This won’t have been quite the way Van McCann pictured it in his dreams. The 22-year-old from Llandudno has been waiting all of his short life for the chance to play on a platform like Glastonbury’s Other Stage, but when the morning of the big day rolled around he found himself crouched over a loo painting the porcelain seven shades of putrid vomit. Food poisoning. Nasty business. He was forced to cancel a big interview with Nick Grimshaw on Radio 1, and just hours before the show his management were seriously debating whether the band would have to pull out of the whole show.
Fortunately, Van is made of sterner stuff than that. Yet even when the band make it onstage the challenges don’t let up. Midway through storming opener ‘Kathleen’ the heavens open, leaving the boisterous crowd sodden. “Sorry about the rain, Glasto,” says Van, while bassist Benji Blakeway shouts towards the band’s guitar tech: “Get some towels, Larry!” Larry appears to try and dry off the band’s kit, which is being lashed with torrents of rain, but he can’t do much in the face of the elements. Water pools on the stage. “These guitars are going to get fucked,” Van tells the crowd. He’s proved right, and towards the end of the set he hurls his instrument over his head in anger. It shatters into smithereens at the back of the stage.
Despite these obvious frustrations – in high water and feeling hellish – the band snatch triumph from the jaws of misery. Even as the rain lashes down, when ‘Pacifier’ follows ‘Kathleen’ the crowd bounces in the mud. They sing their hearts out to ‘Fallout’, ‘26’ and ‘Business’ – all from last year’s ‘The Balcony’ album – and then swoon as Van goes solo on ‘Homesick’. Closer ‘Tyrants’ ends in a jam that suffers from the sound cutting out of the band’s rain-soaked instruments, but the band play like their lives depend on it. He may be feeling off colour, but Van is on charming form, thanking the crowd profusely over and over again, and promising one chancer who threw his album up and onto the stage that he’ll “definitely listen to it”. But it is penultimate track ‘Cocoon’ which gives him, his band and the crowd their most cathartic moment of triumph. As Van sings “Fuck it if they talk…” the crowd join him loudly on the first two words, as if directing their ire towards the rainclouds, the mud, or anything else trying to dampen the party. The conditions are grim and the singer is ill, but the moment shines through the dark clouds. Nothing will be raining on Catfish & The Bottlemen’s parade today.