Hot Chip Invigorate at Lively Warfield Show

Photo: Bright star. Playing at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre on Sunday night, electropop act Hot Chip put on a colorful, energetic performance.
Jeff Totten/Staff
Bright star. Playing at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre on Sunday night, electropop act Hot Chip put on a colorful, energetic performance.

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When you're in the fitting room in Urban Outfitters, you hear a lot of things, including girls calling out to their boyfriends with whiny entreaties they know you're listening in on:

"Hey babe, you want to go to the Treasure Island Festival or see Sleigh Bells tomorrow?"

"Uh, I don't know."

"I really want to see Sleigh Bells" - they always draw out the 'l's - "Also, we totally have to see Broken Social Scene on Tuesday."

This might be indicative of much of the crowd that came to see Sleigh Bells and Hot Chip at the Warfield on Sunday night, and representative of the younger sampling of attendees that came expressly for Sleigh Bells, the recently emerged noise-pop pair championing a distorted sound.

While singer Alexis Krauss and guitarist-producer Derek E. Miller mash punk, metal, electro and hip-hop, the grunge is paralleled by Krauss' clear, innocent vocals. With their debut album, Treats, out earlier this year, the band has formed a following among those whose musical aesthetic is similar to that of Urban Outfitters' look - distressed, yet relaxed who came in droves this past Sunday to see the band.

The opening act provided more of a disconnect between themselves and the main act - while it's clear that their music takes on the influence of hip-hop's deep rolling bass and thick beats, it's not until you see Sleigh Bells live that you can really understand how far the hip-hop vibrations extend. With reverb so strong it lingers in your throat and an audience that mimicked a typical hyphy crowd, gesturing with their arms motioning up and down, parallel to the floor, the band's set was kind of like ... a hip-hop show?

Krauss alternated screams and honey-coated vocals, with an energy undone by a guitar that swallowed up her sound. According to the band's strategy, louder was better, and "noise" took precedence over "pop." While the band channeled a pumped-up energy, the full sound was contradicted by the simplicity of the set-up - two kids, playing on a stage, waving their arms with an occasional generic, "What's up (San Francisco)?"

Playing the role of more genial hosts on the Warfield stage were Hot Chip: "You could've seen Belle and Sebastian," said guitarist Al Doyle. "So thanks for watching us."

Whereas Sleigh Bells' sound might have been misinterpreted by some as noise, Hot Chip's was accompanied by a deliberate fullness. Band members came on stage one by one, each beginning to play their melodies overlapped those before them, forming layered harmonies. Sunday's Hot Chip wasn't the Hot Chip of Coming on Strong, their quiet and more contemplative debut album, but embodied a varied, dance-heavy sound.

Flowing from song to song to create one cohesive aural display, Hot Chip's increasingly insistent rhythm was of the seductive kind, massaging into the audience. Each track showed an apparent layering of thick yet clear sound, also evidenced by the visible aspects of the performance. Musicians switched from synth to guitar to bass to drums, with swelling four-part vocal harmonies as backgrounds. It was a convincing argumentative performance, stating its case: We rock.

Some bands' appeal isn't far-reaching, stuck only in its genre, or not very effective in moving the audience beyond the first 10 feet away from the stage. Crowds these days are hard to impress and even harder to move in a physical sense. Hot Chip's synth beats finagled their way into a fluid crowd, which danced on the floor and even in the balcony.

Hot Chip as a band gives you the feeling that they're performing for you, while still enjoying themselves and playing with good humor and graciousness. "Thank you. We love you," band members said at the end of the night, taking their only respite before a four-song finale. On the way home, there was further affirmation of Hot Chip's won't-stop-can't-stop style: "If Hot Chip's taught you one thing," said another concertgoer, "it's 'take no breaks.'"


Frequent an Urban Outfitters fitting room with Liz at [email protected]

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