Monday, November 9, 2015

Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy, London

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Sold out show: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
A year ago--23rd October 2014, to be precise--I covered a new, young band from the UK who were on their first USA tour, and who happened to be performing at the Assembly, here in Sacramento. There were perhaps thirty people in the audience, maybe fifty if you include the staff; half of the paying crowd had driven up from San Francisco, where they had seen Catfish and the Bottlemen the night before. And yet, the band put on a performance worthy of a huge, full crowd... like a premonition, like a plan. They were so much fun to watch and listen to.

Since then, the Assembly has closed, Catfish and the Bottlemen have toured more of the USA, they've performed to a huge crowd at Reading Festival, and they've done another sold-out tour of the UK or two. And that's the sort of crowd they should be drawing: full-house, festival-happy, music-loving fans and followers.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
In London last week for work, checking out possible shows to see on Friday or Saturday night, and I saw that Catfish and the Bottlemen had not one, but two dates over the weekend, Friday and Saturday, both at the O2 Academy venue in Brixton, just south of the river Thames. But of course, both evenings were sold out months back.

Thanks to StubHub, where you can resell your show tickets if you can't make it (and hopefully not scalp buyers), I was able to find one ticket for Saturday's show at little more than double the face ticket value. To my mind, it was well worth it.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton, London
Saturday morning and early afternoon, London was awash with heavy, torrential rain. Coming from four years' of California drought, I was enjoying meandering slowly through rainy England to my hotel near Heathrow, returning the rental car, generally getting ready for an early-Sunday-morning flight back to the USA. But when I arrived at the O2 Academy in Brixton late on Saturday afternoon, I found a long line of plastic-poncho'd people, who'd been waiting in line for at least six hours, in the rain, in the wet, with huge smiles on their faces! This is the kind of fan that Catfish and the Bottlemen are drawing in the UK. Inside the venue, I met young men who'd come down from the north of the country to see the show, who'd already travelled to Manchester and other gigs too. (If you look at a map of the UK and think, so what, those distances are tiny compared to the USA, believe me: it's as big a deal to travel from Cumbria to London for a show as it would be from Sacramento to New York. Think about it like this: how many bands will you travel outside your local area to see? That's what people from all over the UK are doing for a chance of seeing Catfish and the Bottlemen.)

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
The venue: classy, theatrical, art-deco; built in 1929 as a theatre-cinema, and retaining much of the original decor and character. The main floor is raked, meaning that the further away from the stage you are, the higher you are, in theory giving everyone a good view of the stage, in practice in a sold-out show, there's aways some tall dude who plonks himself right in front of the shorties. But stepping out of the crush and closer to the side and rear, you get a great view, and the sound is good, not deafening, just well-loud-enough and powerful. There's also a huge upstairs balcony, seated, too.

Everyone knew all the words, all the songs, all of The Balcony. Going with the band's preference for playing known songs live--rather than experimenting with the audience and new material--the setlist for Saturday's show didn't differ much from the show in Sacramento late last year, just after The Balcony was released--just the addition of Business and Hourglass, I think. And while this format works, and the audience absolutely loved the entire show, I and probably many others are now looking forwards to the next album, because these guys are going to keep on getting better and bigger and hopefully, over here again soon.

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Audience, main floor, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton O2 Academy
Note: if you're in the UK and going to an event at a O2 venue, and you have an O2 phone, take it with you--you might be given an upgrade and/or early admission to the show!

Photos: I was too late to plan any kind of professional photo access for the event, as this was a last-minute trip. I checked with the venue press office, and was told that cell phone and compact cameras were allowed, just no "pro" cameras. These photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot compact, and my aim was to capture something of the atmosphere rather than the band in action... though I'm rather happy with this one shot of Ryan "Van" McCann, taken from way back at the side of the floor!

Catfish and the Bottlemen
Van, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Brixton, England UK
Follow Catfish and The Bottlemen on Facebook, Twitter, and on their website (USA visitors--it redirects you to a US-only landing page. Add /home to the URL to get to the full site.)

More crowd photos from Saturday's show at the O2 Academy, Brixton, in the Catfish and the Bottlemen photo gallery (both from this show, and the one in Sacramento last year).

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