When you’ve been blown away by a Catfish and the Bottlemen gig and then you see the members of the fresh faced four piece sticking to their promise of having a drink in the bar with fans afterwards, you just hope that their undoubted talent takes them to wherever they want to be. These chaps are a class act and on a night where they sold out their show at Louisiana, punters were treated to youthful exuberance and heavy guitar based British indie music at its very best.
Louisiana is the sort of venue that breathes live music. The music space or ‘gig room’ sits above a classic British boozer and I imagine its backstory to be one of bands initially using the space to rehearse, which led to the odd gig and the realisation that these claustrophobic venues packed full of genuine musos are really where all live music should be played. When the classic supply and demand situation arises and artists become too big their time in these venues are left behind, but no doubt Catfish and the Bottlemen will look back at these nights and think: “they were fucking brilliant.”
With no backstage, frontman Van McCann and his awesome band mates make their way through the crowd to rapturous applause and step up on the famous stage that Kings Of Leon, Coldplay and Fleet Foxes have all graced. It’s just after 9:30pm and a prolongued opening jam leads into the wonderful “Rango”, a belter of a track that Zane Lowe listed as one of the hottest records of 2013. For me personally it’s been one of my most played records of the last four months and so I, like many others, am like putty in the hands of the band from the off. It’s sing and bouncealongs from the start. No doubt those downstairs without tickets were wondering what they were missing out on. Frenetic guitar riffs, lyrics delivered with joy and vigour and the intensity of sound in a small packed out venue. What more could you want?
Scientists of Sound describes “Rango” as “a delightful mix of clearly thought out Indie-Rock” and that sums it and them up well. With just a handful of singles out the band is quickly building in hype and when playing a mixture of the aforementioned and their other material, my thoughts were: “I can’t wait for their album – I hope they’re playing Glastonbury.” (I’m a Glastonbury boy, all my pals will be there and I want them to witness these guys…) The storming “Pacifier” and catchy new single “Kathleen”, which we’re told has just been released “a few minutes ago” are particularly epic performances, but then so is every track.
Throughout, Van seems genuinely humbled by the reaction and turnout of fans in a venue that was half empty when they played it in October (review here). On both nights the witty frontman was on good form when busting out the humour. Referring back to their last performance in Bristol, Van tells of his interaction with the famous Big Jeff, who “just kept abusing us and telling us that we’re not as good as Fleet Foxes”. The anecdote goes down well with the crowd and Van dedicates “Homesick” to him, admitting that they all admire his honesty. In the song’s delicate parts, Van shows us that he can deliver a beautiful, crisp vocal to complement the standard energetic voice that bites through the heavy and roars with passion. Ending without instrument support, you could hear a pin drop as he delivers the final words. Enthusiastic whistles and cheers greet its closing.
“Sidewinder” is a particular highlight for me and the cheeky Liverpudlian frontman, who constantly attempts to playfully pull the collective leg of the audience, keeps a straight face and tells us that it’s the next Bond theme song. “What are you laughing at? We genuinely got an email about it today” he says to the amused crowd. Other band member’s grins give the game away.
Thanking the crowd after every song, it’s obvious that he and the rest of the band appreciate the fact that it’s the watching audiences across the UK that are pushing them down the path of inevitable stardom. “It’s nearly a job now” he says after reflecting on the year that they feel they finally got started. “We’re still stealing shit, though. We’re stealing shit all the time,” he adds before joking about cleaning out a chain of hotels that I shall not name. He mentions that an employee at the venue has six towels for them when they get off stage but that they’ve got about twenty-five they’ve stolen already.
The amusing wit and cheerful, positive outlook is intermittent throughout as is the request for feedback on new material. “Tell us if you don’t like it,” he asks about “the girliest song I’ve ever wrote,” which is titled “Paradise”. Chuckling in response to someone shouting, “It’s wank,” even before a note is played, they then deliver it and it’s another great tune. “What d’ya think?” is met with screams by the females in the audience. Van laughs when he asks for the male opinion and one chap shouts, “It’s alright”. “That’ll be a B side then,” Van responds. I hope not – I loved it, I just didn’t want to be emasculated by shouting that out in a room full of people.
One girl in the audience shouts for “Rango” and Van teases her good-naturedly after telling her it’s the song they played at the start. It’s here that he reveals the truth about the sperm, as illustrated images have come to represent the band (see the pun there?)
“People say we’re being sexist,” he says, before not being able to avoid the temptation of looking at a woman in the crowd and saying to her, “but we’re not, bitch”. It’s a cheap laugh, but it’s all in good humour. “It’s nothing vicious,” as Brent would say. Van continues, “It’s actually because I’m a test tube baby.”
Audience members think he’s joking but it is in fact a true story, as he reveals, “My Mum got ran over when she was a kid…” He smiles and jokes, “You’re not laughing now are you, Bristol?” before telling us that his Dad wanted him to explain to people that he was not “firing blanks”. A touching story told with good humour to lighten it follows. Anyway, eventually, his Dad “fought through like Balboa” – Van’s words, not mine. An unnamed song, which he then called “Test Tube Baby” followed and proved that the whittling down of tracks for their debut album will be hard – they have previously stated they have three albums worth of material. On tonight’s evidence I’d buy an Oasis-like B-sides album if they ever did that.
“Tyrants” is their standard closer and the six-minute barnstormer concludes with the rip-roaring, thrashing climax complemented by head banging and a chorus of cheers that is always a fine way to end a gig. That trip to the bar followed.
Find out more about Catfish and the Bottlemen at their official website.
Review by Arran Dutton