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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.

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

 

Quickfire Questions #1: The Joy Formidable (In-Person)

 
By on Monday, 28th March 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

For anyone who’s seen the American tv programme Inside the Actors Studio, you know that at the end of the show, host James Lipton asks each of his guests the same 10 questions based on the Proust Questionnaire. My thinking was, if James Lipton has one for actors, why not make one for musicians? Then I started thinking this new feature needed a snappy title. NME’s concept of the 60-Second Interview came to mind, and in particular, this one from Reading last year (see 0.59).

So now we bring you the first of what I hope will be a long series of enlightening, possibly funny, possibly tawdry, silly and insightful exchanges between us and your favourite bands. The very friendly Joy Formidable – Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas – were up for answering the TGTF Quickfire Questions when I chatted with them last Friday during a stop on their North American campaign of touring ‘The Big Roar’– so let’s get to it! (Editor’s note: the references to Tylenol make more sense when you read the rest of my interview with the band, coming soon along with the live review.)

1. What song is your earliest musical memory?
Rhydian: Definitely ‘Hey Joe’ by Hendrix. Yep.
Matt: What could it be? [deep in thought] Hmm…
Rhydian (to Matt): It’s probably something by Jamiroquai, innit?
Matt: Something earlier than that, but something horrible, I’m sure. Probably ‘The Birdie Song’, do you know that one? [I say no.]
Rhydian: [starts singing ‘The Birdie Song’, which we recognise as ‘The Chicken Dance Song’ here in America; everyone starts laughing]
Matt: You know those horrible primary school discos you used to go to? That’s probably where I heard it.
Ritzy: [who has just ducked back into the room] My grandfather used to pick me up when I was tiny and shake me around the room to ‘Come on Eileen’ (Dexy’s Midnight Runners). I remember that very well, he used to fucking throw me around!
Matt: The worst thing was, you thought your name was Eileen! [adopts girly voice] And I thought my name was Ritzy!

2. What was your favourite song as a child?
Rhydian: I’ll say ‘Hey Joe’ again.
Matt: I’ll say ‘Happy Birthday’.
Rhydian (to Ritzy): Yours is definitely something by Elvis Costello, surely.
Ritzy: No, I think it’s ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ (the Supremes). That’s the one I used to dance to. [smiles]

3. What song makes you laugh?
Rhydian: Oh god. You’ve got to see the STS version of…what is that Rolling Stones song? Oh yeah, ‘Start Me Up’. Oh my god, I think it’s the funniest thing ever. The STS mash-up.
Ritzy: And if you watch anything by this Russian singer called Vitas. That’s a guaranteed…you have a drink and a joint and play some Vitas, you won’t stop laughing.
Matt: That guy sings real high!
Rhydian: What’s yours, Matt? You have something new everyday, don’t you?
Ritzy: The Tylenol Song!
Matt: Yeah, it doesn’t really matter. It could be so simple…
Rhydian: It’s not the song, it’s the Tylenol!
Matt: However much Tylenol I’ve had…
Rhydian: He could be listening to ‘A Day in the Life’ and just be laughing…
Matt: I’m just sitting there pissing myself to ‘The Funeral March’!
Ritzy: Matt does laugh quite maniacally…
[Rhydian steps out for a moment]

4. What song makes you cry?
Ritzy: Ooh… [takes a deep breath]
Matt: Well, we know Rhydian’s, that’s for sure…
Ritzy: Yeah, Rhydian’s would be Men at Work. What is the name of that fucking song, I’ve forgot it. The really famous Men at Work? [I offer ‘Down Under’.] Yeah, ‘Down Under’. There’s an emotional thing…
Matt: He has vivid visions of living down under, I think. It’s a beautiful thing.
Ritzy: Mine would be Roy Orbison’s ‘It’s Over’. That kind of gets me.
Matt: I’ve never had a song that made me cry. But made me feel sad, maybe. ‘The Last Goodbye’ by Jeff Buckley.

5. What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet or naughty.)
Ritzy: Oh man! I don’t know if I should say anything… [looks sheepish] No, I’d say that one of the songs I listened to…that very first love, the break-up when you break up with the first person you ever loved? I remember playing ‘I Know It’s Over’ by the Smiths on a continuous loops while thinking “fuck you, jerk-off!” [I comment that the Smiths sort of lend themselves to that sort of situation.] Absolutely! Or ‘Sing Me to Sleep’… [says to Rhydian who’s just walked back in] What was the first song you fell in love to, or it might be an anti-love song?
Rhydian: I think it was ‘Morning Theft’ by Jeff Buckley, maybe.
Ritzy: Ooh…Matt picked a Jeff Buckley song, too! [giggles]
Rhydian: Did he?
Ritzy (in a sing-song voice): Did you fall in love together? [everyone laughs]
Matt: Yeah, and it wasn’t the first time! [more laughter] It wasn’t ‘The Last Goodbye’, lemme tell ya. The last time was ‘Endless Love’ by Lionel Richie! [Rhydian starts singing ‘Endless Love’ in a really high-pitched voice]
Ritzy: We’ve got to stop (drinking), or this is going to be the worst show…
Matt: We need equal up the Maker’s Mark with sweet relish. [points to condiment bottle on the table]

