Over 3 months after they were originally meant to play at The Shipping Forecast, Friday night’s rescheduled Slaves gig not only showed that the Kentish two-piece know how to prove their worth but also that, despite their ever-increasing success, they have their leather clad feet firmly on the ground.
The ground in question was the stage of Slater Street’s Shipping Forecast, which was impressively set by Glaswegian support act, Baby Strange. Despite a set worthy of genuine recognition, the 150 capacity crowd remained relatively subdued, immediately filling my head with questions as to whether it was going to be one of ‘those’ gigs – with an audience too cool to enjoy themselves, resulting in a band too cagey to perform expressively. How wrong was I?
Taking the short trip from backstage, the headline act was welcomed with great anticipation by an audience ranging from pubescent ‘pitters’ to pint-wielding pensioners. A screeching rendition of ‘White Knuckle Ride’ saw them in nicely, giving them a chance to size up the situation. The garage punk outfit then introduced themselves – Isaac Holman on drums and lead vocals and Laurie Vincent on guitar and backing vocals – before swiftly drop-kicking into an onslaught of heavy hitting, pummelling snippets of Tunbridge Wells struggles, cutting straight to the sometimes blunt and often bizarre point with themes as unfamiliar as the setup of their band.
I have always admired a performance that can either make a big room seem small or a small room seem big; Slaves’ execution of the latter was a prime example of a band utilising what they have at their disposal. Like true entertainers they filled the stage, despite their lack of numbers, and confidently commanded their crowd to fill the dancefloor, culminating in what must have been one of the most impressive displays of crowd surfing the Shipping Forecast has experienced. Constantly encouraged by the almost poetic jibes of the now half-topless duo, the crowd’s participation was faultless and pivotal to the success of the night. However it was the two punks up top that quite rightly stole the show. New material in the way of ‘Feed The Mantaray’ and ‘The Hunter’ displayed a steady, yet effective approach towards a more widely welcomed punk variation. The former’s demise into a tuneless twist of a rendition of Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ provided further evidence of continued appreciation of what got them to this position of such potential.
If you were to try and choose an appropriate time and place for a band like Slaves, you couldn’t get much closer than a Friday 13th, flirting on the doorstep of Valentine’s Day, down in the dungeons of the Shipping Forecast. With tales of questionable love juxtaposed with jaunty anecdotal quips and social judgements – epitomised by tracks such as ‘She Grew Old’ – their powerful yet looping instrumentation combine to inject a real sense of excitement, as well as pride, in witnessing a band at the dawn of their long term success connect so well with audience and venue alike.