In 2010, I woke up each day in Queens, NY and took the N train to the Flatiron district. The walk from the train stop to the publishing company where I worked was just enough time to listen to a few songs off Sleigh Bell’s first album Treats. The blare of “Tell ‘Em” was the shot of adrenaline I needed each morning. Seven years and another coast later, I was about to see them live for the first time, and feeling a little anxious.
Luckily, opener Tunde Olaniran was beyond welcoming. “This is a safe space,” he said warmly, spreading his arms out slowly as the opening crickets of “The Highway” filled the El Rey. Olaniran commands the stage like a mystic healer in a Broadway musical, his two background dancers acting as as extensions of his own body, moving and twisting about him. In 2014, Tunde told AudioFemme’s Lindsey Rhoades “I come from the band mentality where people pay their money, you gotta give ‘em show. So I really just try to incorporate choreography, movement, fun pop, really hard hitting beats.” Olaniran doesn’t disappoint. He manages to convey difficult topics like homophobia, violence, and racism within a tight package of syncopated beats and soaring vocals. When he asked those in the audience who don’t normally dance to dance, the air in the room shifted as people obliged.