6. What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, etc.)
Matt: The song that’s at the end of Titanic. It makes me really angry.
Rhydian: You mean Celine Dion?
Matt: Yeah! It drives me nuts.
Ritzy: Just drown, would you?
Exactly! Flippin’ heck!
Rhydian: You just reminded me, actually…’The Birdie Song’! (says to Ritzy) He said his first memory was ‘The Birdie Song’!
Matt: Yeah, what’s wrong with that? You know, primary school discos?
Rhydian: That is the most annoying, fucking song, ever.
Matt: Yeah, exactly. That’s why it’s great!
Rhydian: …with the most annoying memories that you ever had.
Matt: But it’s not as annoying as ‘The Lambada’. [starts singing ‘The Lambada Song’]
Ritzy: I was going to say the worst song, all those fucking knobheads doing ‘Agadoo’. All looking like perverts! Do you have that in the States? In a party, they get you to sit down so you’re in a human caterpillar with some dirty bloke straddling your behind. It’s bad, man. It’s like a really perverted line dance.
Matt: Wasn’t there a Wham! song about a time machine?
Rhydian: ‘Time Warp’!
Matt: That’s annoying as well! [Rhydian starts doing the hand gestures to ‘Time Warp’]
Rhydian: “And you’re turnin’ to the right, and you’re turnin’ to the left…” It’s all those disco songs…

7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
Rhydian: There’s a few. Just so I remember, I’ll say ‘A Day in a Life’ (The Beatles), really special.
Ritzy: I would like to have written ‘Beside You’ by Van Morrison, although nobody would have done it as well as he did.
Matt: I dunno…
Rhydian: ‘The Birdie Song”!
Matt: Yeah man! No, fucking Celine Dion. That’s why it makes me so angry! [slams fist on the table] “Why didn’t I write this?”
Rhydian: Either that or the Eastenders theme.
Matt: It’s just a major scale!
Rhydian: It’s just ‘cos it starts with drums.
Matt: How hard is that? [starts singing the Eastenders theme]
Rhydian: But the best songs are simple, man!
Ritzy: What about Coronation Street? [starts singing the Coronation Street theme]
Rhydian: It’s ‘cos it starts with a drum roll (the Eastenders theme).
Matt: [‘sings’ the Eastenders drum roll] Is there any more after that? I always change the channel. That’s it. That’s the best bit done!

8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
Rhydian: This is really hard. I’d say Hendrix because he changed my life. But as for a writer, I’d say he was all-encompassing.
Ritzy: This isn’t music related, but just for the sheer effort, cinematic nature and imagination, I’d say Thomas Hardy. That’s dedication.
Rhydian: H.G. Wells, maybe?
Matt: Back to the time machine again!
Rhydian: Yeah, there’s a few. Morrissey…
Matt: A cross between H.G. Wells, Morrissey and Thomas Hardy.
Rhydian: A love child of all of those? Pretty scary.
Ritzy: With a little of Dickens.
Matt: “What the dickens?”
Rhydian: What’s yours then, Matt? Ian McNabb?
Matt: I’ve never written anything by Ian McNabb!
Ritzy: That is so rude!
Matt: Who’s that guy that wrote that book about what it was…
Ritzy: DaVinci Code?
Matt: Yeah, we’ve been stuck together for so long, we know what each other are talking about. Scary. I just finished reading Anna Karenina.
Ritzy: Oh yeah, Dostoyevsky. [Editor’s note: Actually, this is by Tolstoy.]
Matt: Yeah, that bloke! [laughs]

9. If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Rhydian: I think it would have something to do with being creative. But realistically, we’ve all done temping jobs to scrape by. Something that gives you an outlet, whether you can make a living out of it or not.
Ritzy: I think we’d always be writing, whether or not we’d be sharing it the way we are. I think I could be quite content with doing something with conservation, the environment, or animals. All those sorts of things.
Matt: “Save the Orangutans!”
Rhydian: But that would be your dream job, really, if you weren’t doing this.
Ritzy: Yeah, I’ve always had to do something creative and sharing as a side thing.
Rhydian: I can’t handle monotony, I can’t handle the same formula every day. But of course some people don’t have that privilege, do they, you know? In order to make a living. All you can do is fight as hard as you can to not fit into those.
Ritzy (to Matt): If you weren’t a drummer, what would you be doing?
Matt: I’d probably have a go at carpentry.
Ritzy: I think you’d be a good carpenter.
Matt: Do you? Really? That would be amazing. After finishing a long day of “carpenterising” – I invented that word! – then I’d just down a few oysters…
Rhydian: …and listen to ‘The Birdie Song’!
Matt: Yeah, exactly!
Rhydian: Every day, breathing in the sawdust… {starts singing “The Birdie Song” again]
Matt: With a couple of oyster shells in each hand, banging them together! Being really happy about the banisters I just carved. “Those are nice banisters!”

