RUMOUR HAS IT THAT WHEN THE ORIGINAL OWNER OF THE SHACKLEWELL ARMS POPPED INTO THE VENUE DURING A VISIT FROM HIS RETIREMENT TO THE WEST INDIES, HE WAS AMAZED THAT IT HAD BARELY CHANGED SINCE HIS TENURE IN CHARGE, WHEN IT WAS LARGELY A REGGAE VENUE. YET THAT’S PART OF THE CHARM OF THIS DIVE BAR MEETS PUNK CLUB.
With its murals on the walls outside and an old man boozer vibe in the front, the scuzzy live room has hosted a bizarre intimate appearance from Skrillex, alongside gigs from the likes of Savages and Fat White Family when they were on the rise. It’s an odd sort of place to watch bands. Drummers are often hidden away in one of the arches at the back of the room, and the sound crew seem to operate from a sort of cage, but that seems to add to the often intense atmosphere.
One of the main promoters at the Shacklewell is Marcus Harris, who for the past seven years has put on gigs and club nights there under the Snap, Crackle & Pop and White Heat banners, with recent outings from First Hate, Die Wilde Jagd, No Zu, Otzeki, Yowl and M!R!M. He says that the Shacklewell conjures up what he imagines infamous New York venue CBGB's would have been like in its late 70s punk heyday, stressing the fact that it’s a real focus of the East London music community. “It's such a familial atmosphere where bands go to watch other bands, everyone goes to each other’s club nights and you stumble across the most weird and wonderful people and music. In fact, if the back room is like CBGB's, the front bar is like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.”