Live Review: The Joy Formidable with the Lonely Forest and Mona at Black Cat, Washington, DC – 25th March 2011

By on Tuesday, 29th March 2011 at 2:00 pm

The Joy Formidable brought their ‘Big Roar’ with a vengeance to the DC area Friday night on their second visit ever to the Black Cat. The band’s first appearance here, at the smaller Backstage, was a revelation, definitely in my top 5 gigs of 2010. Support for the evening was provided by a band you may not have heard of – the Lonely Forest, from Anacortes, Washington – and one you definitely heard of – MTV Brand New for 2011 and TGTF 10 for 2011 winner Mona.

Both bands had liveliness that showed they were worthy of opening for the North Wales band. They’re heroes back in the Pacific Northwest, but I don’t think they’re very well known on this side of the States. No matter though: in their 30 minute set, they managed to win over the crowd with their energy (the guitarists of the Lonely Forest used the drum riser for a jumping off point) and with their humbleness: their singer Jon Van Deusen apologised to a punter for not playing the song he requested, but instead offered to play it acoustically after the show to him. Who does that? Bless.

Mona hasn’t played that many gigs in America yet, and actually, this tour with the Joy Formidable is their first real outing in the States. I wondered how they’d go down, considering they’re a whole lot better known in Britain that they are here. I shouldn’t have worried: the amount of raw guitar fire power they had was amazing. ‘Listen to Your Love’ went down a treat, the audience singing along and cheering the band on. They have the tough guy look but when they play, it’s just pure rock ‘n’ roll, man. I look forward to seeing them finally gain the kind of recognition they deserve at home.

It was late, but the crowd was ready for who they’d all come to see, the Joy Formidable. The entire place was rammed. ‘The Big Roar’ was finally released in mid-March here, 2 months after it had been released in the UK. But at least down the front, I was surrounded by Joy Formidable diehards – next to me was a lad who was an obvious devotee, shouting loudly the entire night along with Ritzy Bryan (it was both amusing and annoying). Even though the three of them – Bryan (lead vocals / guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass / vocals) and Matt Thomas (drums) – physically did not take up a lot of room on the Black Cat stage, they made up for it in volume and enthusiasm.

Number after number, they proved yet again why they were one of my favourite live acts of 2010. Songs that are now classic Joy Formidable – ‘Cradle’, ‘Austere’, ‘Whirring’ – were played alongside what are soon to be classics, like ‘A Heavy Abacus’ and ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie’ from ‘The Big Roar’. All the while, the band put their blood, sweat and tears on the line to perform for us. Some detractors have complained that the Joy Formidable are nothing but loud. But on this night we know that deep down, there is heart and purpose to what they do, and they do it so well. At the end I could feel my brain melting. I can’t wait to see them again.

More photos and set list after the cut. The full Joy Formidable in-person interview will post on TGTF soon, but in the meantime, you can read their answers to the TGTF Quickfire Questions here.

The Lonely Forest Photos:

Mona Photos:

The Joy Formidable Set List:
The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie
The Magnifying Glass
The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade
I Don’t Want to See You Like This
Greyhounds in the Slips
A Heavy Abacus

The Joy Formidable Photos:

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[…] loud rock music can be when you’re feeling the lowest of the low. We became friends when they returned to DC 4 months later for a sold out show for the main room of the Black Cat and we had a great, really candid chat […]

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