“I’ve got some friends from London down tonight, let’s show them how we party in Northampton…”
If there was a theme to Slowthai’s homecoming gig at Northampton’s Roadmender then that was it, expressed during one of the breathless breaks for audience interaction in his set.
It was a celebration, it was revelry. It has been the year Slowthai exploded across the world. It has been the year that he came home.
There have been Northampton gigs before of course, at The Black Prince and the Garibaldi, but for a dinosaur like me who has been coming to Roadmender to watch bands for 30 years this is the night that had to happen.
This is his home turf musical castle and he captured it with his thrilling brand of beats and chaos.
A supporting cast of guests included crowd pleasing sets from Parallel, Krash and Rasen and Mike Skinner. Slowthai was not due to show until midnight but there was a figure with a cloth wrapped round his head who could not stop himself from ghosting around the stage.
Around 11.30pm the cloth came off and breaking that pop star protocol of ‘make em wait, make em wonder’ suddenly Slowthai was with us, leading us through a mini-karaoke of some of his favourite tracks from other artists.
What hits you most as he begins to cycle through his own material is his mastery of the crowd. People are on stage taking part, everyone from backstage is called onstage, the audience is commanded to part like the Red Sea, the audience is commanded to swirl like a whirlpool. In an atmosphere of frothing euphoric chaos it all happened as Slowthai directed.
All the way through he is in constant conversation with the crowd. From the back I saw some idiot being told he cannot have the shirt he threw on stage until the end. It turned out that idiot was my Number Two son Dougie. Apparently don’t throw your clothes on stage at a gig was a lesson he needed to learn but it didn’t spoil his night – which in itself says a bit about Dougie but also about what a Slowthai gig is like.
The set closed with Doorman – the driving electro punk anthem to the outsider breaking-in – and at a word from Slowthai the Roadmender crowd was running anti-clockwise in a kind of joyous riot. It’s the kind of scene an anxious old man like me thinks can only end badly but it doesn’t, instead it became an acapella singalong of Wonderwall by Oasis and the announcement of an after-party at The Bradlaugh.
As an incomer to Northampton 30 years ago one of things I always loved about it was the sense that it is one of the first places you get to, going north from London, that can resist the cultural pull of gravity from the capital.
We make our own stories here. There are books about our town. There are songs about our town. We are putting together our own mythology and Slowthai is a local hero in that tradition.
The Roadmender overlooks the Spring Boroughs blocks that adorn the cover of Slowthai’s breakthrough album There’s Nothing Great About Britain. It is quite a feeling to come out of a gig and walk home through its cover artwork. Welcome to the wonderful world of Slowthai – you’re living in it.