Slaves + Baby Strange LIVE @ The Institute, Birmingham 18.05.15

It may be a wet, rainy Monday night but there’s no stopping Slaves in laying down an energy-filled and punk-driven set. Last time they visited Birmingham was as part of the NME Awards tour earlier this year, but with themselves setting the rules, there’s no stopping the Kent duo from letting things go wild.

Far from their T.Rex glam-rock inspired name, Baby Strange comply with the punkish theme of the night with angsty, primal riffs that don’t waste time in sparking a storm in the crowd. Frontman Johnny Madden’s slightly unnerving, repetitive pleas of “violate me” in ‘VVV’ gradually rile the crowd until more and more join the slamming of bodies right up front.

Their brooding riffs let lose somewhat in ‘Luver’ and ‘Friend’ but keep the same formidable punch that the trio have become known for. With one last call for some pit-action by Madden, the Glaswegian band close their set looking effortlessly cool and a lot of Facebook likes up.

Finally it’s time for Slaves who saunter on stage and hit things off with ‘White Knuckle Ride’. Their venomous punk style isn’t shy in kicking in and initiating the chaos which doesn’t show any signs of relinquishing right till the very end.  ‘She Grew Old’ and ‘Live Like An Animal’ continue the same brash chants and clunky melodies, ensuring their first impression was a good, energy-filled one.

Choosing Birmingham as the only show to see the collision of punk and grime in their recent Live Lounge cover of Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ could only make the crowd even more on their side. Cheers erupt from everyone as the coarse hooks and lavish drums take over the Library making it only inevitable for pits to break out everywhere and there to be crowdsurfers galore.

Taking punk back to its 70s roots is what Slaves do best; even the mundane questioning of the location of Debbie’s car in ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’ doesn’t detract from their cutthroat façade. Other fan favourite ‘Cheer Up London’ bludgeons its way through its meaty political message whilst still coaxing everyone to have a bit fun. Johnny Rotten would be proud.

The appearance of the notorious crew member dressed as a mantaray could only mean one thing. Thrashes of drums and guitar are soon accompanied by snarling shouts of ‘Feed The Mantaray’ which pressure everyone into a complete anarchic frenzy. With no one able to stand still, it seems only right to move straight on into ‘Nervous Energy’, keeping everyone captive once again to the punk onslaught.

Bringing the night to an end with ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Hey’, it’s like Slaves don’t want to say goodbye as up to the very last second there’s no signs of weariness. ‘Hey’ sees both Isaac and Laurie abandon the safety of the stage to climb their way across the crowd in one big finale for the penultimate night of the tour.

Having sold out the majority of their tour even before the release of their debut album Are You Satisfied next month, it’s the first sign of how far these two are going to get. If tonight’s antics of hanging from light fixtures and a crowdsurfing mantaray are just the beginning, then things are going to get exciting very quickly with Slaves.

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