terminal 5

Looking Out For You: Catfish and the Bottlemen’s Showcase at Terminal 5

Do you, don’t you want me to love you?
I’m coming down fast but I’m miles above you
Tell me, tell me, come on tell me the answer!
Well you may be a lover, but you ain’t no dancer…

                                 —The Beatles, “Helter Skelter”

Catfish and the Bottlemen made an entrance onto Terminal 5’s stage to The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.” A bold move for a band from England trying to carve their own history as a British rock group breaking ground in the American music scene. Then again, this is a band that isn’t interested in making friends but instead announcing their arrival. Clad in all black and hair grown out from its earlier mop top, Van McCann—more than ever before—looked the part of a front man. This wasn’t a homecoming show, but a calling card. Surrounded on all sides by teens, I waited to hear the music Catfish and the Bottlemen has been perfecting since forming in their early teens.

I’ve seen Catfish and the Bottlemen perform before. Earlier this year, my best friend and I saw them perform at Mac’s Bar in East Lansing to a few hundred people. Squashed in a small bar on a cold evening in March, Catfish’s performance was raw and chaotic. Van was sick, but their onstage presence showed no lack of continuity and gusto. Drunk, I danced. I screamed. I loved.

The show at Terminal 5 opened with my personal favorite “Rango.” Catfish and the Bottlemen are great lyricists, and the proof is in “Rango.” Heartfelt and confessional. Vulnerable. Van sings:

I plan on coming back for nothing
But then again there’s you
And although this town does flaunt
All the stuff you need to feel at home
I plan on taking from it nothing,
But then again there’s you…

 Our twenties are about picking up, and leaving home. Finding new homes in people and places right (and wrong) for us. Catfish and the Bottlemen explore the temptations of home, the lure of the familiar, and the love for those we have left behind that lingers far after the initial break. The lilt to Van’s voice when sings “But then again there’s you…” might just be the most beautiful moment on any rock album to debut last year. Having recently left home for New York City, I connect with “Rango” the hardest. The desire to take “nothing” with me, and—yet—wanting to carry on my person those closest to me. I want my friends, their gleaming smiles and throaty laughs and whiskey tolerances. “Rango” continues,

And although this town does flaunt
Much thicker stories than I care to talk
Darling you’ve fought them in style
And I’ll always love you for that…

It’s hard to return to places we grew up and notice the veneers that have changed on buildings, and more pronounced—the ways the town and ourselves have morphed and transformed, and—occasionally—stagnantly fought to remain the same. “Rango” is the song I play for everyone I want to introduce to Catfish and the Bottlemen. It was nice to hear them introduce themselves to the crowd with it, to have them understand what I hear every time I turn the song up on my iPod. “Rango” is a proper introduction to these Englishmen.

Yes I know
That I’ll never work out exactly how you’re thinking
But let me know when I’m needed home…

The show is swift. Catfish and the Bottlemen don’t spend much time setting up songs, telling anecdotes. The music introduces itself. Steals your attention away from your phone, from the bodies pressed against your back, from the arms raised in the air in silent syncopation. “Pacifier” segued into “Sidewinder.” It was hard to keep my eyes off Van. In March, he’d been soft and sullen. He appeared smaller in a knit sweater. At Terminal 5, hair falling in front of his eyes and shirt unbuttoned, he looked like a proper rockstar. Shoving his fingers into his hair, he seemed to be acquiring the nuances of Harry Styles’ enigmatic persona (I say this mostly because there is nothing Van would hate more than a comparison to One Direction’s heartthrob, a band he has continually denounced in interviews when not tweeting Louis Tomlinson hate). He was lithe on stage, his guitar work both elegant and anarchic. His fingers fast moving, his mouth shoved against the mic as drops of sweat rolled down his hollow cheeks. His eyes were hooded, lowered. Seducing the crowd to come a little closer with “Business.”

