The Joy Formidable at Webster Hall
There’s a band that you have to see! The best band on the planet!
I tried to let people know.
I said, when was the last show you saw where the pixie-cute chanteuse destroys the set, punctuating the heavenly chaos by launching her guitar into a huge-ass gong before destroying an 8-foot cat head?
Genius in its early prime, I raved.
But I was really only hoping, since I’d only discovered the band a month earlier, and wasn’t sure if it was just the early fizz of love or if this was the real thing.
The Joy Formidable finished its national tour in New York’s Webster Hall last month with a gonzo show – better than even I could have dreamed. It is the real thing.
The Welsh trio’s had agained acclaim coming out of SXSW, where they were one of the big discoveries: miraculous live show, beautiful band members, ass-whipping guitar-driven songs. But no one said anything about stage itself, set up like a Parisian boudoir circa 1910, with plush settees, carpets, candles, mirrors, and chinese screens. Dozens of black ceramic cats were set out here and there. Amen!
Oh, and that 6-foot gong! Oh, and that black thing on the stage, was it a deflated parachute? No, deep in the set, the ground inflated to reveal a 10-ft inflated black cat’s head. Sorry, but I haven’t seen a relatively low-profile band care so much about putting on a show and having fun . . . ever.
The band entered the stage to recorded wind chimes, and left in a thunderstorm of their own making. Singer Ritzy Bryan has Courtney Love’s stage presence, and a zombie’s indefatigable swagger, bouncing around the stage in a robotic swirl with manic bumper car energy.
Video can’t capture the energy of the show, but it can better than words. Be sure to skip to 3:30 to get right into it. Enjoy the great blond pageboy haircut, the black cat, the stage props, and at 6:30 the rocking out that leads to solid gong time. 7:19 and subsequent, if you’re a fan, is nothing of short of glory, as good as any noisy band in their peak of the last two decades.
The show opened with The Lonely Forest, a young band that’s getting a lot of attention for their impassioned anthems. Their influences are immediately discernable: Modest Mouse, Weezer, Death Cab. (Indeed their first full length, Arrows, released this year, was produced by Chris Walla.) The lead singer can whisper, falsetto, growl with equal force; that growl gets a prominent role on the brilliant “Turn Off This Song And Go Outside.” An earnest, guitar-driven band with talent, they’re worth catching this summer.
The Joy Formidable isn’t touring in the US until Chicago Lollapalooza in August, but they are too good to wait till then. I am letting people know, with confidence, now: you need to these sweethearts Memorial Day weekend. They’re playing a festival in Manchester, England, and it’s worth the ticket. I expect even more cats in the future.