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- Posted on Jan 12th 2010 12:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
It was a dramatic end to what had been a thrilling 40 minutes of music. There was just one problem: Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan so desecrated her instrument that the band couldn't satisfy fans' demands for an encore. "I'm speechless," Bryan said, sheepish grin on her face, untunable guitar hanging uselessly over her shoulder.
Days earlier, the Joy Formidable had made its Big Apple debut under far different circumstances, opening a pair of shows for Passion Pit at Terminal 5. While the trio certainly has a sound big enough to fill that spacious, bi-level Manhattan venue, it likely felt more at home at Union Hall, a cozy basement space where the low ceiling and view-obstructing pillars are part of the charm.
From the opening 'The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade,' the Joy Formidable came on dark and melodic: a quasi-goth Nirvana with stadium aspirations. Dafydd may be a petite blonde with a sweet face and gracious disposition, but once she starts singing, her smile fades and deep-seated emotions take hold. She becomes a glassy-eyed hybrid of Bjork and Siouxsie Sioux.
Alongside bassist Rhydian Dafydd, Bryan churned up squalls of distortion reminiscent of British predecessors Ride and My Bloody Valentine. The group somehow shoehorned this mighty racket into concise, punky pop songs, many of which followed the classic quiet-loud-quiet trajectory. Then again, given the band's lust for volume, "quiet" might not be the right word.
"No one's gone deaf yet, have they?" Bryan asked midway through the set, perhaps out of concern for the girl in the front row covering her ears as she swayed with the music.
What followed was the evening's only ballad, an eerie, simmering number not on the Joy Formidable's latest release, 'A Balloon Called Moaning.' The song was as unsettling as it was beautiful, and for three tense minutes, the band seemed poised to shatter the calm and slam into one of its overdriven choruses.
The release never came -- at least not until the next song, when the trio resumed the kind of tuneful thrashing that would leave fans wanting more.