10. If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
Matt: ‘The Best of Everything in the Whole World’. [everyone laughs]
Ritzy: ‘Heaven’s Greatest Hits’.
Rhydian: No, ‘Titanic’s Greatest Hits’.
Matt: ‘100 Harp Songs’.
Rhydian: ‘The Songs of Titanic on the Flute’.
Matt: No, with Peruvian panpipes!
Ritzy: I actually went to the theatre with my mother, and they were playing that Titanic song on panpipes.
Matt: What did you go see?
Ritzy: I forget what it was but…
Matt: Shrek 3? [laughs]
Rhydian: I’d say ‘Physical Graffiti’ by Led Zeppelin. [I say, that was the example of something you couldn’t pick because it’s a double album.] Noooooo! Double albums aren’t counted? How can you not allow double albums? What?
Ritzy: But what if Satan says, “I allow double albums!” [laughter]
Rhydian: I’ll say ‘Rage Against the Machine’ then.
Ritzy: I’d take ‘This Year’s Model’ by Elvis Costello.
Matt: I’d take a blank CD and copy everyone else’s.
Rhydian: Not ’12 Variations on The Birdie Song’?
Matt: No, ‘The Birdie Song’ on Peruvian panpipes!

And with that, I thank the Joy Formidable for their time and they serenade my departure with their impressions of Peruvian panpipes…

 

This week’s Gonzo – Alexa chats with Katy B, Foo Fighters and Everything Everything

 
By on Friday, 25th March 2011 at 11:00 am
 

This week’s episode of MTV Gonzo is filled with bands currently on everyone’s lips. Dubstep queen Katy B has a chinwag with Alexa that can only be described as rather intimate. She talks about dancing naked and confides “‘Tinie Tempah gives a good hug!” The life of rock stars, eh? Foo Fighters have an exclusive appearance on Gonzo, no doubt to talk about their new song ‘Rope’ and the new album that is soon to follow, ‘Wasting Light’. Via the technological wonder that is Skype, Everything Everything checks in on the road, giving their heartiest “guten Tag!” on the road in Munich.

For the weekly Director’s Cut feature, My Chemical Romance takes you behind the scenes of filming their classic video for ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’. It’s a must-see for diehard MCR fans. For a laugh, the always dapper and always nattily-dressed Hurts play the ‘Would You Rather…?’ game. For more laughs, Alexa tries her hand…er…voice at karaoke and we’ve been told it’s a bit painful. But it’s all saved by Midwest American band Cage the Elephant (pictured above on the famous couch) performing the single ‘Shake Me Down’ from their new album, ‘Thank You Happy Birthday’ (released in the UK on Monday). It all happens tonight on MTV Gonzo.

MTV Gonzo airs tonight (Friday) at 7 PM on MTV Music, with a repeat at 8 PM on MTV Rocks.

 

This week’s Gonzo – it’s Comedy Week!

 
By on Friday, 18th March 2011 at 11:00 am
 

This week’s episode of MTV Gonzo is just a little, shall we say, different. It’s Comedy Week, which means the focus is on, yup, you guessed, the people that make us laugh. It starts out with Richard Ayoade (famous for his roles in ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘The Mighty Boosh’) stopping by to talk to Alexa about his most recent work, the film ‘Submarine’, for which he not only directed but also wrote the screenplay for. (If anything, you’ve probably heard about this film via the soundtrack out this week that was written and performed by none other than Arctic Monkey Alex Turner.)

Ayoade may be difficult to interview but not as difficult as her next guest, Keith Lemon of ‘Celebrity Juice’ fame (pictured above). Remember the word ‘difficult’ when you consider Lemon’s comment of “I’d smash Alexa’s back doors in”. Oi. Like Graham Coxon on last autumn’s series, Alexa also tests Lemon’s drawing abilities. You’ll have to watch the show to find out if he’s a genius with a drawing pencil or not.

But Gonzo is still an MTV programme, and there’s plenty of music coverage. The video for Foo Fighters‘ ‘Rope’ gets an official airing. Jessie ‘Do It Like a Dude’ J sticks her hand into the scary Twitter Tombola and answers some terrifying questions.

