Let's just say getting through a massive Mardi Gras parade really gets you amped to see a show, even if your opinion of the headliner is that their output hasn't excelled. But that's the predicament I walked into Friday night as Republic hosted Sleigh Bells and opener Sunflower Bean. I had barely walked in the door when Sunflower casually marched onstage and let us know how happy they were to be playing their first show in NOLA. Hailing from NYC, the trio segued easily through their brand of casual yet aggressive garage rock.
The music, while generally upbeat and energetic, was still able to meander—if only for a moment—to a sort of pretty-sounding aesthetic. The nice mix was well-timed and gradual, and only added to their overall potency. I will say that after hearing of their live chops for a few years now, I wasn't disappointed, even if the meager crowd size could have been better. The drumming, the energy, and everything else they showcased made me wish they had shown up in my world earlier. The band, led by vocalists Nick Kivlen and Julia Cumming, and with Jacob Faber on drums, ended the set with a chaotic choice that mixed early 00s strokes and some extra spacey, retro vibrations. It wasn't full-blown cosmic dynasty, but it definitely helped leave the crowd with a pleasurable taste and anticipation of the final act of the night.
By 9:30, though, it was time for Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller, formerly of post-hardcore legends Poison the Well, to set the Republic ablaze in a flurry of strobe lights, crunchy guitar beats, and electronic blasts. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much (I had been really into their first album, but each subsequent release left me wanting more), but the overwhelming energy of the show had me questioning my own logic on this one. Song after song, all the way from "Infinity Guitars," with its snappy opening and body-moving qualities, to better-known fan favorites like "Rill Rill" and the wild, electro-80s-vibe-filled "Rainmaker," all added to the interest of the show. Krauss, with her wide-ranging but always solid vocals, brings so much more to the fold than her pretty face, which is always a plus in an industry full of just gorgeous but untalented people.
Overall, the band sounded as full of life as you'd expect from a band known for in-your-face stage shows and high-energy thrashy-dancey hybrids. Even a song that has a wild mix of all their best weapons like "Riot Rhythm" still came off sounding better than it should, which, of course, the audience ate up. The only regret I had was the size of the crowd. For a band that's way better known than the turnout suggests, I have to wonder if the busyness of Mardi Gras somehow played a role. Either way, those who were in attendance were treated to an awesome show that was well worth the trouble of actually getting there.
Photos by Steve Hatley.