I won tickets to 98.7 FM's Penthouse gig with The Joy Formidable, where they played 4 songs from The Big Roar, which will probably end up my favorite album of 2011. It was a low-key affair, but the band turned in some stellar acoustic versions of songs like Austere, I Don't Want to See You Like This, Whirring and The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade.
Singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan, drummer Matt Thomas, and bassist Rhydian Dafydd told stories, joked around, and just had a good time up on the roof of the Hollywood Tower Hotel while my fellow contest winners and I enjoyed the intimate setting.
The songs translated exceptionally well acoustically, which was a nice treat. Enjoy the videos below.
Later that night, the band played the El Rey Theatre alongside Seattle-based Telekinesis and local band Races. Unfortunately, I missed Races, but made it inside the venue for Telekinesis. Their shimmery, energetic pop-rock had a great overall sound, even though I had been expecting something a bit more "grungy", given their Pacific Northwest roots. That's not to say I didn't enjoy their set, though. They said they're playing Late Night with Jimmy Fallon next week, so stay tuned for that if you dig pop-rock with melodic guitar playing and singalong choruses.
At promptly 10:30, the lights dimmed and the Joy Formidable stormed onstage, while two plastic wolves kept guard at the edge of the stage, illuminated by the frantic light show.
Jumping right into A Heavy Abacus, the band was in fine form indeed. The song, a swaying, buoyant explosion of rhythmic aggression and gorgeous vocals by Bryan, was the perfect way to begin the short 9-song set. Non-album track Greyhounds in the Slips was energetic and thunderous, although barely anyone in the venue was familiar with the song. Austere and The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade allowed the band to really get into the groove, so to speak, culminating in the last 3 songs before the encore: Cradle, Buoy (which had a particularly earth-shaking intensity, the guitar and bass swelling and expanding with each roof-rattling drum smash by Thomas) and Whirring, which was turned into a nearly eight-minute wall of sound. Bryan trounced around the stage, assaulted her guitar with a frantic intensity, ran into Davydd, and smashed Thomas's cymbals with her fists during the song's final 3 minutes. Each time I've seen them this year, Whirring tends to be the most memorable moment, as it grows and grows and intensifies to quite an obscene level. Far more than just the band's "lead single", it's easily one of their most captivating songs when played live.
After a short break, they re-emerged for the 2-song encore of The Magnifying Glass and I Don't Want To See You Like This. By the time it was over, their agonizingly short 9-song performance made one thing abundantly clear: I can't wait until they have more music out so they can play longer sets.
In all, it was a great day, capped off by another stunning set by one of my new favorite bands. If you're unfamiliar with them, fix that. They're definitely a band to watch in 2012, as they seem on the cusp of very big things.
Enjoy a photo gallery from the Penthouse gig and the El Rey below.