British indie rock band Catfish and the Bottlemen have been slowly working their way from the top of the UK charts and onto US alternative radio since 2014. By 2019, following the release of their third studio album The Balance, they can be seen playing US shows all over the country. In Philadelphia, they proved that to have a welcome invitation
Waiting for the opening act in the gold crested theater-turned-General Admission pit, the audience is buzzing for some music. Luckily, Canadian rock band July Talks opens the night with their song “Summer Dress”, combining the raspy, almost screamo vocals of singer and guitarist Peter Dreimantis and the folk roots of singer Leah Fay. Even though they are just the opening act, the audience is still enthralled in July Talk’s signature live performance all the way until their final song, “Push + Pull”.
The lights went down and the only thing that could be seen was the drum kit onstage, waiting to begin. Guitar distortion rang out as the lights came up red strobes and the four band members made their way on stage. The strobing red lights only stopped when lead singer Van McCann sang the opening lines of “Longshot” acapella with two bright spotlights on him alone. As the beat kicks in, the lights come up on the rest of the band, underneath the minimalist emblem of their album: A toucan drinking soda out of a straw.
McCann quickly got the audience singing along, even after moving onto their older songs, “Emily” and “Kathleen”, the latter being one of their first releases as Catfish. By the fourth song of the night, “Soundcheck”, McCann was making his signature moves, dragging the mic stand across the stage and even dropping it a few times. Ending each song was a bright line of backlights followed by a blackout. Before the lights come up on McCann blowing smoke, they began the next song with a cacophony of noise and distortion from guitarist Johnny “Bondy” Bond.
As the show came to an end, they knew exactly the way to end it right. The final songs were obvious sing-alongs, and the final song of the night, “Tyrants”, called back to the final song on their first album, The Balcony. They interrupted the song for a complicated breakdown section and endless soaring guitar solos. Just when the audience thought the song had died down to bass-heavy chill riffs, drummer Bob Hall brought it right back up with McCann and Bondy triumphantly raising their guitars high over the drum kit.
When the song finally ended, the band members threw guitar picks into the audience, leaving McCann there to be the last one, revelling in the rising noise of the crowd before saying one last “Thank you”. It was clear that Catfish and the Bottlemen took over Philadelphia that night because it was a rare show where there were more hands rising out of the pit then there were phones all night long.