The past year has been a real white knuckle ride for Tunbridge Wells duo Slaves. Since signing to Virgin EMI last year, they’ve gone from strength to strength, with more media coverage than you could shake a stick at. The tail end of 2014 had them performing ‘Hey!’ on Later With Jools Holland (which also involved a hilarious backstage encounter when the pair met Bono) and they’ve been touring relentlessly, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jamie T, Interpol and even The Libertines. Robbie Williams has come out as a fan and Radio 1 love them. It’s no surprise then that their current UK tour has mostly sold out.

All this Radio 1 coverage has certainly seen a boost in younger fans getting into Slaves, and walking into Gorilla, it becomes quite clear that the majority of the crowd at this point is made up of mid to late teens. The good thing about younger crowds is that they always show up for the support, usually arriving at the venue well before doors, and so the room is reasonably full. This is great news for London four-piece Crows, who the crowd really get behind during their energetic set. The vocalist has a great controlled intensity to him, surveying the crowd with wide eyes one minute and wigging out the next. They’ve got a really great sound, abrasive and murky, but totally captivating. Thrashing through a really strong set, they’re definitely a band I’ll be keeping a close eye on.

Glasgow trio Baby Strange swagger on stage after a brief break and without even playing a note, just look like the perfect support for Slaves. I’ve heard about these boys before (probably through Slaves) and had been eager to catch them for a while. The crowd go pretty mental for these lads, with a lot of the congregation already well familiar with the tunes. There’s one song in particular that shimmies and bounces along with a vocal similar in style to Nick Cave that stands out in a set full of bangers. Vocalist Johnny Madden at one point asks the house “Can you turn down the lights on stage? Darker than that…” which comes across as effortlessly cool. Much like Crows, Baby Strange are well worth tracking down and checking out.

As the houselights dim and ‘I Shine My Shoes With A Dirty Vest’ plays out (google it) and the crowd sings along, Slaves come out on stage to rapturous applause. ‘White Knuckle Ride’ kicks things off and it’s straight into the pit we go. Utter chaos ensues. ‘She Grew Old’ isn’t far behind and the crowd bounce along with the pounding drums. All around me, bodies are flying and it’s suddenly that hot that it feels like the venue have put the thermostat up full whack. I’ve always loved that intensity and unpredictability that Slaves bring to a show, and it looks like they’ve brought it to Manchester in bucket loads.

New single ‘Cheer Up London’ has got the crowd bouncing like mad to the shouts of ‘You’re dead already’ and the other tracks played from their new album Are You Satisfied? sound rather large too. Other highlights from the evening come from the exhilarating ‘Nervous Energy’ and the really fun ‘Sockets’ which sees some lad from the crowd sharing vocal duties with Laurie toward the end. Speaking of the crowd, there’s some hilariously bad stage diving going on. There were a couple of kids who were really unsure about it, looking more like they were taking part in a trust exercise. But these are just kids, so there’s no judging here. It’s the older ones who can’t jump into the crowd, choosing rather to just fall like a tree that I’m not so sure about…But even that’s alright, because we get a glimpse of the deadly mantaray from the ‘Feed The Mantaray’ video, who does a bit of crowd surfing. Toward the end of the show, we even get Isaac and Laurie jumping into the crowd, with the latter being held aloft by the congregation at one point.

Surprisingly, there’s no encore. A particularly frantic, hot and sweaty rendition of ‘Hey!’ the lights go up and the crowd filters out. This was the show that really could have warranted one as the crowd were going batshit throughout the evening, and we’d not even heard ‘Beauty Quest’. Plus, from a selfish standpoint, I’d just nipped to the bar and bought a can of Holsten Pils, so I was in fear of having to smash that before getting chucked out…

I imagine the next time Slaves return to Manchester, it will be over the road at The Ritz or even supporting some juggernaut household name at The Albert Hall or Manchester Academy. The days of seeing them in tiny venues across the country might be gone, but you’ve still got time to get behind Slaves before they dominate the world.

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Andy Hughes

Hi, I'm Andy.I'm the man behind Birthday Cake for Breakfast, a site featuring music news, reviews and interviews.Big believer in Birthday Cake, Pizza, math rock and beer (preferably all in one sitting.) I spend my mornings daydreaming about gigs and my evenings going to gigs. Lunch times are spent walking about town listening to Tom Waits.'Id rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy'