I’m doing this one Memento-style and beginning with the end. When the Joy Formidable set ended Sunday night at Treefort, the crowd piled out of the main stage and into the streets of Boise. Security seemed surprised and asked: “everyone’s leaving, huh?” It could have been that everyone was taking a break to grab some food before Poliça took the stage, but I like to think that after having our faces rocked off by JF, everyone wanted to leave on a high note. And what a high note it was.
After The Family Crest revitalized the crowd, there was a delay due to technical difficulties before the trio of Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd, and Matthew James Thomas took the stage. My worry was that the long gap would kill all the momentum. That fear was put to bed when the trio commanded the stage and dove into their opener “This Ladder Is Ours.” Ritzy Brian shredded on her guitar while assuming Gemini poses of rock ‘n’ roll professional and Welsh properness.
They didn’t let the foot off the pedal until another technical glitch paused the show and bassist Rhydian Dafydd picked up an acoustic guitar and Bryan shared with the crowd that their next song, “Silent Treatment,” was written while vacationing on Sebago Lake in Maine. That elicited a “whoo!” from native Mainer me and little else from the rest of the crowd.
No one else here in the northwest has been to Sebago? No? It’s really pretty…
After that, we were ready to rock and they took us through the rest of the edgier songs from The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law with the panache and showmanship you would expect out of a festival headliner. They had a big role to fill, then met and exceeded all expectations. Bryan had all the stage presence one could ask from a frontwoman, telling the back story behind each track (like the woman she met in London who carried chains and inspired “The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie”) Dafydd continuously strutted to the front of the stage and even showed his striker skills with a beachball that almost took the head off of Greg. Thomas played aggressive and loose on the stage, then would stand up and talk to… someone… at the back of the crowd?
At one point during their set, I spied a laptop behind a stack of amps that must have been powering the orchestral sounds from the tracks off of Wolf’s Law. It is understandable the limitations of trying to bring an orchestra were outweighed by the ease of studio sounds on a MacBook, but how cool would it have been if they pulled the violin, cello, flute, and trombone from The Family Crest? Cool and probably nearly impossible to pull off in such a short amount of time, but a guy can dream.
The show concluded with an epic rendition of their most recognized single “Whirring.” After the cacophonous closer, Dafydd handed his bass to one of the younger folks in the crowd and exit stage right: Joy Formidable. Security was in the process of negotiating with the audience member to return the bass as we started to file out. I took a deep breath and crossed everything else off my list to see for the night; I had an early flight out in the morning and wanted to leave on a high note.
The Family Crest set them up, and Joy Formidable knocked them down. What a festival.
Clay is a regular contributor and co-founder at Nanobot. He lives in Denver, CO and is a husband, dad, fan of Welsh rock and Welsh rarebit