Though a mass of fans lined up outside to get into the room, it appeared the Welsh band had brought their small but diehard fanbase to the venue early. The crowd grew minimally from there.
Though the venue was only a little over half full, it allowed for more breathable air in the back of the room, cooling the temperature and avoiding the usually stuffiness of a sold-out ballroom. As a few more people trickled in, July Talk took the stage to kick off the night’s show.
From the very beginning of their set, the Canadian rock band brought an immeasurable energy to the stage, showing off their dance pop brand in spectacular fashion. The lead duo of Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay showcased their onstage chemistry, leaning into each other as they harmonized. The upbeat music and onstage energy was overflowing, but an odd contrast appeared between what was seen on stage versus in the crowd below.
The audience remained surprisingly still throughout July Talk’s set, occasionally bouncing a little or nodding their heads to the rhythm. Though the band fed energy straight into the crowd, the energy was not coming back in the force that July Talk was showing.
As the opener's set ended, the Catfish fans in the crowd shifted positions, slowly inching closer to the stage in anticipation of the headlining band’s arrival. After a short break for a change of stage setup, Van McCann and crew finally appeared. That is when the stillness broke.
Whereas July Talk spewed energy with not much given back from the audience, Catfish coolly delivered their punk-infused indie rock vibes and received a mass of power in voices, movement and pure kinetic joy from the Portland crowd in return.
In the front row, fans leaned over the barricade, reaching out towards the stage as they sang along so loud, the voice of McCann himself became slightly drowned out. The energy flowed from the front of the ballroom all the way to the back. In the center of the crowd, a group of girls took it upon themselves to open up the pit, jumping and moshing into each other as one united force.
The movement spread to every corner of the room, where even fans in the balcony headbanged and leaned over, drinks in hand, reaching out towards the band onstage. Elsewhere, a couple no more than 15 years in age awkwardly attempted to slow dance to Catfish’s upbeat punk tracks.
Though the venue was far from sold out, Catfish and the Bottlemen has a family in their fans. The crowd may have been small, but they were a phenomenon of energy and volume, letting themselves go crazy in the sea of red and green lights.
Towards the end of the set, McCann took the stage to himself for an acoustic set. The crowd became still, but the energy was not lost. Though the lead singer took to the mic to begin, he stepped back and let the mass volume of voices carry the set to the end.
As the night came to an end, one thing was exemplified in the image of sweaty, smiling fans exiting the room: Music has the power to bring people together, and sometimes even let go of their sanity.