All words: Ross Bonaime
The Joy Formidable already came to the DC area several times, last year opening for Foo Fighters, which is kind of perfect for them. The Joy Formidable is the kind of band whose music is made for an auditorium, ear-bleedingly loud and rock and roll in every sense. They’re the kind of band that makes you wish whatever device your listening to them on could get even louder. So hearing that The Joy Formidable were playing one of their first dates of their latest tour at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church was quite a shock. The show was a benefit concert for the church to fix some problems with the church, but man, The Joy Formidable rocked this church so hard, it’ll be hard to imagine they won’t have a whole new set of repairs to do after the threesome came through DC.
Performing in such a small space could either work for or against The Joy Formidable, thankfully it was the former, as they filled every inch of that church with incredible sound. Starting off with my personal favorite of theirs, “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade,” I was surprised how long it took the crowd to get as excited as they should be. Ritzy Bryan destroys every eardrum in the church’s radius with her great riffs and the drums are harder than I even expected.
After “I Don’t Want to See You Like This,” the band played one of their new songs from their 2013 release Wolf’s Law, the recently released “This Ladder Is Ours.” After the older song “Cradle,” the band played two other new songs, split up by another favorite, “A Heavy Abacus.” I’m uncertain what these other songs are called, but they’re hard as hell. If it’s possible, The Joy Formidable are getting harder and louder than The Big Roar ever managed.
There’s a great back and forth between Ritzy and bass guitarist Rhydian and drummer Matt. Throughout the night, they’re constantly picking on each other and go on about how they may not be as rock and roll as they seem due to traveling with so much tea.
Once they finish with “Austere,” they play what appears to be another great new song, before playing the beginning of “Losing You (Just a Memory),” which Ritzy says influenced her to become a musician. She seamlessly transitions this song into another one of their better tracks, “Whirring,” an incredible closer that leaves everyone wanting more.
It isn’t until the crowd starts chanting and stomping that Ritzy and Rhydian come back out. Ritzy has standards and won’t come back out just because it’s expected. The two of them play another new song, “Silent Treatment.” It’s an acoustic song, unlike anything else the band has ever done. It’s hard to tell if this is just them trying something different live, or if the song will remain acoustic on the album, but I hope it does. It’s a gorgeous song that provides a nice change for them. But as soon as “Silent Treatment” ended, Matt returns to the stage for their final song, The Big Roar’s loudest song, “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie.” After this song, there’s not even an attempt for an encore, everyone knows there’s no way of topping that.
Before leaving though, Ritzy announces that they’ll be coming back around in March, two months after their new album comes out. Regardless of the size of the venue, I recommend getting tickets ASAP for one of the most fun and loudest rock bands you’ll ever hope to see right now.