To most, the idea of being stuck outside a live music venue in a foreign country with nowhere to go might be unsettling, and for me this situation is that of a nightmare. However, it is in this exact position that I had the pleasure to be introduced to New Zealand based band The Shambles. The 5-piece band hails from Dunedin on the country’s South Island, and was formed for a short stint in 2015 as an events band before disbanding due to study commitments. A resurgence at the beginning of 2016 saw the band living and rehearsing in a house of 20. Since then the band has been on a collective high playing shows throughout New Zealand to shrouds of fans that stretches the entirety of the country. Their eclectic sound is the brainchild of a variety of the band members’ styles and interests, something that can quite often lead to a misguided or misconstrued sound. However, in the case of The Shambles, this diversity has created something quite beautiful, a sound that is both original that leaves you with an inner desire to just get up and move.
I will admit, as I stood in the bar, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as endless droves of students piled through the front door; all of seemingly different interests and social circles of the university. I couldn’t quite understand why everyone but myself had opted for less clothing, as if they were expecting things to heat up as the night wore on. After talking to a number of the locals, it was obvious that I was wildly unaware of just how great the following behind this local band was, although one brief look out to a line of 200-300 people long soon put things into perspective.
Yet even through a haze of cigarette smoke and the noise of drunken conversations, the sound of The Shambles beginning their set was incredible; as if some sort of major pop sensation had taken the stage for the first time.
I naively moved outside to try and free myself from the overwhelming situation that was this overcrowded sea of people. Yet even through a haze of cigarette smoke and the noise of drunken conversations, the sound of The Shambles beginning their set was incredible; as if some sort of major pop sensation had taken the stage for the first time. As I re-entered the room, I couldn’t help but notice the atmosphere this band created in the short amount of time they had been on stage. The crowd moved independently as if to show how each song resonated with them. This in particular was a completely dumbfounding experience for me, as most shows that I have attended in the past have been based around an unwritten social order; die-hard fans congregating in a mosh at centre stage, usually adopting a collective bounce with every song while the remainder in attendance usually stand around the edges making occasional awkward movements. This occasion was different, as if everyone was having their own moment of glory in this rather claustrophobic environment.
Whether the energy of the performance flowed more from the band or the crowd is something I have still yet to determine. Lead singer, Max Gunn has a stage presence like that of a performing veteran; his ability to envelop the crowd with his voice and mannerisms on stage is incredible. The beauty that I found in The Shambles is that they play as if they are dancing and singing with the crowd rather than to them, with revellers only pausing from their entranced movements to belt out passionate verse after passionate verse. The pure variety of sound present in their debut album Hungry Planet meant the show at no stage felt generic or repetitive. Flowing beautifully between their own type of synth-pop as well as their slowed down jazz influenced numbers, it seemed as though any love that the guys had for their music was on display and being embraced by all those in attendance. The end of the set saw the crowds dispersed amongst a frenzy of security guards trying to clear the venue so to stay within the refines of their licensing. Walking out, I found myself confronted by masses of students singing the chorus of ‘Far from the Tree’ in the freezing cold, perfectly summing up how respected this band is in New Zealand.
What’s your favourite song from The Shambles?
Up next: The New Wave of Song Writing – Alex Lahey