A vestige of the 70s, the punk genre is a DIY tool for expression and sticking a middle finger up to adversity. Wild, colourful, iconic and utterly unpredictable, the genre’s influences still swamp the music scene today, and when you’re in the presence of a quality punk band then it’s an experience that you’ll take to the grave with you. Punk is not, however, about profit margins and being forced into pre-ordering an album before you’re allowed to purchase a gig ticket – and don’t let Slaves convince you otherwise.
With a frenzied hype on their side however, the two-piece band are popular within mainstream music – and that’s a convention that I found both intriguing and confusing before seeing them do their thing upon the stage. So, what was their live performance like? Let’s delve into it.
Opening the event were Estrons, a prolific amalgamation of The Kills and Blondie. Admittedly, it may have taken the group a couple of songs to warm up, but once they did it was the equivalent to the detonation of a bomb. Stealing the show in particular was Taliesyn Källström, heaven’s answer to the seamless frontwoman, with a voice that knew no limits. She was fiery, ardent, nauseatingly talented and yet still amiable. Fortunately, the remainder of the band followed suit to this rule likewise, and together they merged their seeping talent and propelled themselves to rock exaltation. Estrons are a band to look out for!
An alteration in atmosphere was soon to arrive however. With sweat saturating the walls, Slaves swaggered upon the stage at the prompt time of 9pm. Ignoring the exceedingly un-punk early kick-off however, I opened my mind and joined the sea of expectant audience members. What was delivered may have had the crowd chanting along fanatically, but to me, I was left cold from the unremarkable song offerings. There was nothing stand-out or illustrious about their set-list, and even recent hit Spit it Out flailed like a dying fish in terms of genuine, believable passion. Yes, their stage-presence was aesthetically intriguing, seeing as drummer Isaac Holman spent an unholy amount of time milling around upon the stage, but every last interaction was exacted for one precise reason: their image.
For mainstream music lovers Slaves’ set provided an energetic act of punk rebellion. For those more versed in the genre however, the two-piece were the epitome of contrived meets predictable, in a way that a middle-class audience would lap up like ravenous dogs. Their stage-energy was calculated; their demeanour was the wrong side of conceited; and I was left feeling nothing but sorrow for all of the enthusiastic bands that I’ve seen recently who didn’t receive such a wide-spread audience.
Perhaps I’m merely desensitised to live music after being spoiled with quality bands recently. Or perhaps I just don’t understand the nonsense that warrants Radio 1 airtime. Whatever the reason, I’m left with one firm conclusion: Slaves aren’t sticking their middle-fingers up to adversity. They’re sticking them up to true punks fans.
Words by Keira Trethowan
Photography by Craig Taylor-Broad