Live Review: Catfish and the Bottlemen

Music and Art

Indie pop band The Crookes take to the stage to warm the crowd up for Van McCann and his merry men. As a fellow Sheffielder, familiar with their discography and with a penchant for their soothing indie pop concoctions, I enjoy their brief set. However, as their material is seemingly fairly unknown and unappreciated down south, there are certainly a few anti-climactic moments – at one point I can’t deal with the lack of atmosphere so I go to the bar and and pay an agonizing £9 for a vodka and coke, which I immediately regret. I try and ignore the hum of conversation that undulates under the music, but I can’t really blame the audience for the lack of interest in a band who don’t really have much of a stage presence, and who don’t make any concerted effort to interact with the crowd.   

After the stage is set up and the soundcheck completed, The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter,’ starts playing, and Catfish and the Bottlemen walk on stage to riotous applause, the stage doused in blinding white light. If the second coming had a soundtrack, then this would be it; people of all shapes, sizes and ages have gathered here tonight in Camden’s intimate Electric Ballroom to hear songs from the band’s debut, The Balcony, as well as the recently released singles from The Ride, the band’s sophomore album, which was released last Friday.  

I can’t think of a time where I’ve been at a gig with such a diverse audience; there are your screaming fourteen-year-old fangirl types, there are some parents who clearly got dragged along so their child would get let into the show, there are some strange people in the crowd who are wearing suits – who knows, maybe they were planning to head to Bridge afterwards – and then there are the usual ‘indie’ Twitter kids. Whilst it’s great that Catfish and the Bottlemen have avoided being pigeonholed as a ‘teenager’s band’, most likely due to Radio 1’s tendency to play them on repeat, the lack of a definitive ‘audience’ identity definitely undermines the night’s performance.

There’s a tension between the usual gig goers and the people who clearly have no experience of gig-going; at the barrier there are a handful of girls under five foot who very quickly regret the decision to stand at the barrier. Don’t even get me started on the girls with waist long hair, who haven’t brought a hair bobble and spend the duration of the gig looking indignant when it gets pulled. Also, there’s a guy wearing an actual backpack stood right in front of me. Whilst I know cloakroom fees can be expensive, it’s just downright inconsiderate to rock up to a gig in your D of E gear and expect other gig goers not to get annoyed. But that’s enough moaning…

The setlist was well structured, with the slower tracks providing a welcome breather. Opener ‘Homesick’, as well as the tracks ‘Fallout’, ‘Business’ and ‘Cocoon’ were well-received, and there were even a few pitiful attempts to start circle pits. For all their aforementioned flaws, the crowd did know the words and sing along – even if they refused to dance or mosh. Low points in the set were when newer material was aired, including the tracks ‘Anything’, ‘Red’ and ‘Twice’. However, the band did have the foresight to realize this would happen, what with playing a show before the release of their new album, and so new material only made up a small fraction of the sixteen song setlist. The band finished triumphantly with fan-favourite ‘Tyrants’, exiting the stage without an encore.

The lack of encore speaks volumes. Although it’s probably just a London venue thing – wanting to get people out as fast as possible – the lack of “we want more!” chants sum up Catfish and the Bottlemen. The band make catchy indie rock tracks with delectable hooks, but at the end of the day they’re not doing anything new. Catchiness was enough to secure the band radio airplay and a sizeable fanbase with the release of their debut, but their new album shows that the formula has gotten a bit stale. I’d see them again, maybe at a festival or at a more local venue, but I’m not left with a desire to shout, “We want more!”, at all.