live: The Joy Formidable @ Leeds Festival 2012

Following on from Tribes, a band created wholly on the festival formula of straight-laced rock ‘n’ roll that you can drink to – and bettering them in terms of singalong-ability and crowd shenanigans – is no mean feat. But The Joy Formidable are a rare beast, a formidable one: they adhere to the ethos that bigger is better, and the ear-shattering levels of noise created by just three people really is a spectacle to behold. 

photo credit: Kristina Mordokhovitch

Wasting no time before exploding into the incessant siren-esque keyboard riff of ‘The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade’, the Welsh trio illuminate the gloom of the hordes beginning to congregate in the cavernous tent, and it’s not long into the soaring bluster of Ritzy Bryan’s vocals and instrumental feedback in the chorus before girls-on-shoulders are already abound. One of the band’s defining live songs, the primal power and majesty eclipses the recorded version – which could arguably be said of all their live renditions.

After the ear-splitting (yes, I’m running out of synonyms for ‘noisy’ already) crescendo Ritzy then declares the crowd to be her “beautiful, sexy guinea pigs” but, unfortunately, this is not some weird fetish, just preamble to new material from their upcoming sophomore album. ‘This Ladder Is Ours’ and ‘Cholla’ are typically raucous numbers, with the latter’s bounce and rolling riffs inciting a minor mosh pit, whilst ‘Silent Treatment’ sees TJF explore relatively new territory of acoustic tranquility. It’s a nice comedown from the storm of the rest of the set, and there’s even a few arms swaying in the crowd.

Back to the cascading surge of the pounding bass and drums, live mainstays and fan favourites, ‘Whirring’ and ‘Cradle’, add riotous screaming to the drunk faces, whilst on the purple-lit stage the ardent chemistry and kinetic presence of the band comes to the fore. Ritzy parades around firmly on crazy-eyes mode, scampering over to take a wild kick at one of Matt Thomas’ huge array of cymbals, before she eventually joins Rhydian to bring the climactic fracas of ‘Whirring’ to life. It’s never less than confident and assured – and loud – and there’s a real sense that they’ll be becoming worthy headliner propositions for this stage very soon. After all, what else would be the point of making all that noise?

“Can’t you see I’m good?” bellows Ritzy over the cacophonous torrent of feedback of set-closer ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’. After forty minutes of wave after wave after wave of pulsing noise, I think just about everyone here can.


About darrylhunt

vegan + third yr eng lit student at uos
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