Appearing at Splendour in the Grass last weekend Catfish and the Bottlemen took no time to slow down with their sideshows in Sydney, Melbourne and Wollongong; Tuesday night being their only regional show outside of Splendour. Still touring off the success of their 2016 album The Ride, which hit number 6 on Australian charts, the Bottlemen were set to bring their modern style rock’n’roll thundering in to the University of Wollongong Uni Hall.
Up first on the night were Kiama locals The VANNS. The floor space was more than half full by the time the boys got going, as Wollongong showed its love for the Illawarra rockers. Blazing through a set of classic VANNS songs as well as a few new tracks The VANNS easily fill the stage of a much bigger band. Joining an ever growing list of bands from the area to be making waves across Australia The VANNS showcased on the night the powerful indie rock that is going to carry them onto big things in the Australian music scene. Particular mention goes to drummer Lachlan Jones for an absolutely ferocious set behind the kit, The VANNS proved a perfect choice as opener for the night.
Up next was nationally rising Wollongong indie popper Bec Sandridge. After a very up and down year including the release of her five track In the Fog and a polarising Like a Version appearance on Triple J, Bec has proved time and again that she is capable of owning a stage. Bec showed that over the last year and a half she has refined her performance into a confident combination of dramatic stares, fun dancing and characteristic sways that commanded the stage. Unfortunately stripping down to a three piece took a lot of energy from the backing band. Bass was noticeably lacking from You’re a Fucking Joke, backing vocals clashed with Sandridge’s unique tone, and drums were seriously lacking at the end of the set. Overall though Sandridge was a great choice and an amazing take on In the Fog, In the Flame’s bridge went over extremely well with the bopping crowd.
The amount of movement on stage from the next act Bishop Briggs is immediately noticeable. The live elements of Briggs’ backing band add to the gritty, dark electronic pop sound that was on display. Briggs managed to switch her voice between delicate and powerful without notice, throwing everything into the performance. Noticeably breathless before launching into a cover of Matt Corby’s Monday that was first showcased on Tripe J earlier in the month for Like a Version Briggs never let the energy die onstage. The crowd was moving the entire performance, with The Fire being a highlight and set closer The River being an absolute showstopper.
The venue went dark as headliners Catfish and the Bottlemen took to the stage, and cold opened with Homesick. As the lights flashed up on stage the rock star vibe was overwhelming. Guitars hung as low as possible, running about stage and frontman Van McCann’s mic stand love making combined into an inescapable energy that pushed the night forward. Not breaking between songs the Bottlemen launched straight into Kathleen and then into an extended Soundcheck that could have closed the night. Highlights from the set include the darker vibe of Anything, Fallout which was dedicated to everyone watching the show from someone’s shoulders (the number of which increased dramatically during the song) and Twice where guitarist Johnny Bond showed off his chops. McCann kept up the rock star performance stepping away from the mic to let the audience take over during 7. The energy on stage was extreme during Cocoon, which included an extended powerful instrumental and a cheeky shoutout to Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark by McCann. The crowd was ecstatic by the last song Tyrants, an odd choice to end on off the Bottlemen’s first album. The crowd nevertheless swelled towards the stage as the band threw everything into another instrumental pushed to its limits, before the energy was brought right down towards the end of the song and then flown back in for an utter rock out of a breakdown. Departing the stage in the rock star fashion shown throughout the performance McCann left his guitar swinging from a mic stand and the audience left the Uni Hall with their thirst for music completely satisfied.