by Molly Smith
An anthemetic introduction of strings on an empty stage began The Joy Formidable's set at the Knitting Factory last Friday night. A long buildup led into “This Ladder is Ours”, and high energy established the scene for the remainder of the show. The three piece band is comprised of vocalist and lead guitarist Ritzy Bryan, whose big, intimidating eyes stared down the crowd with unrelenting intensity, bassist Rhydian Dafydd, who got up in the faces of the front row fans to encourage a rowdy crowd, and drummer Matthew James Thomas, whose wild hair simply spoke for itself. At first, hearing Bryan's voice was difficult among rest of the high voltage noise, but this was more of a technical mistake than a musical one and was fixed after a couple of songs. Each song was intensified by flashing and alternating colors, extended instrumentals, and abrupt endings that were perfectly orchestrated with the lights. Chemistry between the band members revealed their level of comfort with each other as they played each others' instruments, messed up each others' hair, and made teasing faces between songs. “Maw Maw Song” had the most dramatic and drawn out introduction, though the most intense song was the closing one, “Whirring”, which was extended to about ten minutes, and concluded with Bryan throwing her guitar to the ground, kicking the amp, and blowing a kiss as she left the stage.
The waiting time between The Joy Formidable and Passion Pit was drawn out, partly due to the fact that Passion Pit has so much intricate equipment that required extra prep time. We had some major squealers and pushers standing behind us in the second row, so this wait truly felt like centuries. However, the break was finally over with the opening, “Sylvia”. Though each member was a contributor, especially with three backup vocalists, the attention focused on lead Michael Angelakos while the rest of the band background casually head bopped in sync in the background. “Carried Away” was featured third, and was the first track from their newer album to be played. This was placed well within the context of the rest of the show, because it was too early to play the hit “Take A Walk” (which of course showed up at the end), but it was necessary for the sake of variety to have a more popular and new song. Angelakos' enthusiasm was heightened by his tendency to lift objects in the air, including his mic stand various times. He moved around with the excitement of a little kid, but without going overboard, and his tongue stuck out of his mouth to bring his bright voice even farther forward. “Sleepyhead”, played toward the end of the set, was my personal favorite with its prominent beats and dance-ability, but “Little Secrets” was by far the crowd pleaser, and concluded the show with full audience participation during the chorus, screaming “higher and higher and higher”.
Though The Joy Formidable and Passion Pit have vast differences in genre and sound, the two created a perfect combination next to one another because of their high energy and techniques of riling of the audience.