Got to hang with Tunbridge Wells' finest for the first date of their rescheduled tour.
I'll be honest - when I'd heard that the previous Leeds date of the Slaves' tour was rescheduled due to Isaac knacking his shoulder, I wasn't at all surprised. Each of their previous four shows I'd been present at had been progressively more brutal, culminating in an epic Live at Leeds headline set last year at The Brudenell. That was one of the most frantic shows I've ever witnessed - a sweaty fog of aging punks climbing over me, having to concurrently balance on the edge of the stage and prop Laurie's amp up, dashing on stage whilst they threw themselves into a manic crowd - it was just epic.
In some ways things have changed a lot since then. On the back of the cult following the guys have rightly amassed, small venues aren't really an option. This time round, the heaving Brudenell was the heaving Academy, which rapidly hit capacity not long after being upgraded from Leeds Beckett SU.
I headed down the Academy early doors to catch up with the guys and take a few snaps. I pottered around whilst the guys sound-checked a handful of tracks (forgot my earplugs. Very, very bad idea) we had a bit of a natter, then the guys headed off for some R'n'R prior to the show whilst I cracked on with some editing.
If I'm honest, I was a little apprehensive about seeing the guys on a big stage for the first time. You tend to find on larger stages that some of the intimacy is lost, that there isn't the same connection between the act and the crowd, and part of the raucous charm of Slaves' live show can be attributed to that "small club" feel. The Academy present the guys with a challenge of having lots more air to fill, to make a big venue feel punk, and they did it.
Walking out to Vengaboys' classic "We Like To Party (The Vengabus)" - a sign of how seriously they take things - the boys powered straight into "Ninety Nine", Isaac immediately powering away at his kit whilst Laurie prowled the stage in familiar fashion. Any doubts about how the show would resonate in a larger venue were instantly dispelled. They totally owned it.
It's safe to say that over the past 12 months Slaves' have possibly made as many enemies as friends. Some people love them, others less so. I certainly stand with the former, having seen these guys develop from a couple of cheeky guys ripping up the second stage at Beacons to tearing up an Academy sized venue. They've given punk a bit of a wake up call, whilst not being afraid to be "cool". They don't take themselves too seriously, belt out great social commentaries, and have a great time doing it. If that's not punk, I don't know what is.
"Debbie, where's your car?"