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My last interaction with Joy Formidable frontwoman Ritzy Bryan was last year when I met her shortly before her set at the Great Scott. She gave me a huge hug (I interviewed her for a preview for that show) and raved about reading the article over a delicious roast beef sandwich from Kelly’s. She is as sweet as they come, and was truly flattered to be written about even though they’ve managed to carve out quite the name for themselves. But I didn’t get the chance to stay for their entire set–so I wasn’t able to get the full picture of what they were capable of live.
At this show however, Bryan’s baby doll image was juxtaposed by her man-handling a guitar that was almost bigger than her, which was reason enough to make sure I stuck around for the entire evening. The venue was packed–most likely sold out–and she acknowledged this fact. Actually, she seemed humbled by it right before she tore into songs off of their first full length, The Big Roar.
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She sounded a bit faded vocally as she playfully serenaded drummer Matt Thomas who was palpably located on the right corner of the stage (not the back), parallel to Bryan. But onlookers knew the trio (Rhydian Dafydd was on bass) were on point as they sailed through songs that were impossible not to sing along to including “Cradle,” “Whirring,” and “A Heavy Abascus.” As they dipped into “Austere,” it became apparent that Bryan’s voice wasn’t the eclectic wild card the recorded version led us to believe it was. Instead, it was a light and hypnotic affair that aerated its’ way through the audience. The melancholy “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” was the most unforgettable song of the evening. It managed to jolt their punky set to a more mellowed out and reflective state. The song was riddled with tremendous angst that seeped from Bryan’s lips and onto the ears of the audience. And it was a sound we didn’t mind in the least.