It has been a week now since Welsh trio Joy Formidable rocked Webster Hall. First off, they packed the house! They sold out the venue and did the same the previous night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. These kids are not a flash in the pan. It was only a few years ago that front woman Ritzy Bryan (guitar/vocals), Rhydian Dafydd (bass/backing vocals) and drummer Matthew James Thomas (drums) played the same venue to a much smaller audience. 2011 saw them promoting their debut album, The Big Roar, which boasted the bold, radio friendly hit "Whirring". Then the trio was reliant on heavy chords and long, free wheeling jam sessions. That is, "Whirring" live was probably a 10 minute song. Bryan relies heavy on feedback and sheer force on the guitar. They are but a few chords, but they demand attention and can be most potent. Dafydd (maybe the hardest name in rock to spell) is every bit a LEAD bassist. Like the title of their debut record, his ax roars and sets a heavy handed tone. And Thomas is more than capable behind the kit. Their rise was pretty significant and before that tours end they headlined the far bigger Terminal 5 and even managed to support the Foo Fighters for a few gigs.
In January of this year Bryan and Co. released their sophomore record, Wolf's Law. While it might not have the extended jams and electric hooks their debut has, it is solid nonetheless. During the nearly 1 and 1/2 hour show they showed some more versatility and growth than 2011. Songs like "Austere" and their first single from Wolf's Law, ""This Ladder is Ours", were played tighter, and without the extended jams. Bryan, adorned again with a little jumper and tights, thrashes around and gets the absolute most out of her tiny frame. Her voice is commanding and she is an engaging leading lady. At first glance she has the look of Mary Stuart Masterson's character in Some Kind of Wonderful. She has a sweet and demure exterior. However when the house lights go off, so does she! That blonde pixie haircut of hers makes the whole thing even more disconcerting. You gonna take my order or rock my socks off? It's the latter folks.
During this tour they are mixing in some slower tempo tracks too, namely "Wolf's Law" and "The Everchanging Spectrum of Life." Bryan is up to the task, as is her rhythm section. But when "Wolf's Law" reaches it's fiery finish you remember why you bought the tickets. When these three musicians lay it all on the line and play to/for the rafters, it is when they are at their best. It can be heard toward the beginning of "A Heavy Abacus." It can be heard as "Cradle" comes to its bombastic, howling, and supremely satisfying conclusion.
The show might have been last week. Their have been myriad of events, both rewarding and miserable in the days that followed. But when I think back at little Ritzy and her mates tearing the hell out of the East Village a smile comes to my face.
Things could always be worse.
|A new phone/camera is just days away|
|Until then these awful photos will have to suffice|
|The adorable rock star, Ritzy Bryan.|
|Joy Formidable, Webster Hall, 4.18.13|