In the weeks preceding Catfish and the Bottlemen’s show at Larimer Lounge, I considered myself more of an observer of the band than a fan. Yes, I listened to them occasionally, read interviews in magazines, and even bought their debut album on vinyl. But these were calculated moves motivated by my ongoing belief that the foursome is destined for domination, and I should therefore have them on my radar while they are still up-and-coming.
After the show, I can no longer claim such dispassionate motives. Consider me a convert to the enthusiastic fandom. And consider me even further convinced that this band is about to be everywhere.
To the delight of the hoard of iPhone-toting high school girls who formed the majority of the crowd, Catfish and the Bottlemen played their debut album The Balcony in its entirety. First came a loud and theatrical extended version of “Rango,” frontman Van McCann whipping his guitar and moptop about with youthful enthusiasm. His exuberance and presence never faltered; his easy repartee with the crowd only increased in hilarity as the gig continued.
The band wasn’t just happy to be there as they jammed “Fallout” and audience favorite “Kathleen,” they were ecstatic. They were equally ecstatic that an entire crowd of people had shown up too. McCann’s repeated thank yous revealed that the band doesn’t totally believe that all this is happening, as though they could wake up at any moment to discover none of it was real. They’re obviously savoring every moment – just in case.
Fifty minutes after starting, the band finished with “Tyrants,” a terrific song on their record that turns magnificent when performed live. McCann did his best Jimi Hendrix guitar-solo-with-your-teeth impression in the final moments, adding one last instance of unaffected swagger and joy. No complaints here about the lack of an encore – “Tyrants” closed the set with such decisiveness that no one really needed anything more.
In a world overrun by reunion tours, it feels as though everybody is a seasoned veteran. Strictly professional is fine, but McCann’s earnestness and the group’s uninhibited excitement provides a refreshing antidote to the detached performances of their reuniting predecessors. Catfish and the Bottlemen are loving their moment unironically and with a little Hendrixian flair, resulting in a gig both crazy fun and disarmingly unpretentious.