Slaves’ recent gig at Gorilla was a joyful, riotous affair.

They came to Manchester flying high after a well-received stint on the 2015 NME Tour, and as their new single Cheer Up London joined two others (Feed the Mantaray and The Hunter) in the iTunes Top 40. Their performance was effortlessly funny and energetic, but it was the band’s ability to whip up a crowd which was most compelling. The assembled crowd of teens, indie-kids and ageing punks just lost it. Big style.

I managed to get down the front just before it started. I lasted about 30 seconds. The crowd surfers began, the pint pots started to rain down and, even if I was confident of getting out alive, I was less sure that my camera would.


So, I swiftly pulled myself clear of the stramash and started shooting from the side. This was a good move as it allowed me to capture the effect the band had on the audience, with their legs flailing like chopper blades and sweat pouring down matted hair. It should have felt threatening. With an undercurrent of violence even. But no. It just felt like a proper gig should feel like – a celebration of being young. Or at least for some, a reminder of what it was like to be young.

At one point, lead singer and drummer Isaac Holman checked to make sure everyone was alright – especially the security guys. To their credit, the security was top notch – like the kind of referees who let a few dubious tackles go in order to let the game flow. Guitarist Laurie Vincent joked that he knew everything was ok because the security were taking photos of each other and laughing. It’s true – they had smiles on their faces most of the night.

The music? Again, Where’s Your Car Debbie? was my highlight, alongside a rip-roaring version of The Hunter – and with a stage-diving mantaray during the appropriate tune, all bases were covered. But music was the least of it. Slaves are the most exciting live band I’ve seen in a long time. And as both launched themselves into the crowd after the final number (Encore? Piss off…), I was just happy to have seen Slaves make Gorilla go ape.

Words and images by Chris Payne