A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Mail: PO Box 1556 | Burlington, VT 05402

Wrapup: The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews

Written by Brendan

Friday November 5, 2010

Rachel and I drove up to Montreal last night to see The Joy Formidable, who we’ve both been dying to see since their EP A Balloon Called Moaning came out this past summer. I wrote about the haunting vocals, driving guitar riffs and frantic drumming in a post in June.

We left Burlington early to try and beat the traffic and get in dinner up there. It was a miserable, rainy drive both ways which definitely took a little more out of both of us than the trip up and back usually does. We ended up getting to the club early which was cool because we got to really check out the space, and wasn’t cool because we had to both wait for and then listen to the opening band, who I definitely didn’t care for. Seems like they had all the right pieces, but their sound was boring at best.

The next band, The Dig, definitely brought me back to life a bit. They were an energetic 4-piece (drums, bass, guitar and guitar/keys), out on a brief swing with The Joy Formidable. The bassist Emile Mosseri and the guitarist David Baldwin shared singing duties, and both held their own, though Mosseri’s parts were definitely the highlight. The bouncing bass got the crowd moving and psyched up for the main act. I’d definitely see these guys again.

The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus 11/4/2010

Rhydian Dafydd, Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas of The Joy Formidable

There were about 60 people there when The Joy Formidable took the stage, about 2/3 standing right up in front, and 1/3 in the back of the room sitting at tables, which must have felt a bit odd from the stage. They started with “Cradle”, and we were quickly introduced to lead singer Ritzy Bryan’s crazy eyes (exactly as it sounds), which definitely added an edge to their performance throughout. It was a great song to start with, and definitely got the crowd pumped. Bryan and drummer Matt Thomas were full of energy, with her thrashing her guitar around stage, and him with a face full of hair and arms that moved so fast you could barely see them. They had a great rock vibe.

There were three songs that I can think of that I loved, “Cradle, The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade,” and their final number “Whirring”, which they extended into a massive writhing, sweating ear-bursting freak out (glad I had my EarLove hi-fi earplugs with me). That performance definitely made the show for me.

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Ritzy Bryan and Matt Thomas

Unfortunately, the rest of the songs, mostly a mix of new material including their recently released single “Popinjay” fell a little flat with me. It’s often really tough to hear a song live for the first time, especially at a club with fairly poor acoustics, because I find myself trying to hear things, instead of just listening and feeling. So I don’t want to say that their new material was necessarily not as good, but I definitely felt a lack of connection. I also found myself thinking how nice it’d be if they added some keys to their lineup (there were at least 2 songs which included pre-recorded sounds that could have been played by an actual person).

The set lasted barely an hour, which on most nights might have disappointed me, but I was so exhausted and really wanted to get the drive home over so I could be back in bed. I’d see The Joy Formidable again if they came to Burlington, and would definitely make it a point to hear more of their new stuff before I did. They put on a good — though not great — show, and could definitely benefit from a room with clearer acoustics. I recommend seeing them if they come to your town, with the caveat that their show is a bit of a mixed bag of fantastic and fair.

Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable @ Le Petit Campus, Montreal 11/4/2010

Ritzy Bryan

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

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