PART 4 of 5: BOSTON, GREAT SCOTT
Catfish Coast to Coast is five cities, five photographers, five favorite shots, and five questions documenting each photographer’s impressions of the event. Journey to Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and New York City as Catfish and the Bottlemen tour America in support of their debut album The Balcony, available on Communion Records.
Enjoy the ride.
In addition to being known as the site of America’s British Invasion in the literal sense, and a “Tea Party” that consisted of dumping large quantities of English Tea into the harbor, Boston boasts a youthful, savvy, and diverse music culture. The metropolitan area is home to several universities that attract students from around the world including Harvard, MIT, University of Massachusetts, Boston University, and Northeastern, among others, with a combined student population of nearly 100,000. Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory, which consistently rank amongst the top ten music schools in the United States, ensure that the city has a constant influx of talented musicians. The result is a melting pot of avid showgoers on the lookout for the next “wicked” band.
A number of iconic acts have emerged from the Boston area. Joan Baez, whose father was on the faculty at MIT, gave her first concert in nearby Cambridge at Club 47. Cult favorites Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers and The Pixies formed in Boston, as did New Wave anthem powerhouse The Cars, and ‘Til Tuesday which later beget solo artist Aimee Mann. Finally, no Boston band list would be complete without the multi-platinum Aerosmith and, of course, the band Boston.
As with their first US tour in October of 2014, Catfish and the Bottlemen were booked to play the 220-capacity venue Great Scott. The intimate venue has been part of the local scene since 1976, and affiliated with the reputed The Bowery Presents group since 2012. Great Scott tends to host bands on their way up so there’s always a decent chance that a band spotted at the venue will grace the stage at bigger venues or major festivals a year or two later.
Recent or upcoming buzzworthy acts to perform there, in addition to The Bottlemen, include Wolf Alice, July Talk, Kate Tempest, and Public Service Broadcasting. Notable past groups to have taken the stage at Great Scott include Phantogram, The Ting Tings, Ásgeir, The Orwells, Temples, Charlie XCX, San Cisco, Young the Giant, The Joy Formidable, Biffy Clyro, Kate Nash, The Temper Trap, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Frightened Rabbit, Passion Pit, MGMT, The Klaxons, and Wolfmother.
The first time Catfish and the Bottlemen played Great Scott, tickets were still available the night of the show. This time, Great Scott announced sold out several weeks before the March 5 show date. Although the venue size is modest, the turnout was exceptional considering it was a weeknight on what has turned out to be Boston’s coldest winter on record since 1873.
Matt Lambert’s enthusiasm for photography emerged via a love of music that began when he was in high school. He was THAT guy, an avid fan and advocate of new music, sometimes “to the point of annoyance.” Throughout his youth, his father worked for Polaroid and a camera was never far away. Hence he grew up at ease with photography, and people would often comment that he had an eye for it. However, his initial foray into covering music events was as a writer for a music website and for his university campus newspaper. Matt got his first camera, a point and shoot, when he graduated from college. Not long thereafter, he was chosen to officially photograph the band Mutemath. Concerned that his own equipment would not yield professional results, he borrowed a DSLR from a friend. There was no turning back, “I need to get one of these!” was his conclusion, and in 2009 he purchased a better camera, enrolled in courses to improve his technique, and has been shooting shows regularly ever since. A few notable talents he has photographed include one of his musical heroes, Eddie Vedder (for Spin magazine), The Juliana Hatfield Three, and Patti Smith. He enjoys shooting images that “make people want to know more about a band,” as well as “having an excuse to get up close and personal without being too creepy.”
Spotlight on Larry…and friends!
Larry Lau is Van’s best mate and even housemate when the band isn’t on tour. He is thus a well-known personality to fans of the band.
The Boston crowd seemed particularly keen to welcome him back to town, chanting “Larry! Larry! Larry!” before the show had even begun.
5 Questions for the Photographer
XS – What was your personal show highlight?
I was impressed with their energy. I didn’t know it at the time, but I learned that Van was really sick earlier that day when he did a radio interview; but he didn’t let it stop him and if no one had told me that, I would not have known he was sick. His presence was great. It was professional. They sounded really tight. They were enthusiastic, and also very humble about it. They sold out the venue, which isn’t huge, but still – it was really, really cold out and it was a weeknight. You could tell that they really appreciated all the fans coming to the show. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew what they sounded like because of the album, but it really did carry through live.
XS – Describe the show in five words or less.
Humility, tight, went by fast
XS – What was your favorite thing about shooting this show?
It was a challenging shoot because of the red light, shining mainly on Bob. The venue was sold out and was packed to the gills, making it almost impossible to move around. I was happy that I had rented a special lens otherwise I might have turned up empty-handed! So it was challenging, but sometimes challenging is a good thing because it makes you push your limits as a photographer to create moments that may not be immediately right there, in your face.
XS – Which shot is your personal favorite and why?
My favorite is a close-up shot of Van’s Telecaster with the word “WHY?” on the guitar head. I spotted it and was trying to get that. Of course, he was moving around very quickly, or Bob was in the background and I wanted an isolated shot of the guitar. When I got it, I was like, “Nice!” It’s definitely one of my favorite shots of the night, even though it may not seem like much because it’s not of the band. I thought it was just a really interesting statement to have on his guitar. I like it when artists do that. I was attracted to the notion of “Why do people do what they do? Why does anyone do anything”? this existential question that I probably often ask myself. So I liked that human element. I don’t know why Van did it, but I thought it was cool, like a personal statement that could be open to interpretation.
Editor’s Note: In the course of the earlier Los Angeles show at The Troubadour, an audience member noticed the “WHY?” marking and shouted, “Why does your guitar say ‘WHY?’” Van explained that they had opened for and were friends with Little Comets, a UK band who has words written on their guitars. They thought it looked cool and the writing on Van’s guitar is an emulation of Little Comets. Since the Boston show, it has been announced that Little Comets will be joining Catfish and the Bottlemen on their spring UK tour.
XS – Anything else you want to add?
When I walked in I was surprised by the huge cardboard cutout next to the stage that replicated the album cover art with the amusing hashtag #grabsyoubytheballs. It was fun to watch fans posing with it.
After the show the band stayed to meet people. The band tour manager was coordinating photos of the band with their fans. That went on for about 45 minutes. He was being really patient with people and letting them chat a bit before taking the photos. It was fun to be able to hang out with the band after the gig but you enjoy that while you can, knowing that someday they will get big.
The show went by really fast. It wasn’t a band just going through the motions even if they weren’t feeling great physically. That’s indicative of a whole overarching sense of professionalism. As for the artistry, they were really tight and it held together well live. Often a band won’t sound as good live as they do on the album. They were true to form, if not even better than on the album. You could tell they were having fun; there was such energy. The information about Van being sick surfaced after the show, but it was not apparent during the performance: he didn’t complain about it, he had a great attitude. They’re not complainers, they work hard. I was impressed that they didn’t act “holier than thou.” I hope they never lose that and continue to grow and surprise themselves, but still keep that charm. There’s a lot of charm there and that’s a big part of their appeal.
On the way home in the car I heard “Kathleen” on Radio 92.9 which was a nice finish to a great evening.
Special thanks to the band, and to Arwen, Daniel, and Kristina for helping make this adventure possible.
NOW CHECK OUT: PART 5 OF 5 New York City
By Julie Blore-Bizot
Photography by Matt Lambert
Twitter : @trebmalm