Slaves, Wonk Unit & Spring King @ The 02 Ritz
Slaves have somewhat built a name for them selves as a punk duo since they started out as a band in 2012. In their short time together, they have pulled massive crowds at festivals, sold out numerous UK headline tours and have sold thousands of their albums. It's very rare for a band to hit the level Slaves are currently on within a couple of years of forming, but they prove in their live performances that they're worthy.
We was at the duo's first of two Manchester shows at the newly re-named O2 Ritz. There was nowhere else to be on a Friday night other than The Ritz. Although there is no such thing as dancing to hard, front-man and drummer Issac Holman partied a little to hard in December, dislocating his shoulder. As a result of that, the band had to cancel their original Manchester show which was rescheduled to January, including an extra date at The Ritz on the Saturday night.
Kick-starting the night were beach-punk band Spring King. The four piece have an upbeat sound that you would find difficult not to dance to and blur out the chorus. It's very rare these days that you will go to a gig and the crowds reaction would be almost as great as the headlining band, but for this special night, that just wasn't the case. From the moment the band stepped on stage, the crowd was bouncing right, left and centre. With the band members lined up across the stage perfectly, with the drummer centre and front stage, they played away their short 30 minute set bouncing along, thriving of the crowds positive reaction.
"This is your last chance to go for it Manchester...", they shout across the PA before playing into their last song of their set. The crowd bounced back to the music, just warming up for the humongous night Slaves were about to bring.
The second support band, Wonk Unit stepped on stage and the crowd rawed and slightly surged forward. For a moment I did panic, thinking Slaves were coming on stage judging from the crowds reaction, but as it appears Wonk Unit have a Manchester following. "Ello Manchesterrrrr, how you do?" shouts vocalist Alex, dressed in a dark track suit... The band played an unexpected sound, punk. The fast paced drums, catchy riffs and deafening vocals sounded perfect. Every song, the centre of the crowd spread apart and ran into each other with an old school punk vibe.
As front-man Alex twitched away, he dedicated the next song to Horses, called Horses. "This songs called Horses and it's about horses". It was a strange yet satisfying sound as another member steps on stage gently blasting out his trumpet away to the song. Over all, Wonk Unit provided fantastic support and succeeded in 'warming up' the crowd. A strong lyrical, musical and live band.
Finally, 9 O'clock is coming faster and faster as the stage is being set up for the punk duo Slaves to step up. The crowds tension quickly builds and slowly the crowd push forward in time for Slaves. The lights dimmed and the most unexpected song is blasted through the PA. "CHOOOOOO"... That's right, VENGABOYS. In Manchester style, Manchester explodes as the intro music is blasted and for a split second, The Ritz could be mistaken for a rave at the Warehouse Project, not a punk gig at a historical venue. Slaves walk on stage with bassist/guitarist Laurie raising his hands, prompting the crowd to scream.
They open with Ninety Nine and the crowds reaction says it all... A large circle is formed and as the song kicks in, Manchester is presented with Chaos. Deep blue and red lighting creates a strong silhouette of the band and white strobes stun the crowd creating a lag effect. Two songs in, a black curtain drops from the back of the stage revealing a large banner that was the artwork for Are You Satisfied and the crowd scream and serge forward as the duo go into play Despair and Traffic. The old school punk vibe is kept alive by the bands and the crowds atmosphere combined.
Crowd surfers rumble their way above the crowd making their way quickly to the front of stage where singer Isaac would high five them and congratulate them as they made their way back into the crowd. Even this punk duo, who have grotty lyrics have respect. "Big shout out to these security, prestige work", Isaac calmly shouts above the crowd.
Bringing down the atmosphere, Slaves play their acoustic song Are You Satisfied as barrier fans are greeted by Vocalist/Drummer Isaac taking a stroll across the barrier, shaking and hugging their fans hands whilst shouting in an almost melodic punky way. It was something special.
As the band, and crowd sweat their way into the night, Slaves call it an early night, finishing their set at 10:30 with 'HEY!'... "This our last one, DO IT" Isaac shouts. Laurie strums into to the song on his Bass followed my the harsh drums by Isaac and the crowd bounce into each other through out the song, possibly the roughest part of the night. "WATCH OUT FOR THOSE KIDS, THEY'LL TEAR YOU APART", the lyrics are screamed back to the duo stood on stage, struggling to catch their breath.
An unbelievable set by all three bands over two nights in Manchester.
Words: Cai Dixon | Photos: Frederick Apps