Concert Reviews

Catfish and the Bottlemen at the Town Ballroom

Photos by Janine Van Oostrom.

On the picture perfect spring evening of June 2nd fans queued all of the way down Main Street in downtown Buffalo, New York. Up and down the pavement fans eagerly waited for the Town Ballroom’s doors to open where the oh-so British band, Catfish and the Bottlemen, would be playing for a sold out crowd. At around 9pm the crowd was filled with an excited buzz as they waited for Catfish to take the stage and for the show to begin. Finally the lights dimmed and the four silhouettes took to the dark stage and got into place. Frontman Van McCann stood on the edge and before a single light had been turned on or a single note had been played he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, where they would remain for the entire evening.

Catfish started off the show with “Homesick”, a hit off of their first album that kicked off the set with a euphoric energy that the boys would maintain throughout the evening. In between knocking over mic stands, stumbling over bandmates, constantly reminding the crowd they were in Buffalo, and asking “Are you still with us?”they cranked out hit after hit that kept the crowd wild. Although McCann always had a guitar strapped on his chest he never let it act as an anchor limiting his movement. Infact he jumped, spun, and danced despite it, managing to get caught up in his cords on multiple occasions throughout the show. Catfish managed to break out of the stagnant and often boring to watch shows that come with instrumental based bands with utilizing their entire stage. McCann often sang on the edge of the stage and even on a rare occasion reached into the crowd and sang directly to one lucky fan. They also utilized their perfectly timed strobe lights to go along to the rise and falls of the songs. Yet while the lighting was a photographer’s worst nightmare it did manage to cast an interesting backroom nightclub glow upon the stage, lighting up the band in colours of mainly blue, green, and red.

From start to finish the entire show was a beautiful blend of flawless and powerful vocals and perfectly defined instrumentals. Not a single one of the band members faded into the background and they all had their chance to shine with captivating instrumental solos, including a truly unique drum/bass solo that you couldn’t help but fall in love with. Throughout the evening they switched over between songs fromm their first album, The Balcony, and their newly released second album, The Ride. Through this perfect mix of old and new, Catfish were able to create an atmosphere that left not a single fan disappointed.

By the time that the show was halfway through and the boys had just banged out “26” and were making their way through “Business” the energy level in the room had reached an ultimate high where you could not find a single member of the crowd standing still or looking the slightest bit bored. Catfish had managed to create an atmosphere quite unlike anything else, where you could find 21 year old men dancing and singing in the fashion of 15 year old fan girls. Even when the show slowed down a notch and the band left McCann alone on the stage with his acoustic guitar to sing “Hourglass” you could hear the echos of nearly all of the voices in the crowd singing along in a near hypnotic way. Then with the final three songs “7” “Cocoon” and “Tyrants” the crowd danced, sang, and sweat in unison with the band. And even despite some minor tuning problems with McCanns guitar during the final song and some elongated instrumentals they managed to keep the energy high and the crowd intrigued.

From the first note played to the very last, Catfish and the Bottlemen created a vibe in the Town Ballroom that in unprecedented in the music scene. There was a carefree feeling among the crowd where strangers weren’t afraid to turn to the person beside them and dance and sing because they were all there to do the exact same thing. McCann’s energy was infectious and he was more than entertaining to watch on the stage, he created a truly magical experience for every single person in that room. Collectively Catfish banged out song after song with a studio quality sound and a truly unbeatable amount of passion. They reached out to the crowd with their music and through air guitars and lyrics sang back at the top of their lungs, the crowd reached back.

About author

Long suffering student by day. Music writer by night.