On the Director’s Cut feature, TGTF favourites Two Door Cinema Club (just fresh off winning a Breaking Woodie at the mtvU Woodie Awards in Austin, Texas, Wednesday night) talk about their colourful video for ‘What You Know’. In case you haven’t heard, according to the band, it’s the only video CANADA has directed that has no nudity. But before I digress…the show will also feature a live appearance by the View, playing ‘Grace’ from their new album released this month, ‘Bread and Circuses’. Not your standard Gonzo, but it’s got a little bit of something for everyone. Check it out on telly tonight.

MTV Gonzo airs tonight (Friday) at 7 PM on MTV Music, with a repeat at 8 PM on MTV Rocks.

 

Live Review: OMD with Oh Land at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 10th March 2011

 
By on Wednesday, 16th March 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

OMD, like many other English synthesiser bands I was a fan back in the ’80s, seem to all be coming back out of the woodwork to go on these reunion tours. Compared to other shows I go to, I knew the crowd for this one would older – and I say this as a compliment, because that meant I wasn’t going to be jostled and everyone there was, for the most part, considerate of each other. (Which is not always the case at the 9:30: so many bands have said how great the club is to perform at, but they have never considered that it can be treacherous for some of their, um, shorter, smaller fans like myself.)

Nanna Øland Fabricius, better known by her stage name Oh Land, is a Danish singer/songwriter who opened for OMD on this tour. Seeing that she’s Scandinavian, I think the comparisons to Lykke Li are inevitable, especially since judging from her short set during which she often beat on an electronic drum pad with gusto, she likes her beats, just like the Swedish songstress. But if I were to do a straight comparison between the two singers, I’d say Fabricius has the most naturally beautiful voice between the two of them, showing her vocal clearness on the slower, dreamier numbers. And sorry for another Scandi comparison, but her number ‘We Turn It Up’ would make the Robyn dance fans happy, as Fabricius was jumping up and down during this song, clapping her hands. One punter in front of us shouted “I love you, marry me!” and then promptly left after her set, so I guess that’s direct evidence of her growing, captive fanbase in America.

For months, I had been preparing to see OMD for the first time ever. I already had it in my head that I was going to swoon during their one massive American hit, ‘If You Leave’, and I did. Everyone else in the club did too, for that matter. But, given my recent inclination towards synth-based bands in the last 3 years, I was eager to see what equipment Paul Humphreys would bring along. A huge Roland Fantom X8. Serious stuff. I could go on and on about each song and how even the ones I wasn’t familiar with wowed me (‘Dreaming’, ‘Sail on the Seven Seas’, ‘Souvenir’) as well as the new ones that I’ve come to know and love (‘History of Modern’, ‘Sister Mary Says’), alongside the classics. All the while, lead singer/bassist Andy McCluskey was showing off his moves, which was sometimes awe-inspiring for the amount of energy he has but sometimes hilarious for the inanity. Hey, if I can move like that to the music when I’m in my 50s, I’d say I was doing pretty good!

When I say classics, I mean ones like ‘Tesla Girls’, causing the crowd to erupt in cheers at the first hints of the sampled “no no nos!”; ‘Enola Gay’, sounding as great as it did yesterday; and the set closer, ‘Electricity’, which makes your head spin, knowing that it was written in the ’70s. I imagine I felt the same way Jason felt seeing the Human League at Royal Festival Hall last December. When you’re faced with songs that stand the test of time like this, you just stand there, astonished by a band’s talent. The outcome of the night? OMD was equally astonished by the Washington reception. If McCluskey makes good on his promise, this band will be back playing for us again in the Nation’s Capital very soon.

Set list and more photos after the cut.

Continue reading Live Review: OMD with Oh Land at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 10th March 2011

 

MP3 of the Day #309: Crystal Fighters

 
By on Wednesday, 16th March 2011 at 10:00 am
 

At the moment I’m addicted to Spanish band Crystal Fighters‘ song ‘At Home’. Here’s a more tribal sounding remix of the song, reimagined by French producers and DJs Berou and Canblaster. It’ll blow your mind.

The band are playing a couple dates in the UK this month, starting tonight at London Heaven:

Wednesday 16th March 2011 – London Heaven
Thursday 17th March 2011 – Bristol Fleece and Firkin
Saturday 19th March 2011 – Glasgow Captain’s Rest
Tuesday 22nd March 2011 – Brighton Audio
Wednesday 23rd March 2011 – Birmingham HMV Institute
Friday 25th March 2011 – Leeds Mine
Saturday 26th March 2011 – Liverpool Kazimier

 
 
 

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