Catfish & The Bottlemen

The indie lads show Castlefield Bowl how it's done

Bethan Shuff || July 13th

The queue into Castlefield Bowl was already huge by the time I got there; it was a sea of Catfish and The Bottlemen t-shirts and beers.

Castlefield Bowl is a gorgeous venue; it’s floor leads to some stunning stone steps where you may choose to sit or stand, which has a grass bank behind it. It creates a tiered effect so wherever you stand, you’ll be able to see! As it’s outdoors, you’d expect it to be huge, but it’s actually really intimate. We stood at the bottom of the stone steps and it still felt really close!

We caught the last of Little Comets main support set, which included my favourite track by them ‘Dancing Song’ (and it really is!), it’s so bubbly and catchy! Little Comets are an indie rock trio and could be argued to be the ones that helped kick start Catfish’s career when they took them under their wing as a support slot on their tour. Catfish have since transcended Little Comets and now ask them to be their main support act as thanks for the help they’ve given them. If that was me, I’d be pretty bitter, but Little Comets don’t seem to mind at all, and are somewhat proud about it as frontman Robert Coles thanks Catfish for having them on and tells us we’re in for a great night.

Catfish and The Bottlemen entered the stage with confidence, their banner reading ‘Castlefield and The Bowlmen’, and opened with the first track off their debut album: Homesick. It’s a slow starter, mainly sticks and a slow riff with spoken lyrics, but the chorus erupts into a roar as flares fire off into the sky, submerging us in a cloud of pink and blue smoke.

I gotta give it to you, you give me problems when you are not in the mood’; Kathleen was next on the set list; another anthemic, sing-your-lungs-out belter with smashing drums and powerful vocals. Kathleen was followed by a track off the new album: Soundcheck. Soundcheck was the first single from The Ride and, if I’m honest, I wasn’t much for it. Live is a whole other story! Filthy riffs from Bondy! The build-up and breakdown was stunningly executed and that solo is just something else completely; it really makes you feel like you’re totally consumed by the music.

The boys went back to another debut album anthem, Pacifier. The way Van almost screams ‘I said, oh please you’re obsessed’ is so raw and edgy. It’s the roots of Catfish and The Bottlemen. Pacifier is almost the epitome of describing the band with a song, it reflects their personalities and everyone absolutely loved it! Another bout of flares blanketed the crowd as we sung out our hearts and choked on the smoke.

Sidewinder’s subtle intro began to flow through the speakers as everyone awaited the eruption of the opening riff. They moved seamlessly into Anything, a drum crashing, head-thrashing chorus that leaves you breathless (or maybe that’s just the flares again). Whilst Anything isn’t one of my all-time favourites from The Ride, Catfish and The Bottlemen have this bizarre ability to transform their recorded music into something totally different and enthralling in a live show.

26 and Business from The Balcony were then seamlessly played after one another. Van could barely get through his lyrics through the laughter as a member of the audience stood on top of his friend shoulders in his underwear… which his friend pulled down… everyone saw everything. It was not a pretty sight.

The lights dipped and everything, from the stage to the sky, went red. The hi-hat introduction and steady riff lead into the aggro love song of Red. ‘Hey! How about I change? How about you look at me the same’, the crowd of indie lovers set off red flares with arms wide open. The passion and aggression that this song holds is just stunning; someone really broke Van McCann’s heart and someone needs to do it again so that he can write another epic track like Red.

Rango was the track next on the set list with gorgeous harmonies that send your head spinning, McCann’s deep husky voice and Benji’s heartbeat bass line rumbling through the verses. I don’t think that Rango gets the recognition that it deserves.

The masterpiece of The Ride, Twice was absolutely electric from start to finish. Van didn’t even have to sing as he stood in awe of his fans screaming the lyrics back at him. The slower chorus at the end had everyone with lighters and phone torches in hand swaying and Bob Hall’s drums have this magical ability to make you thrash your head in sync with the beats; I don’t know how he does it!

I loved how the band we’re flicking between tracks from each album because they’re two really contrasting albums in that The Balcony is more anthemic and rocky whereas The Ride is almost a different band altogether. Fallout was followed by Outside; Fallout being one of those songs you have to belt out and dance to (represented brilliantly in the music video!), a track that allowed the lads to express themselves and Outside is more like a piece of art where the lads were able to showcase their abilities as musicians through the technicality of the instrumentation.

Music is incredibly powerful. Some songs have the ability to take you back to a particular event or remind you of a particular person. For me, that’s Hourglass. It was a heartfelt couple of minutes that made you want to hug everyone around you. It’s such a slow and relaxed song with truly beautiful lyrics; I was quite surprised that they played it as they hadn’t played anything slow from The Ride, but I’m so glad that they did Hourglass.

7 was the final song that they would be playing from The Ride. The second single from the new album that maintained the teenage angst and rawness of The Balcony, but in a refined and mature way. Nothing is more spine trembling than the way Van sings the 3rd chorus and makes you weak at the knees.

The first song that I listened to by Catfish and The Bottlemen was Cocoon, and therefore it holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to such a talented band. If you’ve ever seen the music video, it’s one of few that have had me close to tears. The track was totally captivating as the rolling drums rumbled the ground.

Finally, the boys finished off the set with arguably their greatest work to date. Their greatest masterpiece: Tyrants. Instantly I was up in the air on my boyfriend’s shoulders whilst the opening riff echoed through the speakers and the drums introduced that beautiful bass. Galloping drum lines lead into the verse – ‘eyes rolled back, guess we were living fast. Where did you go? Yeah, where did you go?’ Bondy’s licks have a nostalgic element that makes you feel euphoric before Hall’s drums throw you back into reality. Catfish beautifully executed an extended 7 minute version of the track that included a white knuckle rollercoaster ride of build ups and drops with incredible guitar work. How Bondy was able to pick up Billy Bibby’s work is so fascinating because Tyrants really is a one of a kind track. Van climbed on top of his amps and thrashed his guitar in every which way (I was half expecting the real rock star finish with guitar smashing, but that didn’t happen) he finished with his guitar in hand above his head, mesmerised by the reaction of the crowd before thanking us all modestly and leaving the stage.