The Joy Formidable

support Balthazar
author TL date 04/03/11 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

It's been less than twenty four hours since I last set foot in Loppen: Thursday night I was here to see British indie-rockers Yuck, and tonight, Friday, March 4th, I'm here to see The Joy Formidable, another British indie-rock band. Quite predictable of me I suppose, not considering the ridiculously vast possibilities for application of the indie-rock tag. Regardless, on this night I am slightly more excited for the show, given that I have rather pleasant experiences with the main band's two latest releases, but still, there is as usual the matter of a support band I've never heard about:

Balthazar

Now, I'm not quite sure what to write about this Belgian quintet to be honest. Between the five of them they have distributed, apart from the usual instruments, a couple of keyboards and a violin, and everyone in the band has a microphone stand. Their myspace calls them blues, yet they seem to rely fairly dominantly on funky/reggae-type beats and minimalist instrumentation, while most members join in on vocal harmonies occasionally. They play and sing quite well, and seem into performing as well, but their rather casual music doesn't seem to whip up all that much excitement in the crowd, most of which is politely standing back while various intrepid photographers go to work on the band. I hate it when I have to be that ignorant guy who reduces a band's performances to just a word or a brief sentence, but this was just one of those shows, and all I really have to say about it was that it was rather "fairly cool" than anywhere in the vicinity of "impressive".

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The Joy Formidable

When it comes to the headlining band however, it doesn't take long for me to start noticing things. For starters, there's the band's unusual setup, with the drum kit situated on the side of the stage, lined up facing towards the centre of it, and the massive pedal boards that are aligned in front of the two mic stands that designate the intended spots for the remaining two band members. And coming on stage and kicking off "The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie", the opener from the band's recent debut LP "The Big Roar" it is equally easy to notice that they have no intention of just showing up and playing their tunes in a calm, shoe-gazing kind of fashion. Instead, as soon as the song enters it's noisier parts, frontwoman Ritzy Bryan starts frantically punishing her guitar while staggering around the stage on heels that look dangerously high. She's in drummer Matt Thomas' face, she's in bassist Rhydian Dafydd's face and she's in the crowd's face, all the while sporting an expression like nothing excites her more than beating the living daylights out of her instrument, while making as much noise as humanly and electronically possible. Dafydd and Thomas aren't far behind her, and the entire band rocks out like their lives depended on it, while delivering one catchy number after another. Each dreamy song grows progressively into a massive wall of noise, and the band moves quickly from one to the next, not allowing the audience time to think any critical thoughts of variety, rather winning them over with sheer, uninhibited excitement. Towards the end of the show, Bryan is almost trying to fence with Dafydd, using their instruments, before she instead resorts to just kicking him - in a friendly manner (I think?!) - and continuing to whirl about while playing. The performance ends with no nonsense, as Bryan places her guitar against her amp and engages a loop of feedback, then kneeling before her pedal-board to playfully turn knobs, altering the sound and headbanging like a maniac to the rhythm of the music, while Dafydd tryes to beat on a spare bass-drum with the head of his bass-guitar, while still playing it. Needless to say, the 'big roar' echoes for a bit even after the band leaves the stage, and the band doesn't come back for an encore. Not that they need to do one, after proving that they know what their good material is, and that what matters is playing just that, and playing it with unquestionable conviction.

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  • Setlist:
  • 1. The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie
  • 2. The Magnifying Glass
  • 3. Austere
  • 4. A Heavy Abacus
  • 5. Greyhounds in the Slips
  • 6. The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade
  • 7. Cradle
  • 8. Buoy
  • 9. Whirring

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