Arrowtown-bound: The highly-acclaimed Gitbox Rebellion plays Arrowtown this Saturday


New Zealand’s most famous guitar orchestra will be strumming up a storm in Arrowtown on Saturday.

The six-piece Gitbox Rebellion, led by Nigel Gavin, who’s played umpteen times in Queenstown with the Nairobi Trio and The Jews Brothers, is on an Arts on Tour tour of the country, and is being hosted here by Creative Queenstown.

‘‘We explore all the sounds of the guitar you can get, through all kinds of music, mostly original but we do a couple of songs people will recognise,’’ Gavin says.

He founded the band in the late ’80s — ‘gitbox’ is pidgin English, apparently, for the group’s instrument, the steel-string acoustic guitar, and ‘rebellion’ comes from using the instrument in a non-traditional, orchestral setting.

The ensemble produced two albums in its first 10 years — Pesky Digits and Touch Wood — then went into hibernation for about 20 years.

Gavin reformed Gitbox Rebellion, with four of its original members, plus newbies, in 2017, following countless requests from people who’d attended their performances and listened to their albums.

‘‘There’s eight of us normally but for the tour we’re just bringing six ’cos it’s easier to travel with,’’ Gavin says.

Though all ensemble members play acoustic guitars, they’re all different brands.

In addition, he says, ‘‘everyone brings their own quality and their own experience, and [we] mix it up together and make it a special brew’’.

It’s said their ‘‘exuberant blend of jazz, rock, folk and classical will have you in sonic raptures’’.

‘‘Extraordinary live, they’ll have you hooked from the first fingerprick to the last,’’ with the performers making their guitars sound ‘‘atmospheric, chaotic and orchestral’’.

‘‘It’s quite jolly at times,’’ Gavin says.

‘‘There might be some dark notes here and there, verging on acoustic metal every now and again, but not quite.’’

He says they even improvise little games for the audience — ‘‘the audience gets a real chuckle out of it’’.

Much of their music will be off their just-released third album, Curveball, which features them performing live and in a studio, and comes as a CD as well as a digital album.

‘‘I think people still want to take something home that’s tactile.’’

The concert kicks off with three of their number performing as the Kita Trio — ‘‘they’re going to do a little bit of jazz’’.

Gavin, who spent two years touring with famous English guitarist Robert Fripp’s The League of Crafty Guitarists, knows Queenstown/Arrowtown well from having performed here very regularly.

He says his favourite gig was an event at Skyline during a WinterFest in which he performed with the Nairobi Trio in one room, played with Eddie Rayner from Split Enz in another room, and played with The Blue Bottom Stompers in a third venue.

Gitbox Rebellion, Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall, August 14, 7.30pm, tickets $20 from Eventbrite