Catfish and the Bottlemen and Polkadodge: Plug, Sheffield

The side room at Plug is packed to the rafters, and Llandudno-based quartet Catfish and The Bottlemen have a small army of fans eager to see the band take to the stage. With praise coming from the likes of Zane Lowe, XFM and Steve Lamacq, plus a slot on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds festival, this summer has seen the band swiftly becoming one of the most exciting live acts of this year. A sign by the merch booth promises the band ‘will be naked selling sex after the show’, and lists a catalogue of sexual favours on offer for a small fee; forget the music, the real reason the lads formed the band is becoming apparent…

The 4 piece, who insist they are ‘from Wales, but not Welsh’ met at school in Llandudno and have been writing songs ever since. Vocalist and guitarist Van McCann, who was born in Australia to ‘free-spirited’ travelling parents, is joined by Billy Bibby (lead guitar), Benji Blakeway (bass), and Bob Hall (drums), who hail from various parts of the North West respectively. After signing to Communion Records (Ben Howard, Deap Vally, Half Moon Run) anticipation has grown surrounding their follow up to singles ‘Homesick’ and ‘Rango’.

With comparisons to The Vaccines and The 1975 abound, Catfish and The Bottlemen mirror these acts not only in sound but in trajectory, as their sudden rise to the attention of the music press continues to rocket.  Their cult status long precedes the attention from the music press, however, and for many tonight is clearly not their first time. The excitement in the room finally builds to a crescendo as they saunter onto the stage, in a uniform of scruffy hair and black t shirts. The band opens with ‘Rango’, a song which McCann wrote about his first girlfriend at school; a Walkmen-esque tribute to heartache which sees the audience burst into waves of fervour. They launch in to B-side ‘Asa’ straight after, an unpretentious song which has echoes of all those guitar bands from small towns which we knew and loved in2005.

The sexual energy proves too much for one fan who is lifted on his mate’s shoulders before flinging a pair of boxers towards the stage. McCann holds them aloft and comments ‘They’re a bit small!’ before playing on unfazed. Their cheeky humour is clearly a hit with the fans, and makes the charm of The Bottlemen even more difficult to resist. ‘Homesick’ has the crowd throwing themselves around the venue and the track’s explosive chorus fuelled by Julian Casablancas-style vocals has all the makings of an anthem.

Impressively they manage to keep up their raw energy as the night continues, modestly apologising for playing new songs but uncompromising on their relentless noise. Last time they were in Sheffield, they played a triumphant show at Tramlines, quite literally bringing the roof down at Soyo. McCann dares the crowd for a repeat performance, gesturing toward the glitter ball dangling temptingly close to a crowd surfer’s head.

They close with ‘Sidewinder’ followed by ‘Tyrants’. The former features some searing lead guitar action, and the latter ending in about 3 minutes of sheer noise, with crowd surfers flying towards the stage. McCann thanks the audience for a great show and the bouncers move in to separate the remaining troublemakers. The disco ball remains intact, but the room has definitely been shaken.

After such a glorious show, Catfish and The Bottlemen look set to continue on their mammoth rise into 2014, and if their sign in the merch stand is anything to go by, they’ve certainly got the stamina.

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