I wanna make it my business
I wanna tolerate drunk you, honey
I wanna make you my problem…

The highlight of a Catfish and the Bottlemen concert, in my opinion, is always “Hourglass.” One of the rare moments Van paused to introduce. He dedicated the song that night to Ewan McGregor’s daughter who was in attendance (McGregor is rather famously in the music video—to the point Van noted that people think Catfish really did steal the song from him). “Hourglass” is bittersweet and indulgent. It demands you lean in, sing softly.

And I’m so impatient when you’re not mine
I just want to catch up on all the lost times
And I’ll say I’m sorry if I sound sordid
Cause all I really ever want is you…

My predisposition to love songs about yearning is high. I instantly fell for “Hourglass” the first time I ever listened to The Balcony. You can’t ignore these lyrics:

Offer my hand and I’ll take your name
Share my shower, kiss my frame
Cause I wanna carry all your children
And I wanna call them stupid shit…

All I want is what I can’t have. “All I really ever want is you.” Concise, and to the point. This is my mission statement. The part of me I try to hide behind Sephora brand lip stain and an American Apparel acquired scowl. I’m weak in the face of people I want. I want all of them, their attention and their focus. I want to devour them. I want gentle touches and soft murmurs. I want the fragility of loving someone, and them returning the feelings.

Catfish closes every show they’ve done with “Tyrants,” a song that Van wrote at age 14. Now in their early twenties, the song has earned and gained weight. We’re all trying to “get a grip” of Catfish of Bottlemen as they “make a racket.”

And I did my best to get my hands under your jacket…

Setlist:
Rango
Pacifier
Sidewinder
Fallout
26
Business
Kathleen
Homesick
Hourglass
Cocoon
Tyrants

Tell Me What It Is You Want: Years & Years’ Confession at Terminal 5

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The minute I got inside Terminal 5 last Wednesday to see Years & Years, past the glimmering chandeliers in the entrance hall contrasted by the grime of the floor, I made my way to the bar. I was present to hear Communion, and I wanted my fill of alcohol. It’d already had been a long week. Though, I will say I was dressed the part for a New York City concert in my Topshop Chelsea boots, leather jacket, and leopard print skirt. Budweiser in hand, I headed to the floor.

The closest I feel these days to something akin to religion is attending concerts. The sense of community amassed as we all stand waiting to hear the lyrics we’ve whispered to ourselves before bed, jammed to in our cars at 5pm in standstill traffic or strutted down the sidewalk to. I love the moment that the album goes from being a personal to collective experience. The clamor of sweaty bodies, spilt (cheap) beer, and glimpses I catch of the band make an album tangible. I was ready for “Eyes Shut” and “Without” to become a live experience I could take home, a memory I could hold. Years & Years so acutely speaks to my constant state of longing and wanting. I always want more, more, more.

Years & Years started off their September 16 show with “Foundation.” The beginning of their debut album sets the tone for the dance party they are going to reign over. Communion is an album about want and desire, the latter a name of a track on the album. Communion—like the best pop records—is about love, loss, obsession, and sex. As the lights dimmed and strobes turned on, I downed the rest of my beer and threw my cup to the floor. I didn’t want anything inhibiting me. As Olly Alexander came out on stage, a force of boundless energy and long limbs and blinding smiles, I screamed into the lights, “And I wanna get older / All the things I want I really shouldn’t get…” I used to be shy about taking up space at shows, trying to contort my body as small as possible, make sure my purse wasn’t touching anyone, cautiously moving my hips but not enough to garner any real attention. I was afraid of being seen, mocked. I’m finally learning how to lose myself in the music, how that’s ok if not preferable. The sold-out crowd was immersed in every lyric. Thrashing along to the beat, lunging forward. “And your head looks so good / I wanna love it so much…” All of us understanding that all to familiar urge to drown oneself in someone new, “I wanna do what you love…” Years & Years hauntingly merges upbeat electronic beats with melancholy lyrics, the juxtaposition of uplift and disappointment constantly experiencing friction. The duality live was great. Olly reminds us of the reality of our expectations despite our adoration. The constant refrain throughout the night was our callback response of “ohhh, ohhh, ohhh, ohhhhhhhh.” It was like a dreamlike chant, all of us in the crowd wanting, needing, craving and freely admitting so.

