Llandudno-based indie rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen have had a great couple of years. From releasing debut album The Balcony in 2014 to winning British Breakthrough Act at this year’s BRIT Awards. Next month sees the launch of follow-up LP The Ride, and to road-test the material they’re out on a short tour including tonight’s Kentish Town Forum show.
An early signing to Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett’s Communion label, their brand of raucous indie rock seems clearly fashioned after idols Arctic Monkeys. But unlike many followers, their blend of catchy hooks and heavy hitting guitars and drums made them stand out from the crowd early on and garnered not only critical acclaim, but had the crowds standing up (often upon each other’s shoulders) to attention.
Their quirky name certainly makes them memorable, a homage to Australian busker Catfish The Bottleman, who frontman Van McCann saw performing when he was just a wee one.
Strolling onto the North London stage to rousing walk-on track Helter Skelter by The Beatles, pints of beer being thrown about by the excited crowd, they kicked off proceedings with a one-two punch of debut album singles Homesick and Kathleen.
Early The Ride cut Soundcheck followed, a taste of things to come served refreshingly. The crowd were already singing along with every word of the new track and the prevailing sound of teenage girls screaming as McCann dislodged himself from behind his microphone during instrumental breaks left a ringing in my ears.
“London, thank you very much. We are Catfish and the Bottlemen” McCann said, addressing the screaming audience for the first time. “Thank you for selling this place out so quickly” he continued.
2014 single Pacifier carried on bringing out the festival atmosphere, it’s pounding beat and singalong chorus rousing the crowd further as some slowly made their way onto each other’s’ shoulders, Benji Blakeway’s resonating bass parts shuddering the former Town & Country Club venue to it’s very core.
“We’re going to play a new song if that’s alright” the grinning frontman said to screams from the audience as he introduced Anything, the new track inducing the crowd to clap along from the outset and dropping the venue into quiet during it’s diminuendo.
Spurring on a rebellious festival atmosphere, McCann said “people being told to get down off shoulders, feel free, it’s your night!” immediately causing at least 20 people to clamber up on friends’ shoulders as the remainder of the crowd burst into a mosh for the singalong opening verse of 2013 single Rango.
Guitarist Johnny Bond, drummer Bob Hall and bassist Benji Blakeway then exited the stage leaving the 23-year-old frontman solo with an acoustic guitar, slowing down proceedings with The Balcony track Hourglass before re-joining him for new album track 7.
“Thank you for getting up early and selling this place out” the frontman said humbly. “Anything that comes next, in advance thank you for selling that out” he continued before closing the set out with Cocoon and The Tyrant, often handing over singing duties to the ever-vocal crowd, the energy building up to an explosive crescendo before the sweaty venue, packed predominantly with under 25s, spilled out onto the Highgate Road.
If you’re looking for “new” or “innovative” this is not the band for you. But if you love singalong choruses, hook-laden melodies and a good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll show, this is a band not only already making waves, but on course to make even bigger ones as their live set boils down to temperature-raisers from each subsequent record they put out.
McCann has never been shy of making it clear that he’s aiming for the stars and all that comes with it, tonight was simply another night of him and his troupe putting in the hard graft to get there.
The Ride is out on 27th May and Catfish and the Bottlemen are off on a number of dates across the UK and US over the summer including The Governor’s Ball and Firefly US music festivals, Bristol’s Summer Series and Perthshire’s T In The Park.
Live review of Catfish and the Bottlemen @ The Forum by Kalpesh Patel on 11th April 2016.
Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate