And forget we did. The Joy Formidable’s live sound is raucous and pummeling but ultimately thoroughly enjoyable. Dafydd and his cohorts Ritzy Bryan (vocals and guitar) and Matthew James Thomas (drums) played a perfect set length’s worth of tunes, alternately blistering and dreamy. Older songs like “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie” and “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” (a set highlight) meshed perfectly with tracks from their newest effort, Wolf’s Law. Bryan’s unabashed goofy grins and Dafydd’s near-constant trips to the drum kit to make faces at Thomas belied a refreshing fact about the band: these guys really, really like playing music together. And that sort of attitude is infectious. Throughout their set it was difficult to find a member of the packed house who was not moving to the music, if not smiling.
If there is one point of concern (as I had no complaints) about The Joy Formidable’s set, it actually extends into the realm of an album review. I am yet to hear a song by this band that I dislike, but at the same time, when I think of Wolf’s Law and the songs therein I can’t help but be reminded of when I first heard Interpol’s album Antics. It’s a damn good album, but there’s very little deviation from its predecessor. I’d love to see what these guys could do if they really spread their wings and tried something a bit different from the bombastic rock that they’ve perfected.
Opening acts Vinyl Thief (Nashville) and You Won’t (local boys) satiated the crowd after the doors opened, and suffered from a poor choice of order. Vinyl Thief, on first, delivered an exciting blend of synth pop and Arcade Fire-esque grandiosity, complete with a kickass singer delivering immediately hummable hooks. With the energy and enthusiasm of young children, they flailed about the stage, completely lost in their own music. To add a degree of familiarity, they played a faithful cover of Tears for Fears’s classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that fit in quite nicely amidst their own tracks. It’s a tough job to be an unknown opening act, but these guys had the goods to back up their position. Their danciness and great songs won over the crowd, and I was nothing short of impressed. This is a band I’ll certainly listen to again.
Conversely, You Won’t pulled the energy back considerably. A (mostly) guitar and drum duo, You Won’t essentially sounded like a much noisier stab at what Buddy Holly had started (particularly vocally). Singer/guitarist Josh Arnoudse in particular seemed more interested in interacting with his friends at the front of the crowd than performing for a packed house, and he had an unfortunate penchant for saying “I” and “me” when the correct thing to say as a member of a band would be “we”. This is exacerbated slightly because of the skill of the unassuming Raky Sastri, who would frequently pull double duty on drums and any number of other instruments including and not limited to musical saw, organ, and melodica. He was a pleasure to watch but unfortunately he was limited to a repertoire of familiar chord progressions and tired vocal melodies.