Words and photography by Shelley Te Haara

Last week, Auckland was treated to Californian natives, Slaves, who played to an intimate Kings Arms crowd. Coming off their Australian headline tour, Slaves played their first ever show here in NZ. Opening for them were NZ group Animal Party and Australian band, Awaken I Am. Not knowing the right timings, I missed Animal Party’s set. However, I did catch Awaken I Am‘s set. The 5-piece from Brisbane have visited our shores before and that was apparent with some of the crowd singing their lyrics back.

After opening the show, the crowd seemed warmed up for what was to come. The lights went down, the intro music started and the band made their way on to the stage. The set included songs from both the 2014 release Through Art We Are All Equals and the 2015 release Routine Breathing, which the crowd seemed very familiar with. Though the crowd were also treated to quite a few new songs including the new single I’d Rather See Your Star Explode, off their upcoming album Beautiful Death. The new single was played during the encore and was very well-received by the crowd, most of them pushing closer to sing with Jonny.

Slaves‘ high energy radiated strongly through the crowd, especially combined with the multi-coloured lighting and Jonny Craigs’ powerful vocals. Jonny’s raw vocals did not disappoint and didn’t seem to falter much throughout the set. Though during some of the songs when Jonny was belting out some of those higher notes, he could be seen holding his back. I am not sure whether it was to support his movements or if he is still having problems with back (Jonny had multiple back surgeries at the beginning of the year and is now back and straight into a rather full-on touring schedule). But this doesn’t seem to have affected his performance at all.

The band only stopped playing once during the set and left the stage. Obviously, the regular concert goers recognizing that it was in preparation for the encore. However, Jonny cleared it up a bit stating it was also so Colin could pee in a bottle. Pranks are generally part of tour life and it was no surprise when Colin was also caught out as he took off his jumper and a tissue fell out, with the members of Awaken I Am joking that it was toilet paper. Not sure where it came from, Jonny was quick to point out that it came from his butt. Slaves made gestures and joked with members of Awaken I Am throughout their set, who were standing side of stage enjoying their performance. There was a lot of random statements shouted from the crowd, mainly jokes and adoration. But the statement that could not be avoided was the mention of Jonny Craig’s former band Emarosa. Jonny’s response was short: “Fuck that band. Emarosa can suck this dick”. The crowd didn’t seem to react too much and the show went on.

Slaves ended their set with The Fire Down Below which got a mosh pit going as the fans realized this was their best chance to throw down a bit. The band ended their set on a high. They then kindly hung around after the show and met fans. A couple of the band members mentioned that they had just got to NZ and enjoy it a lot already. With more travels and 2 more shows ahead in Wellington and Christchurch, I’m sure they won’t forget their time in New Zealand – and neither will we.

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