturgy plays. That leaves the band in an awkward position. Thanks to the lack of makeup and a refusal to bend to the metal underground’s sense of propriety, that scene won’t have the group. Neither, as it turns out, will most cool-kid types hoping to pump well-manicured fists to Sleigh Bells.
Besides clear general lack of audience interest from the beginning, a couple other things went wrong with Liturgy’s set. The first — not the band’s fault — was a lack of volume. The best live metal experiences are those in which the music is loud and all-encompassing. When you can hear the inane cocktail chatter of the people around you marking time until the next act, it loses a lot of its punch.
Next — and this is the band’s fault — was the lack of a drummer. Instead, frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and second-guitarist Bernard Gann played along to a drum machine/laptop setup. This is a shame. The drumming on Aesthetica — lightning-speed, powerful, insanely sharp and on point — was one of the record’s best features. Former drummer Greg Fox left the band last fall, and yes, this was a big loss. Still, surely a replacement could have been found by now, at least for the tour.
Without the trademark black metal tap-tap-tap-tap snare, the music lost much of its urgency, no matter how perfectly shrieky Hendrix’s shrieks still were. Without all that, and without much else added, the set really never achieved the kind of transcendental liftoff that it could have. This would have been better in a small club, with a full band, and an appreciative crowd — not one that started a goodbye chant for the band to leave as Hendrix and Gann exited the stage. Alas.
Oddly enough, Liturgy effectively served as the warm-up act for late additions the Jacuzzi Boys. Despite playing all over the country (and soon Europe), within South Florida the Boys only infrequently travel north of the Miami-Dade County line. This was one of the largest local venues in which they’ve performed, and thanks to their sunny party-time sound, their welcome was instant and warm.
Judging, again, by the crowd chatter, many didn’t even realize the group was local. But regular JBs favorites new and old like “Smells Dead,” “Cool Vapors,” and “Glazin’” went down as fizzy and sugary as bottled Coca-Cola. After Liturgy’s exercise in seriousness, the audience appreciated a change for a good time. No, this was nowhere near as rowdy a celebration as the Boys usually get on their 305 home turf, but by the end of the set there was enough of a mini pit going to fit the bill.
Random fact: Jacuzzi Boys frontman Gabriel Alcala was the only musician of the night to acknowledge Whitney Houston’s passing a couple hours before, via a T-shirt hastily permanent-markered with the words “Whitney Houston For Life.”
Headliners Sleigh Bells, naturally, drew the most anticipation and enthusiasm from the beginning. However, the group — guitarist/founder/main songwriter Derek Miller, frontwoman Alexis Krauss, and now a second guitarist — again proved itself to be sort of the inverse of Liturgy. If Liturgy is a lot of substance with little attention to style, well …
Alexis Krauss has a great look, sort of like a high-maintenance ex-punk girl who’s graduated to high heels and expensive accessories. She makes a fun frontwoman who looks good gesturing dramatically under low lighting. She can get the crowd hyped up with an energetic bouncing-around dance and crowd-involving stage patter.
By the same token, Miller is a skilled guitarist with a knack for interesting textures and epic-sounding song beginnings and breakdowns. These are great when they’re taken as single-track doses. Live, again, they do not totally work when strung together.
When the group opened for LCD Soundsystem in Miami with Krauss, she sounded as though she relied heavily on vocal backing tracks. These were largely gone this time, so she stuck mostly to her louder yell than the breathy coos you often hear on the group’s recorded tracks. This adds to the aggressive, vaguely militaristic thrill of early blog hits like “Rill Rill” and “Crown on the Ground.” But when they come in quick succession in a show, everything pretty much starts to sound like “Rill Rill.” And many of the songs still seem, despite the new guitarist, unfinished and slightly undercooked — a lot of sound and fury that doesn’t always build up to much.
Still, they look good, sound better after a few drinks, and sell nice merch — we saw at least one $65 basketball jersey get sold. For many, this may be enough.