They pull at him, dragging the chiselled boy emperor into their throng and proceed to offer themselves as supplicants, presenting their outstretched palms so that he may walk, not among, but above and across them. Cautious at first as he finds his footing, he shifts his tender weight and gradually rises, standing firm upon their pious grip, his steely perplexed gaze firmly fixed upon some unknown horizon, with youthful defiance writ large across his angular visage. Charlie Steen, frontman of South London rockers Shame, it appears, has gained the ability to walk, if not on water, then at least in mid air.
Crowdsurfing over mosh pits, once thought to be an unnecessary relic of the alternative ’90s rock scene, has been making a resurgence at live shows of late, and the lads in Shame are acutely aware of this trend, so much so that they specifically requested that all attendees produce either covid passes or take one of the lateral flow tests available from the brutish door staff. Although they’d played a gig for Brighton’s Resident Records a few weeks prior, this date is part of their first full live UK tour in months, and they wanted it to be a bacchanalian, destructive affair.
Playing a split of material taken from their newest record along with from their now three-year-old debut, as well as a take on new single This Side Of The Sun, the majority of their set hits with the devastating force of an extinction level asteroid smashing the earth’s fragile crust. Freight train drums shuttle the bold numbers ahead as inquisitive guitars, similar to those found on records by Murray Street era Sonic Youth, underlie Steen’s impassioned delivery. On the mouthy assault of 6/1, when he derisively spits “I pray to no God, I *AM* God”, there’s no doubting that he believes it with every fibre of his being.
Drunk Tank Pink is not only the title of their new(ish) record, it’s the shade that most appropriately matches the ruddy complexions of the crowd, thirsty for beer, music and violence in that order, as they come ever closer to pulling the walls down. Steen does little to dispel this festering malice, choosing instead to spend his time inciting teen revolution rather than placating dissent, beckoning conflict with hecklers, demanding more room at the front of the stage for people to throw themselves into one another and repeatedly pulling his Iggy Pop at Cincinnati Pop Festival act. Thankfully no one had the foresight to bring peanut butter with them to the show, because who knows where the scamp would have stuck it.