Catfish and the Bottlemen are the kind of band who seem to encompass that old-school glamour exuded by British musicians, engendering the gentle charm of a bygone era that you so seldom see nowadays. It was with great pleasure that I was able to attend their show on a rainy Monday night at the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney, while they were in town supporting The Kooks. Glebe’s Food Court opened the show for the sedated Monday night crowd, who swayed half-heartedly as the band belted out a series of high-energy medleys. Guitarist Dan De Santis was particularly excellent, playing a skilful set of guitar rifts to accompany the performance.
Shortly after 10:00pm, Catfish and the Bottlemen glided onto the stage wordlessly, picking up their instruments and immediately launching into Rango, off album The Balcony. Their attire was simple and effortlessly nonchalant, and they exuded modesty and gratitude to ever single person in attendance. Lead vocalist Van McCann greeted the crowd enthusiastically before transitioning into Pacifier and Sidewinder.
McCann, interestingly enough, used to live in Sydney when he was younger, and it was during his time in Sydney where he met a busker named ‘Catfish the Bottlemen’, whom he credits as the inspiration behind the band’s name. In fact, all of the band members were from elsewhere before they moved to Llandudno, Wales, where they formed in 2007 as ‘The Prestige’.
Unfortunately, there appeared to be a large amount of boisterous Brits present, who proceeded to yell and scream at the band “United or Manchester? UNITED OR MANCHESTER?” repeatedly. McCann, ever the gentlemen, answered their queries lightheartedly, never breaking a sweat (except for when he was singing or playing his guitar.)
In fact, his interaction with the crowd was simply splendid, finding the perfect equilibrium between cheeky and charming. In between hits like Fallout and Hourglass, he’d switch up instruments or talk about his other band members, even likening his drummer’s afro to that of Sideshow Bob’s. Paying a special tribute to Triple J for the large amount of airtime given to their next and most well known song Kathleen, the band wound down with Business, Homesick and Cocoon, before finishing with Tyrants.
The highlight of the night definitely had to be McCann. He radiated the irrepressible charisma endemic of a softly spoken Welshman. After every song came to an end in a loud crescendo of instrumentals, McCann would breathlessly add a quick ‘thank you’, before engaging the crowd in some more playful banter. They sounded incredible and they put 110% effort into their performance, so much so that they were all soaked in sweat by the time the concert was over. Before departing the stage, McCann urged everyone to come up and say hello to them afterwards when they would be mingling in the crowd. Enormously talented, but ever humble, the band’s behaviour and performance was that of pure class.