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After a long, cold wait outside of Plymouth Pavilions, we took our seats on the balcony and eagerly anticipated the moment Catfish and the Bottlemen would take to the stage. The long queues clearly hadn’t dampened anyone’s spirits, and whilst they meant we had missed the support act July Talk, the band had left the Pavilions with a truly electric atmosphere about it. Before the gig even started beers were being thrown and chants for the band were shouted – it was obvious from the offset that this was going to be a night to remember.
The 4000 capacity venue was completely sold out, an impressive feat for the relatively new band who were playing more intimate shows at places like Thekla as recently as last year. If any long-time fans had been doubting how Catfish were going to headline in front of such a large, expectant crowd, any worries were surely brushed away the second the first chords of Homesick were played.
The screams were overwhelming, and the excitement in the venue was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Van McCann and co remained as cool as ever, however, hardly reacting to the insane noise the crowds in front of them were producing. With a shrug of his shoulders McCann relaxed into his guitar playing and effortlessly leaned into the mic. The crowd only got louder as Kathleen, arguably the band’s most popular song, started. McCann gave up his chilled front, jumping around the stage and encouraging everyone to sing along. This encouragement somehow amplified the atmosphere to a level I didn’t think possible. From our view above we watched as a wave of mosh pits made their way across the ecstatic crowd, with beers and crocodile inflatables being thrown in every direction.
The 16-track setlist covered a wide range of songs from both Catfish releases, The Balcony and The Ride. Due to these two albums being sonically pretty similar, anyone who isn’t a hardcore fan of the band may have found the gig a little repetitive. This isn’t to say they wouldn’t have had a great time, though. Catfish’s music is ideal for a live setting, featuring belters that can quickly be picked up and sung (or shouted) along to. One particular highlight from the set, however, was when McCann decided to slow things down a little and play Hourglass. The rest of the band left the stage and the spotlights dimmed, leaving their lead singer standing alone with an acoustic guitar. It gave a chance to focus on McCann’s underrated vocals, as well as providing a bit of a breather from the otherwise high-energy gig.
It’s an impressive testament to the band that they successfully managed to maintain the excitement felt at the beginning of the gig right through to the end. It’s a feat that isn’t easily achieved, with credit going to the sheer energy given off by McCann, Bondi, Benji and Bob. No matter how chilled out they acted it was clear they were having a good time, pouring into the show a passion which was reciprocated by the crowd. They consistently kept the crowd going with their impressive guitar solos (the most memorable being played during Anything), drumming and frequent encouragement from McCann. The stage set up has to be given a mention too – the flashing lights added to the crazed feel of the show, and the simple yet effective backdrop of the album cover for The Ride (a black and white drawing of a crocodile) tied everything together.
Whilst Van McCann may be seen by some as having an Alex Turner-esque arrogance about him on stage, it has to be said that he made sure to say “thank you very much” after every other song. He sounded sincere about it, too, a trait which is becoming increasingly uncommon across the indie rock scene with its growing admiration for pretentious lead singers. After smashing out crowd favourite Cocoon, the set ended with a rowdy encore of Tyrants. I left the gig feeling the three true signs of a great night of music – ringing ears, sore feet and a raw throat. There’s no doubt that everyone else in the audience felt the same.