Longing comes up again and again on Communion. Live it was fun to thrash, jump, and sing, “You tell me that you want me now / Is it desire / Or is it love that I’m feeling for you / I want desire…” It’s hard to listen to “Desire” and not think of the modern age of short-lived relationships and Tinder swiping. Is all we want desire? Do we know what love is anymore? Are we willing to find out? Olly was quiet throughout most of the night except from when he interjected, “If you’re here on a date now would be a good time to start hooking up.” The energy in the room palpably changed. Bodies moved a little closer, shook a little bit harder. We are a generation looking for “want.” This was never more apparent than on “Memo” when the crowd rose their voices along with Olly to exclaim, “I want more, I want more / I want more, I want more…”

As everything cracks and splinters on “Take Shelter,” I loved being held up by the audience as Olly sang, “I know I wanted far too much / Never thought I wouldn’t be enough…” I constantly feel like I want too much from people, and therefore I ask for nothing. I am so prepared, so deeply engrained with the belief that I need to be ready at any moment for the brush off. It was nice to seek sanctuary in the lyrics, to dance the loneliness away. “I’m not gonna tell nobody / I’m not gonna tell nobody ’bout you…”

“Gold” was beautiful live, an audience bathed in luminescent gold light singing, “I’m gonna be the one that sets it all alight…” The sense of agency and control. Pop music focuses on the exaltation and exhilaration, the powerful and defiant. Years & Years with “Gold” have written a track that echoes. We see the light, and the darkness within us all is momentarily transformed. I was blinded by strobe lights. I could only feel.

The show quieted down when Years & Years performed “Eyes Shut,” a personal favorite on the album. Olly sat at the piano, iPhone’s craned to get a picture of him poised with his fingers on the keys.

And nothing’s gonna hurt me with my eyes shut
I can see through them
I can see through them…

The audience was hushed. Everyone’s dance moves slowed. Eyes trained on Olly obscured in a halo of pink and blue lights. We stayed silent for “Without.”

You don’t belong to me, you’re too far away
And everything falls apart when I try to say

You’re enough
In love without me
So close your heart
You’ll never find me
Ooh you can hate me now
Cause I’ll be gone
And I’ll be with you or without…

Having relocated to Brooklyn this summer, I feel “Without” strongest. It’s been on my bedtime playlist for months. I objectively miss people, constantly. I just don’t know how to tell them. I understand Olly’s exclamation here that “Everything falls apart when I try to say…” As an English major, I love words. However, poetry taught me that sometimes the power is in the breaks, in the pauses, in the things left unsaid. Everyone I love is “too far away” and I often have to remind myself that they “don’t belong to me” anymore. Time will test the foundation of our relationship, but for now I have to allow us to experience life apart.

The show reaches its culmination with “Real.”

I think I’m into you
How much do you want it too
What are you prepared to do
I think I’m gonna make it worse
I talk to you but it doesn’t work
I touch you but it starts to hurt
What have I been doing wrong
Tell me what it is you want
Don’t know what it is you want…

Years & Years deals with the unknown, the tumultuous. There is very little steady ground. Young, reckless. They’re looking for answers, and sometimes, admittedly, in all the wrong places (people). Standing in a crowd of young twentysomething’s, I felt like we were all admitting we were lost. Tell me what it is you want / Don’t you know what it is you want…

These two girls in front of me turned to each other after Olly bounded off the stage, saying, “He can’t not play ‘King’! He can’t not play ‘King’!” I wanted to pull an Amy Winehouse and tell them there was no way Years & Years would leave the stage without playing their breakout hit. As Olly came back onto the stage to an ovation of hollers and shouts, he smiled, his arms out, and sang, “Let go, let go, let go of everything…” For an evening—as I rose my arms and swung my hips—I actually did.