Die Antwoord/Sleigh Bells
Phoenix Concert Theatre
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
July 20th, 2010
Proving that the hybrid-music era is in full swing, Sleigh Bells and Die Antwoord brought their co-headlining tour to the Phoenix in Toronto, Canada Tuesday night and a frantic crowd was there to greet them. Products of the new wave of genre-defying acts, both projects have taken elements of hip-hop, electro and various other musical influences, and crafted a style uniquely their own. Following in the footsteps of recent successes like The Go! Team and M.I.A., as well as countless lesser-known genre-breaking pioneers, both Sleigh Bells and Die Antwoord have infused the musical landscape with rich and colourful offerings that appeal to a vast spectrum of fans. In a world where selling records is inexplicably harder than selling needless and expensive gadgets, one has to admire their creativity in broadening an audience.
Brooklyn-based Sleigh Bells opened the show with an intense strobe-heavy performance. Tearing through tracks from their debut album, “Treats”, multi-instrumentalist Derek Miller and charismatic vocalist Alexis Krauss pumped up the crowd with their brand of electronic post-hardcore dance punk as Miller played blistering distorted guitar riffs and Krauss took control of the stage. Signed to M.I.A.’s N.E.E.T. Recordings imprint, the beloved Pitchfork buzz-band had their work cut out for them, living up to the hype generated before their record even hit the shelves. They did just that, proving that an act relying on predominantly pre-recorded music can produce a scorching live set and connect with an audience in ways most bands would only hope to aspire to. Beginning with their album opener “Tell ‘Em”, Sleigh Bells gripped the audience and plowed through their 45 minute set in the blink of an eye before anybody had the chance to exhale.
With the venue brimming with ZEF gear, it wasn’t hard to tell that the crowd was primarily there to see Die Antwoord. Consisting of Ninja, Yo-Landi Vi$$er and DJ Hi-Tek (not to be confused with the Cincinnati-based producer) – though DJ Hi-Tek was replaced at the show with his cousin Vuilgeboost due to Tek’s fear of flying – the Cape Town trio are a testament to the power of the internet. With no physical album yet released, they packed the Phoenix on the strength of their viral music videos and digital debut, “$O$”, which was originally available for free on their website and is currently awaiting a proper release on Interscope (those too eager to wait can download the “5” ep on iTunes which collects some of those tracks). The crowd was frothing at the mouth for the performance, evidenced by a steady stream of stage diving encouraged by the band while Ninja himself took the plunge towards the end of the show. Die Antwoord kept the energy at a peak level throughout, eschewing some of their more down-beat tracks in favour of their harder-hitting work, alternating between old school hip-hop, U.K. grime and a warehouse rave without missing a step in their hour-long set. The fact that a hybrid hip-hop act from South Africa who don’t always rap in English can come to Canada and sell out a show is a victory of the modern wired world; that they can then leave the crowd begging for more is a victory all their own.