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Rock music can, unfortunately, seem like a boys club at times. However, there will always be a proper hope for female musicians looking for heroes, whether it be in legends like Carrie Brownstein and Kim Gordon or in the hands of newer musicians, such as the Haim sisters or Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan of The Joy Formidable. After forming in 2007 in North Wales and releasing a handful of tunes and their debut album, The Big Roar, The Joy Formidable began to build up a size-able fanbase due their penchant for loud, smart rock; they’ve since supported Welsh heroes Manic Street Preachers and played a wide range of festivals around the world.
Their show at the House of Blues was originally scheduled to take place on April 20th but, due to obvious reasons, the show was since rescheduled. However, that didn’t diminish the abounding levels of joy and excitement that Ritzy brought to their show as she leapt across the stage, ran up to the audiences’ faces, and blasted her guitar into distorted oblivion.
The first opening act was Vinyl Thief who hail from Nashville, Tennessee. Self-described as a band that “proves that Nashville music doesn’t have to come from the back of a cowboy’s pickup truck or from somewhere inside a garage”, the band brought their blend of electro-rock to the House of Blues with a helpful dose of Fun-esque theatrics courtesy of singer Grayson Proctor who leaped around the stage and threw his hands into the air.
The next band was a local act, You Won’t. Consisting of singer Josh Amoudse and multi-instrumantialist (though most drummer) Raky Sastri, the band pounded their way through their ragged garage rock and hopped up folk songs. Sastri, in particular, impressed by drumming and playing the keyboard at the same time, before whipping out a melodica and toy xylophone to accompany Amoudse’s singing. The highlight of their set came when they stripped down to just a keyboard and Amoudse’s raspy, sand-paper voice for a viscerally emotional showing.
By the time Joy Formidable took the stage, everyone knew that it was time to get loud. Backed by a glowing outline of a wolf’s head (a symbol from their latest album, Wolf’s Law), the band’s set-up looked every bit the rock star: a huge amount of amps and speakers along with a full drum-kit, complete with a massive gong. In contrast, Ritzy sported a bright yellow dress that would look more at place at a Sunday brunch than a rock concert. This is one of the things that makes The Joy Formidable so awesome: NO fake posturing.
Much of the mystic around many-a rock hero is built around their image and The Joy Formidable happily toss these boring stereotypes into the trash. False ennui and anguish do not wrap themselves around this band as they do to many others, rather pure and abundant joy is the key emotion that can be found. It is clear to see and hear that their uplifting music is so obviously drawn from their uplifting personas.
They quickly began their set with early Wolf’s Law singles, “Cholla” and “This Ladder Is Ours” with the latter prompting a great sing-along from the crowd for the song’s chorus: “This ladder is ours, we can be anybody else. Hold on to the fringe, jump through from the past”. Ritzy introduced the song as one of perseverance and encouragement; looking around at most of the crowd jumping around and singing, you can tell that they also feel the same way.
While it truly is the Ritzy show, bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas do a good job of holding the songs down to earth. Dafydd’s thick bass tone made up for the lack of any rhythm/backing guitar player during the moments when Ritzy took the lead, but most of Thomas’s wilder playing was unfortunately unintelligible due to a poor sound mix. The audience saw Thomas wildly smashing away at his huge array of a drum kit, but it only sounded like one big thump.
Regardless, there were enough moments where this backing thump could be made out, so the show went on smoothly. As previously mentioned, the band were extremely happy to be there and frequently extolled praise onto both the crowd and to Boston in general. Really, the only thing on stage that was brighter than the band’s light show was Ritzy’s smile as she gazed out over the enthusiastic audience.
The band closed their main set with a noisy version of “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie” and then quickly came back to the soft tones of “Wolf’s Law”, their latest album’s title track and the only secret track on the album. Finally, a cathartic and thrilling version of “Whirring” ended everything, complete with huge, overdriven guitars blasting noise into the audience; amps were knocked down, drums were all over the place, and The Joy Formidable triumphed.