Slaves with support from Baby Strange & Spring Kings
Wednesday 4th November 2015 – Limelight 1, Belfast
In the surprisingly crowed field of two-piece, guitar and drum only rock n roll combos, Kent duo Slaves has distinguished themselves via their refreshingly snotty punk attitude and snarky, state of the nation address lyrics. Singer/ drummer Isaac Holman’s barked delivery of said lines pushes Slaves closer to Nottingham vitriol merchants and critical heroes Sleaford Mods than Royal Blood, although Slaves opt for Laurie Vincent’s guttural garage rock riffs over the former’s primitive, Super Hans from Peepshow style electronic beats (the bands’ similarities have not been lost on Mod mouthpiece Jason Williamson, who recently called out the ‘fucking appalling’ Tunbridge Wells outfit in the NME for ‘ripping them off’).
Said criticism has done little to stop the Slaves juggernaut, with their Mercury Award nominated debut ‘Are You Satisfied?’ debuting at no. 8 in the charts and singles ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’, ‘Feed The Mantaray’ and the anthemic ‘Cheer Up London’ enjoying regular airtime on the Radio 1 Playlist, and the boys brought their chaotic live show to a baying audience in Limelight 1 on November 4th.
The sizeable crowd was first treated to Manchester art punks Spring Kings, whose Wavves-esque single City was recently chosen by Zane Lowe to be the first ever song played on Apple’s Beats 1 Radio service, before the crowd began to swell in feverish anticipation during grungey Glasgow three-piece Baby Strange‘s energetic set. Slaves took to the stage around ten, with the shaved-headed Vincent looking resplendent in his white boiler suit, and Holman taking up position behind his stand up drum kit, resembling a Jesus and Mary Chain era Bobby Gillespie crossed with an extra from Jeremy Kyle. Bursting into the super sarcastic 2012 cut ‘White Knuckle Ride’, Slaves send the Limelight crowd into instant rapture, with seemingly the whole room bouncing to the song’s sing-along crescendo ‘What the fuck happened?’. It was clear that despite the band’s reputation for social commentary, the crowd were not interested in any political sermons and were here for an anarchic punk party, which Slaves gleefully delivered.
Furious mosh pits developed left, right and centre as the band tore through numbers such as ‘Traffic’, ‘Despair’ and ‘Live Like An Animal’. By the time ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’ came on, Holman was shirtless, the sweaty intensity of his brutal drumming and harsh vocals channelling a young Henry Rollins. Set highlight ‘Cheer Up London’ had the crowd screaming back every word at Holman, who was clearly delighted as the raw energy he and his band-mate put into their performance was mirrored by an equally psyched up crowd. Asking fans to refrain from using their phones during usual set opener ‘Ninety Nine’ only added to the gig’s primal atmosphere. Looking around at the furious kids leaping up and down on Limelight’s dancefloor, it was hard not to think of Belfast’s original punks who rioted following the Clash’s famous cancelled gig in ’77, and one got the sense that anything less than a full set by Slaves may have the same outcome.
Running through fan favourite ‘In Dog Years You’re Dead’ and their recently Radio 1 Live Lounge Skepta cover ‘Shut Down’, fans assembled a gargantuan mosh pit for the devastating finale of ‘Hey’, which the sweat drenched and clearly exhausted crowd giving every last thing they had into unleashing any leftover, pent-up fury. And with that, Slaves were away, not giving into the crowd calls for an encore of album cut ‘Feed the Mantaray.’ They had delivered an exhausting, hour long assault on their crowd’s senses, and like all great bands, left their audience reeling yet hungry for more.