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The (truly enJoyable) Joy Formidable

Maggie Waickman | Monday, April 15, 2013

            Welsh alternative rock band The Joy Formidable graced the stage of Legends’ this past Thursday night. After a sloppy-yet-energizing start by Team Spirit, the opening band, The Joy Formidable took the stage and rocked. Unfortunately, the show was cut short due to leader singer Ritzy Bryan’s health issues. Despite this early end to the show, The Joy Formidable and Team Spirit together produced a noise and night, which was, in fact, formidable.

            Team Spirit, headed by Ayad Al Adhamy (formerly of Passion Pit), forcefully tried to take the audience on a rock n’ roll high. Adhamy sung, sweated, and jammed so hard at times he seemed in danger of falling down. Team Spirit is just a fledging band – their EP was released just two days before the show at Legends – but they made up for their inexperience with their soul power. The band did its best to pump up Legends and for the most part succeeded, especially with songs such as “F*** the Beach” and “Jesus, He’s Alright”. The audience seemed to lose a bit of energy with the extensive break between the opener and the headliner, but when The Joy Formidable came on, the audience was ready for more.

            The Joy Formidable was loud in the best kind of way, complete with rampaging guitars and a giant gong. I was impressed by the amount of sheer noise emanating from this Welsh trio. Lead singer, Ritzy Bryan, stood out, providing a softer edge to the rock n’ roll vibe. Sporting a cookie monster baseball hat and a black sequined dress, she stood out both visually and vocally. Bryan’s voice, feminine yet forceful, contrasted with Bryan’s guitar, Matthew Thomas’s percussion, and Rhydian Dafydd’s bass.

            Bryan wasn’t the only visually pleasing aspect of the show. Behind the band, a giant lit-up wolf’s head, reminding the audience of their recently released sophomore album, “Wolf’s Law,” served as backdrop. This neon-lighted wolf’s head doubled as a projection screen for ever-changing images throughout the show.

            The Joy Formidable played seven songs, one of my favorites being “Austere,” a track that is so catchy and danceable the audience is compelled to dance and sing along before they can stop themselves. After a song “about the real kind of friendship, not the Facebook friends,” Bryan started looking reserved and not as high-energy as she had in the previous songs. While I thought it might be because she was feeling emotional about the song, Bryan revealed after the song’s conclusion that she wasn’t feeling well.

            Bryan announced that she had to cancel the show. She had been feeling unwell for the past few days and said she feared she might pass out. Bryan’s remorse for canceling was perhaps one of the sweetest parts of the show. The Joy Formidable never cancelled a show or ended a show early before, and Bryan couldn’t stop apologizing to the crowd. The audience cheered for Bryan and yelled at her to go sit down and get off the stage.

            Although The Joy Formidable only got halfway through their set, and didn’t play “Whirring,” their most popular song, the spectacle they put on still made the trek out to Legends’ worthwhile. I was most impressed by the attitude and spirit of front-woman Ritzy Bryan. Despite sickness, she didn’t cancel a show in the tiny town of South Bend. Despite having a pounding, electric sound that aspires to larger venues, she didn’t mind being face-to-face with the audience. And she did it all while rocking out in a Cookie Monster hat.