With Idles, Fontaines D.C. and Slowthai also on the bill, the Tunbridge Wells punk tornados believe the walls have been breached
“Slowthai, Fontaines, Stormzy, the gates have opened,” Laurie Vincent tells a Sunday afternoon crowd who are just happy that the heavens haven’t and will take a bonus punk-rap revolution if there’s one going, too. And if Stormzy proved himself the high-culture face of next-gen British rebel music on Friday, Slaves fit more alongside Slowthai as the sort of racket you might expect to hear from a couple of topless lads several pints down, having a fight around an Ibiza hostel swimming pool at 5am. Isaac Holman turning up wearing just a pair of sports shorts, as if still on last night’s happy hour, adds to the Magaluf Weekender vibe.
Musically, though, their set is solid savagery. More novelty early songs like the ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie?’ seem like throwaway swamp punk ditties compared to much of the set, as Isaac and Laurie attack their songs and instruments with the ferocity of a Boris Johnson domestic. ‘Bugs’ comes on like Sleaford Mods wired on ‘70s amphetamines and ‘Magnolia’, a rabble punk rampage, is certainly no wallpaper music. It’s all so intense it almost feels one-note, until a brand new song which seems to be called ‘One More Day When It Hurt’ smashes a Metallica riff into grime raps about “small town bruvs” taking some rather brilliant cocaine, and the set starts developing shades. Shades of mid-90s Blur on the pretty pastoral acoustic ‘Photo Opportunity’ and the ‘London Loves’ clatter of ‘Chokehold’. Shades of grime when they cover Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’, right down to Laurie doing the appalled-of-Tunbridge-Wells mid-section in his best Mary Whitehouse falsetto.
Just as ‘The Hunter’, despite its on-message dealings with climate change, starts to sound like one swamp rock tirade too many and you start thinking the new punk generation should stick to the 20-minute sets of their forebears, Isaac flings his drumkit aside and storms off, perhaps realising Slaves were in danger of outstaying their welcome. After all, the gates are breached, and though Slaves have lost their frontline position to Idles and Fontaines now, there’ll still be plenty of opportunity to celebrate the coup in future years. Viva la revoloooshun, bruv.