As huge as their sound was, it was bandleader Ritzy Bryan’s guitar work that stole the Joy Formidable’s performance at the sold out Larimer Lounge on Friday night. The sheer size of the Welsh band’s shimmering assault on the packed venue only pressed the audience even more tightly against each other throughout the short set.
As Matt Thomas and Rhydian Dafydd (on drums and bass respectively) laid down a sometimes monstrous, but always driving core of rhythm, Bryan worked fuzz-drenched shoegaze magic that rivaled that of auteur Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine), and showed off her strong vocals. And while the result was certainly loud, it was anything but mere cacophony. Bright, poppy melodies mixed with an evident Joy Division influence poured from the stage, as the packed-in crowd swayed and bounced, sometimes almost as if it were one giant organism.
The trio made the Larimer’s small stage appear huge, but both Bryan and Dafydd used all the space they could. Both stood behind huge, impossibly complex pedal boards, and they seemed to use every one of the effects.
The Joy Formidable has been making waves since they released their first single in 2008, and the buzz is justified. While their full length LP “The Big Roar,” just released this year, carries the weight of their style, it’s really nothing compared to their live show.
The almost tactile feel of their noise brought much more depth to songs like “Austere” and “I Don’t Want To See You Like This,” and magnified the peril of “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie,” which often recalled the band the Big Pink in tone. The ultra-heavy throb behind “The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade” enhanced the anthemic nature of the song, and showed a feral side of Bryan as she played and sang.
The single drawback of the night was the short set length — an unfortunate result of their small, young band collection. But the taste was well worth it, and served to whet the appetite to see more.
Shawn Parker is a Denver-based freelance photographer and web developer.