Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
The Big Roar
The Joy Formidable and The Lonely Forest at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangI wasn’t even intending to be at this show. The plan had been to catch The Joy Formidable at one of their many SxSW shows and thus free up this evening for something else or nothing else. A good plan, on paper, but one scuppered by the fact that the Welsh trio, who released their debut album The Big Roar Stateside on the eve of the festival, would turn out to be one of the buzz bands of the fest and any of the showcases I tried to get into were jammed to the point that getting a decent line of sight, let alone a good vantage point to shoot from, was nigh impossible. I guess what with the band having come through Toronto twice already in the past year and a third visit on the horizon, I was taking them a bit for granted. Lesson learned.
And so it was a third go-around for The Joy Formidable at The Horseshoe on Saturday night, though at least this time The Dig, who’d opened up the last two shows, had been swapped for labelmates The Lonely Forest. Clearly this quartet from the Pacific northwest, who just released their debut Arrows, is getting some attention from the powers that be, what with their being attached both to this tour and the upcoming Death Cab For Cutie jaunt later in the Spring. And that latter pairing makes a lot of sense, considering The Lonely Forest’s facility with energetic if slightly generic post-emo punk-pop. Still, what they lacked in originality they made up for in energy and on-stage pogoing and as one fellow in the audience called out, “I came for The Joy Formidable but you guys rock!”. That’s pretty much all they could ask for.
The Joy Formidable’s independently-released A Balloon Called Moaning was a nearly perfect introduction to the band’s fiery arena rock-meets-shoegaze sound, long enough to confirm that they were for real and short enough to leave you hungry for more. So when it came out that the band was re-recording half the EP for inclusion on their major label debut, there were some concerns that they might polish out some of its more delightful roughness in favour of a more radio-friendly sound. Concerns that proved to be unfounded as if anything, the new versions were even bigger, louder and spikier than before – almost the point of excess. And really, that applies to The Big Roar as a whole – it’s an utterly massive-sounding record and almost exhausting to get through, but the key word is almost. Unless you’re simply not in the mood for rock action on this scale, it’s an invigorating listen.
The principle of “more is better” also applied to their live show, though in this case it meant bigger, not longer. Despite having a pretty good wealth of material to draw on at this point, The Joy Formidable kept their set lean and mean, and still very very similar to the ones they brought through previously. It really only differed in a couple of song selections and the fact that they’d somehow gotten even more explosive as a live act. Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan has further perfected her psycho guitar-pixie persona and added in a dose of crazy eye, bassist Rhydian Dafydd now takes on more vocal duties and has added a Hulk Hogan ear-cup to his stage moves and drummer Matt Thomas, well he kept up which basically means he beat the shit out of his kit. The Joy Formidable ethos seems to be to make each song its own standalone epic and so while the show only ran ten songs with two-song encore and maybe an hour in length, it had more musical detonations than other bands pack into shows twice the length. All that said, I do hope that the next time they come through town which may well be sooner rather than later based on past history, they’ve mixed the set up a bit. Just a little.
Photos: The Joy Formidable, The Lonely Forest @ The Horseshoe – April 2, 2011
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Greyhounds In The Slips”
MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
MP3: The Lonely Forest – “Coyote”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (new)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “I Don’t Want To See You Like This”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Popinjay”
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Whirring” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Austere” (original)
Video: The Joy Formidable – “Cradle”
Clientele/Pipas side-project Amor de Días will team up with Damon & Naomi for a Spring tour that hits The Horseshoe on May 25. Yup, missing that one too. Both bands have new albums – Amore de Días’ debut Street Of The Love Of Days and Damon & Naomi’s False Beats and True Hearts – out on May 17.
Pulp – who are the reason I’m missing the aforementioned shows – has relaunched their website, loading it with videos of people – both famous and not – covering their songs. Many of them terribly.
Video: 6 Day Riot – “Tusk”
The Daily Record talks to James Allan of Glasvegas, who are streaming their new album Euphoric Heartbreak for those who opt to “Like” it on their Facebook. Everyone else gets the first three songs. The album is out now.
Stream: Glasvegas / Euphoric Heartbreak