I went into the Melbourne Catfish & The Bottlemen gig at the Hi-Fi on Sunday night with admittedly, very little knowledge of the band. I had given their debut LP The Balcony a few spins and liked what I heard, but other than that I didn’t know a hell of a lot. And I like to do that sometimes. Having no preconceived notions of what to expect from a live performance makes for the most honest reactions, something that’s at least interesting if not a little nerve racking because I always desperately want to enjoy what I’m seeing. I’m happy to say with Catfish though, my nerves were completely unfounded.
Bursting into a sparse room were Melbourne support act The Apes, a band I knew even less about than the headliners. Like Wolfmother’s little brother, the boys assaulted their instruments wildly and with a laziness that was a little beyond their success. Their energy wasn’t lost on the room though as the crowd slowly filed in, eventually packing out the venue – a feat I wasn’t sure would be realised on arrival to the next to empty room. I’m sure they won over more than a few Catfish fans and gave us all something to mull over during the wait for the act we’d come to see.
The main act took to the stage and right away the energy shifted. The room lit up, the crowd pushed forward and the sound of one of THE tightest bands around right now radiated through every inch of the space. The crowd’s immediate reaction was more like that at a festival than the initial moments of an intimate act with screams of adoration, lyrics thrown back at the band in chorus from the crowd and people on shoulders. The band were humbled, underneath their own Wolfmother comparison – their hair – the skinny boys from Wales visibly taken aback from the welcome they were receiving so far from home. Lead singer Van McCann has next level type charisma and charm and never shied away from a chat with the crowd, laughing with the roadies and treating us to the back story of the bands name, as a little boy seeing a Sydney busker named Catfish The Bottleman. The aussie crowd lapped it up on this Australia Day weekend and we all fell a little more in love.
While it was hard to pick a favourite as the Welshmen ran through their discography almost in it’s entirety, stand outs were without doubt Rango, Fallout and Tyrants, not to mention FIFA fan favourite Cocoon – the song I’d most been looking forward to. Three songs in my gig buddy turned to me and said “They sound kind of like The Kooks” and I praised her for being so original and observant and hitting the nail on the head. Subsequent research however has led me to realise that The Kooks are the entire reason the boys from Catfish are in town, supporting their mates on their Australian tour. But Rhea didn’t know that, I swear, so she still gets a pat on the back. Original or not, she wasn’t wrong, and I have no doubt Catfish have the potential to reach Kooks level success. Great tracks, a killer live performance and a loveable lead are all working in their favour and the promise of their return to Oz before the years out is something we should all be looking forward to.