A little over two years ago, a relatively unknown British band called Catfish and the Bottlemen, played to an underwhelming audience at Boston bar Great Scott. Their debut album “The Balcony” had yet to make its way across the pond – though some internet savvy fans managed to get their hands on digital copies of the UK release – and they had just begun playing live shows in the United States. That night the band played for about 45 minutes, getting through 9 songs and demonstrating potential to one day become stars.
Fast forward to October of 2016 and that same band rolled back into Boston ready to play to a near capacity crowd at Boston’s House of Blues. Devoted fans of the band lined up as early as 4:00am on the day of the show for their chance at a spot in the front row.
Catfish and the Bottlemen have come a long way in just a short time. On the road in support of their recently released second album, “The Ride” Catfish have evolved into an immensely popular act, with a strong fan base both at home in the UK, and here in the US – something only a handful of bands have managed to do.
On Sunday night Catfish came out to a roaring crowd while the elegant Dean Martin classic “Ain’t That A Kick In the Head” played over the PA setting the tone. Opening up with a pair of songs from their first record, “Homesick” and “Kathleen” it didn’t take long for the audience to join in the singing nearly loud enough to drown out the band themselves. Catfish would trade off between their two records for the rest of the set, playing the hot singles like “Soundcheck” and “7” along with some of the deeper cuts including “Red” and “Outside.”
With the rest of the band stepping off stage for a moment, frontman Van McCann pulled out his acoustic guitar for the ballad “Hourglass” which he sang with help from the crowd, who finished the last verse and chorus without aide from McCann. One fan in the front row even began to toss flowers at McCann’s feet while he serenaded the mesmerized fans. Catfish would forego the clichéd encore break, electing to finish the show the same way they started it, with a pair of songs from their first album. Playing “Cocoon,” followed by their customary closing song, “Tyrants” – the final song on “The Balcony.”
For Catfish and the Bottlemen the last two years have been a triumph, as they’ve gone from a band playing in bars to headlining the same venues as some of music’s hottest acts. A relentless touring schedule is a big reason for their success, as visiting cities multiple times, they’ve managed to develop a connection with their fans that keeps them coming back, it’s not unusual for fans of the band to follow them from city to city, attending multiple dates on their tours.
The biggest key to their success however is simply their music, which is, in a word, exactly that - simple. Guitar rooted rock songs with catchy hooks and memorable choruses combined with poignant, yet straightforward lyrics make Catfish and the Bottlemen a band who’s music sticks with you. Recently the band was even chosen to open for Mumford & Sons on a run of west coast dates, another testament to not only their rising popularity in the US, but the fact that some of today’s biggest acts are also taking notice of them. If Catfish and the Bottlemen can maintain and eventually build on the success they’ve found so far, they are poised to become a strong presence in rock music both in their native UK and here in the US.