Catfish and the Bottlemen @ Victoria Warehouse Manchester
After a train, two trams, and a lot of getting lost, I was shivering outside the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester with a mild headache and the need to wee. It seemed like every edgy teen this side of the Midlands had bagged themselves a ticket to Llandudno four-piece Catfish and the Bottlemen‘s gig last Friday night – a buzz of excitement was in the air, and, despite my disgruntled mood, I couldn’t help but get completely wrapped up in it.
I’ve loved Catfish since their debut single Kathleen came out in 2014, and, having seen them on their previous tour, I knew that the masses queuing up outside in the freezing cold were in for a total treat. First though, came their support, Canadian alt-rockers July Talk. Barging around the stage, singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay were like nothing I’d ever seen before. I couldn’t help thinking that their brand of artsy grunge would’ve been better received if they were more well-known, or playing to a crowd that wasn’t made up of British teenagers that were mostly there to beat each other up in the mosh pit of their favourite band. I wish I could be more complimentary of July Talk, but seeing the two singers of a band lick and bite each other on stage can do strange things to a person.
9pm rolled around, and with it came the opening chords of The Beatles’ classic Helter Skelter, a favourite of Catfish’s and a sure sign that they were on their way. The house lights dimmed, The Beatles came to an abrupt end, and suddenly there they were, frontman Van McCann looking out over the throngs of screaming fans like a king surveying his kingdom. As he kicked off the set with fan favourite Homesick, I found myself drifting away from my friends as pits began to open around me and I struggled to stay on my feet.
Catfish rattled through singles Kathleen, Soundcheck, and Pacifier, before moving onto album track Anything, my favourite song from new album The Ride. Although not one of their most famous songs, the fans screamed the lyrics back at the band word-perfectly, proving the loyalty of their fanbase and the mark these four men with questionable haircuts from North Wales have made on the music scene in the few years they’ve been around. From playing on car parks after other band’s gigs to headlining arenas (they’re playing Wembley on this tour), the band’s energy and love for music has never wavered, and is matched only by the masses of screaming, moshing teens who follow them around the country worshipping at their feet.
The entire experience of a Catfish gig is a blur of people and movement and pure, unadulterated joy, of pint glasses getting thrown in the air and covering you in unnamed, suspicious-looking liquids, of someone getting too overenthusiastic and lighting a flare in the middle of the crowd despite all the security measures. Mostly, it’s anthem after familiar anthem being experienced in real life, right in front of you, with a whole huge group of people who feel exactly same about them as you do. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, which is saying something considering the amount of gigs I go to!
Closing with Outside, a 5 minute long monster of a song with the most life-changing guitar solo at the end I’ve ever heard, Van, Benji, Bondy and Bob left the stage with a jovial wave and a thank you to the Manchester crowds for ‘the craziest three nights we’ve ever played.’ We were plunged into darkness, but we weren’t having any of it. Before long, someone started up a chant of ‘CAT-FISH! CAT-FISH! CAT-FISH!’ until a spotlight came on the stage, and Van appeared, guitar in hand.
“This one’s called Hourglass,” he announced before playing the opening chords to one of the band’s few slower songs. He needn’t have bothered to sing, because I and everyone around me were doing it for him until the whole place was filled with sound. His bandmates returned for 7 and Cocoon, before finishing up with everyone’s favourite, Tyrants, famously written when Van was only 14. During this magnificent finale, a pit opened that stretched the length of the room, and instead of being used to mosh in, a dance-off took place instead. Not the weirdest thing I saw all night, but it was definitely up there.
Thank you Catfish, for a crazy night of weird support acts, dance-offs in mosh pits, and every song of yours I’ve ever loved crammed into an hour and a half. You’re setting yourselves up as brand new indie royalty, and long may your reign continue!