Photo Credit: Simon Sarin / Retna
Seeing Slaves on the 11th November was a day compared to no other. I first encountered the band on an episode of last year’s TFI Friday where they played The Hunter and outshone U2 on the show. I was immediately invested. A year later I found myself sat less than 10 feet away from the same band I saw on television, interviewing them with my heart – as Laurie (guitarist) said – “beating out of your neck, mate”. It was during this interview that I realised that, whoever it may be, musicians are just people like us. Although some may adapt a grandiose stage persona to make themselves appear not so much ‘like us’ (Alex Turner), they are normal people nonetheless.
This amazed me even more because I have never quite come across a band like Slaves. Admittedly, the ‘hardcore punk’ genre is discernibly quite samey with its robust playing style: distorted guitars, bassy drums, reverbed vocals, strong basslines and stops that feel unexpected. Slaves, however, do it differently. With only two members in the band, it’s virtually impossible to do all of the aforementioned (and more) at the same time. However, hardcore punk fans may question the respectability of a band playing live without one of these components. They would be wrong to do so. I can honestly say that Slaves was one of the best sounding gigs I have ever been to. The levels were perfect: you could hear every individual sound perfectly, whether it be the slight change of tone in Isaac’s chanty vocals or Laurie’s satirically-intended attempt at harmonising (which he pulled off subconsciously a few times and it sounded great). One thing I can’t stand about past gigs I’ve attended is not being able to discern what the vocalist is singing (whether I am familiar with the song or not); I did not have this problem at Slaves and this is a rarity. Kudos to the sound guys as well as the band.
The set list was quite diverse in selection: there were more ‘toned down’ songs than I had expected. Welcome additions included Steer Clear, my favourite song from the new album (where Isaac unexpectedly dons the bass guitar), STD’S/PHD’S and Cold Hard Floor (the song that Laurie told me he would include in Trainspotting 2 if approached). One of my favourite moments during the gig was when Isaac shared an anecdote with us, telling us that audiences tend to ask him where the hi-hat is on his kit his drum kit – they then erupted into song Fuck The Hi-Hat. It was evident the band didn’t stick to their intended set-list because, at lot like the song, they told each other to “fuck the set list”. Brilliant.
It should be honourably mentioned that this is the first gig since turning eighteen that I have attended sober (not that I need alcohol to have fun, it just ‘sorta’ happens). I can honestly tell you that I have never had such a wonderful time at a gig. Usually, my anxiety holds me back and I find myself confined to the sidelines of the gig, being a passive spectator. At The Great Hall, however, Slaves created an atmosphere which allowed for a frenzied state: jumping around like an uncontrollable fool, punching the air in revolt (must have been the election result), pulling the angriest of facial expressions; I was just unable to control my turbulent mood, hearing The Hunter in person and not on the television was a magical moment. Even with all of the dumbfounded stares I was receiving, I didn’t care at all. With all of the studying and stresses endured during the start to university life, Slaves was the best possible way to forget about everything and have an incredible time.