Carly Fitzgerald gives the low down on the BBC Introducing Live Showcase, held during November last
BBC holds a weekend-long showcase every year, this time it took place at Tobacco Dock in London. The event fuses masterclasses, workshops, talks, performances and interviews together to create the perfect event for anyone interested in the creative industry.
I attended the Thursday of the event and started the day off by attending an interview with James Bay in the Spotify Discovery Theatre. Dermot O’Leary sat down with James Bay to discuss the highs and lows of being a musician and to explore what would be useful for musicians who are just starting out to know. James delved into his past to discuss how he went from playing open mic nights in Brighton to playing his own headline shows today. He also spoke about how hard he still has to work, even with two critically acclaimed albums under his belt. He kept reiterating how the most important thing you can do is to believe in yourself and your music, so much so that he stated he sounded like a broken record, but it really drove it home that if you don’t have a belief in your talent no one else really will.
He also spoke about how when he was young the internet was just becoming big and he used to still sit down with the sleeve from a record and listen to it, even though he could have all the information at his fingertips in seconds. He preferred to sit down with the CD or vinyl sleeve and dissect the record as he felt there was more value in it as more time was spent on it. Dermot added in a bit about his own childhood experiences, which involved the constant rewinding of cassettes and the unbelievable moment when you would rewind it and it would land perfectly at the start of the song you wanted to hear. It was interesting to be reminded of how different listening to music used to be and the struggles that were encountered. We’re lucky to live in a time where we have so much diverse music at our feet, but then again sometimes you would miss those Walkman days or would have loved to be back when LPs were the go-to for music.
The breaks between talks were the perfect opportunity to explore what the event had to offer. Tobacco Dock spanned two floors and housed bars, food stalls, conference rooms, equipment rooms and a career fair where you could network. The equipment rooms were great for musicians, or anyone who wanted to have a go or to know more. You could enquire about the equipment and try out different instruments from the likes of Marshall, as well as different types of amps and microphones. You could definitely spend the day jamming away, however I had more on my agenda and headed back to the Discovery Theatre.
Here, Jamie Cullum did a session on improvising. He spent an hour with his band dissecting the song ‘Lights Up’ by Harry Styles. They first figured out how to play it, whilst describing the process and then, with the help of some of the audience members for harmonies, performed the song. It was intriguing to see how songs can be broken down by musicians who have only heard it once or twice and then for them to have it almost perfected in under an hour.
Next up were Catfish and the Bottlemen, who sat down with renowned Radio 6 DJ Steve Lamacq ahead of their sold-out Tobacco Dock gig to talk about their writing process, the graft they put in to make it and touring around the world.
Catfish and the Bottlemen had been together and touring for some time before they got signed, but they said this enabled them to learn a lot through the trials and tribulations, and to really hone and perfect their craft. They looked back on harder times for them as a band and explained how they once played a show to no-one, as even the sound engineer left. However, now they are selling out venues like Manchester Arena and have their eyes on playing big outdoor shows, and even stadiums. They spoke about how they are at a level now that they have cover bands of their own band. Bassist Benji joked that the reason he knew they’d made it was when they could upgrade their McDonald’s meals from a medium to a large.
They talked about touring and writing their album in Ireland. Van expressed that the writing process for him is always easy and he will get ideas for songs and write for a week straight. He spoke about where certain songs originated from and where he was at when he wrote them. He told Steve that he has little snapshot memories from each song he wrote and seemed to really enjoy recalling how the songs came about, as he asked for Steve to throw some more at him to recollect.
They took some questions from the audience at the end of their chat with Steve. Someone asked what it takes to be a good manager and another quizzed them to know if they would ever add songs they axed from the setlist back onto it again. ‘Red’ was a song that a few audience members wanted back on the setlist, to which they ‘fessed up that it’s complicated to play live and the cover band of them could probably do it better. Others opted for more classic Catfish bops such as ‘Rango’. (I think they hoped it would inspire the band to add them to that night’s setlist.)
In the evening, Catfish and the Bottlemen took to the stage of the Great Gallery in Tobacco Dock to deliver a high-energy performance. Their set was shorter than usual for this event, but it comprised of all their greatest hits which really got the crowd going. They opened with the debut single from The Balance ‘Longshot’, which had everyone chanting the lyrics back from the very first “go” until the end.
Van McCann is an energetic and charismatic frontman that just can’t stay still, his energy radiates and transfers onto the crowd to create a truly euphoric atmosphere. ‘Pacifier’ is an anthemic song and it caused the crowd to go wild with its pounding guitar riffs and chantable lyrics. ‘Cocoon’ was another stand out song they played, as it had people literally climbing up onto the rafters of the building. At any point during the gig, if you looked around, at least one person was up on shoulders singing the lyrics back to the band. Their simple stage design and light display allowed the focus to be mainly on them and really amped up the pressure for them to perform.
Catfish closed with ‘Tyrants’, a song they said earlier they have closed their set with for about eight and a half years. It is evident from their gig that Catfish and the Bottlemen have an enthusiastic and dedicated fan base, but it’s no wonder that they do – the gig left you wanting more from the Welsh foursome.