America has experienced multiple waves of British Invasions since the 1960’s blitzkrieg that gave us The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, The Animals, and so many more. Since that time, each decade has brought with it a new plane load of quality imports: Bowie, Joy Division, The Eurythmics, Blur, Muse, and Arctic Monkeys, to name a few.
Midway into the current decade, another young and talented ensemble, Catfish and the Bottlemen, is determined to win over the hearts of America. Frontman Van McCann makes no secret of the group’s lofty ambitions to perform stadium shows and enjoy helicopter shuttles to and fro. With the recent US & Canada release of their debut album The Balcony on Communion Records, and on the heels of a remarkable appearance on The Late Show that prompted Dave Letterman to exclaim, “THAT’S what I’m talking about!” Catfish and the Bottlemen are embarking upon a 25-city tour of North America.
With their scruffy charm and energetic stage presence, the band lends credibility to the cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Hence we set out to photograph live performances in a handful of US cities known for their savvy rock credentials, namely Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and New York. This is Catfish Coast to Coast. Five cities, five photographers, five favorite shots, and five questions documenting each photographer’s impressions of the event. Enjoy the ride.
PART 1 of 5: LOS ANGELES, THE TROUBADOUR
Los Angeles is home to major record labels and some of America’s most celebrated and iconic venues. The Troubadour, established in 1957, has seen a constant flow of talent, both local and international, grace the stage. Elton John played his first US show there and it’s where Joni Mitchell made her Los Angeles debut. LA singer-songwriter greats Jackson Browne, Carole King, James Taylor, and Linda Ronstadt built a fan base there. Led Zeppelin played a 3-hour jam session, Van Morrison recorded live there, Tom Waits was discovered, and John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were famously ejected from the premises for misbehavior. Considering its grand reputation, The Troubadour’s size comes as a surprise to some with a capacity of about 400. The Catfish and the Bottlemen show sold out a month in advance of the February 9 date.
Tamarind Free Jones fell in love with photography via a magical Polaroid when she was a little girl. She has been shooting bands and musicians professionally for four years and loves music above all else. Tamarind approaches shoots from the perspective of a musician; she is formally trained in Indian classical music and writes and records her own indie-folk songs. This gives her an edge in anticipating what may happen, although she enjoys surprises, too. Favorite performers to shoot include Tom Petty, Tom Odell, and LA bands King Washington and Irontom.
Spotlight on Larry
Larry Lau is guitar tech and roadie extraordinaire for Catfish and the Bottlemen. A childhood friend of frontman Van McCann, and a highly recognizable presence for Bottlemen fans, Larry is, in more ways than one, “The Fifth Bottleman.” For this reason, our journey will include select Larry moments from each show.
5 Questions for the Photographer
XS - What was your personal show highlight?
Tamarind: I always love an acoustic, quiet song in the middle of all the other amazingness. For me that just pans out musically, I get to hear it stripped down. “Hourglass” acoustic was probably my favorite part of the show, but that’s in contrast with everything else which was also amazing.
XS – Describe the show in five words or less.
Tamarind: (laughter) Oh boy! I want to make sure I choose wisely (pauses). Energetic, moving, passionate, skillful, musical.
XS – What was your favorite thing about shooting this show?
Tamarind: I liked how into the music and playing for everyone they were. I like how humble and appreciative they were of an audience that got them, and knew their music and were clearly fans. It’s the passion they brought and giving their all to every song and everybody in the room. How he (Van) looked up at the balcony and the sides and made sure to give energy and make eye contact with everybody and talk to everyone. You know, there’s a lot of range for photographing a show like that. There are a lot of different moments to capture.
XS – Which shot is your personal favorite and why?
Tamarind: Definitely this one (B&W close-up shot of Van with eyes closed). Out of everything I shot, I just like the simplicity and the feeling in his face. It’s black & white, a super classic singing shot. It’s sort of a timeless picture, but also carries the music in a way that is…once you hear their music, you can feel that from the picture.
XS – Anything else you want to add?
Tamarind: I was really impressed. I hadn’t seen them before. It was my first time and I was immediately drawn in. You know, a lot of times you have to have heard the music a lot before to have more familiarity, to get their songs or appreciate them. But with their stuff, I was instantly enjoying the music and enjoying their show. The whole experience, I would go again any time I could, for sure! I knew they were going to be good because of your recommendation. I just went in with an open mind. When you hear songs recorded that you like, you still just never know with live music. The songs I had heard, the recordings I liked already, but I didn’t expect them to be quite so energetic, jumping around on stage, the guitar solos… I enjoyed that. I love that sort of playful show.
Setlist for The Troubadour - Los Angeles – February 9, 2015
Special thanks to the band, and to Arwen, Daniel, and Kristina for helping make this adventure possible.
By Julie Blore-Bizot
Photography by Tamarind Free Jones www.tamarindphotography.com