‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring except for Slaves, Ho99o9, and The Rhythm Method. Initially I was due to see Slaves back on the 25th November at Wolves Civic and when it got cancelled I was gutted and really hoped that I could see them at this show. Slaves have quite simply been my soundtrack to 2015.
I arrived at the O2 Institute just as first act ‘The Rhythm Method” came on. The duo of Joey and Rowan (trio for a couple of tracks) had something quite captivating about them. Throughout points of their set I wasn’t sure if I was actually watching a comedy act or whether they were genuinely serious about what they were doing. If I could describe their sound to you it would be like this – take Mike Skinner from The Streets, add him to a mix of 90s boy bands and possibly even some 80s pop bands and you would be in the right realms. The “Mike Skinner” artist of the duo was great to watch, with his Bez-style dancing and a certain swagger, he definitely had a presence on the stage. The interesting (or possibly annoying) thing was you could actually feel yourself singing along to the tracks – even though this was the first time you had heard them. Their track ”Local, Girl” is worth a watch on Youtube if you have time.
Main support came from Ho99o9, a band that I had wanted to see for a long time. There have been rumblings by various music sites about this band’s live performance leaving you mesmerized, and having heard both of their 2015 EP releases “Horrors of 1999” and ‘Dead Bodies in the Lake” I was quite keen to catch their set. I think that you can tell from the EP names that they aren’t purveyors of happy music. As they entered, the venue went into complete darkness, all you could hear was some high pitched feedback and there was the occasional strobe light going off. Having seen various punk and metal acts over the years I still don’t think I was quite prepared for their almost sinister set. When the lights eventually came up you could see the three piece, one dressed in a wedding dress and blue wrestlers mask, another with dyed green hair and the drummer with a blonde bobbed wig on. Their tracks varied from 30 seconds up to around 4 minutes I think, the constants came in the form of the mosh pit and the need to watch what they were doing on stage. This was punk music through and through, I think they will always be underground but quite simply this band was insanely good. If you like really early Beastie Boys or Death Grips I urge you to check them out.
It felt like no time had passed before we were treated to a blast of 1999 pop track Vengaboys “We Like to Party! (The Vengabus)” only to be cut short by the entrance of Slaves launching their set with “White Knuckle Ride” and the entire ground floor of the venue becoming a mosh pit. .
The crowd were up for Slaves tonight, you could clearly see that from all the moshing. Even drummer and frontman Isaac Holman expressed a bit of concern asking the crowd to “Take it easy you’ve got to look after yourself”, before swiftly moving things on with “Despair and Traffic”.
Considering this was a mid December gig the venue was so hot you could actually feel the sweat in the air, as such it wasn’t a surprise that Isaac took his top off whilst slowly starting to sing one of their singles “Sockets”. The track kicked in properly and the crowd went nuts it even felt that the band were surprised by the reaction when it finished with Isaac exclaiming “Fuckin’ hell Birmingham yeah! Am I in Birmingham yeah! Fuckin hell Birmingham we are Slaves and we’re from Kent yeah!” before exploding into “Live like an animal” and the album cover appearing as a backdrop.
During this series of live dates they have been performing some new tracks and the first of the evening was “Take Control”. Playing out new tracks at a gig can be risky and it seemed that the band wanted audience approval by saying “Hope you like it. We did!” Judging by the crowd reaction it went down well. This was clearly more than just a gig. This was a show and you couldn’t beat the storytelling showmanship of Isaac. Before every track there seemed to be a link, or a story of some kind. Before “Where’s your car Debbie?” Isaac took a seat at the front of the stage and launched into a story about walking a girl back to her car.
Audience favourite of the night had to be single “Cheer Up London” the bands commentary about London and the “sad faces, briefcases, shiny boots, and poorly fitted suits” that ride the London Underground. Isaac’s career advice may also have helped the crowd build up towards the track by saying “Tell the boss to fuck himself. You’re in control of your happiness. We’ve got a message to say to these miserable fuckers. Cheer Up London. Cos you’re already dead!”
I’ve never understood the person that stands at a gig with their mobile phone filming the entire thing and perhaps the band share my thoughts with Isaac almost encouraging fans to put them away “For this next one I want to see your eyes. Let us share this time together. Let us all remember this moment that we are all part of.” And then driving out ‘Ninety Nine’. This was followed up by ‘Sugarcoated Bitter Truth’ dedicated “for everyone out tonight looking for love.”
The final track of the night was the rabid and infectious single ‘Hey’ but instead of it lasting the usual 3 minutes we had an extended instrumental section where Laurie was crowd surfed to the sound desk and back whilst Isaac was perched up high on one of the speaker stacks. The crowd surfing was a shoddy affair but they got there in the end with the crowd being given an “E for effort” by the band.
The crowd had been given an E for effort but I would have to give both the band and the crowd an A for achievement. This was an all round intense offering from a band that is clearly bringing the underground into the mainstream. This is without any doubt the ‘punkiest’ gig that I have been to in a while and their catchy but raw sound stays in your system for days after. The ringing in my ears may well be self inflicted but it was totally worth it.
White Knuckle Ride
Despair and Traffic
Live Like An Animal
Take Control (New track)
Where’s Your Car Debbie?
Hypnotise (New track)
Cheer Up London
Sugar Coated Bitter Truth
OK (Feed the Mantaray B-Side)
In Dog Years You’re Dead (Sockets B-side)
Are You Satisfied?
Review: Imran Khan
Photographs: Chris Bowley