Having received positive feedback at SXSW, a glowing review in NME, and with a Coachella appearance on the upcoming calendar, The Joy Formidable’s ferocious Colorado performance at the Larimer Lounger delivered on the promise of their recent debut album, the aptly titled The Big Roar. Catching this tour might be the last chance to see The Joy Formidable perform in smaller venues as their music and stage presence is set on epic.
Opening with ‘The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie’ (they also do song titles big), the band attacked the stage and never relented. The blistering, brief ‘The Magnifying Glass’ followed and contrasted the layered, soaring chorus of the opener with a succinct dose of confident punk. Singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd are a perfect pairing on stage constantly bouncing off each other and drawing energy from the crowd. Bryan’s charisma lies in her charming eyes that shine with delight as the band whips audiences into a fury. ‘The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade’ excitedly grew into a stadium-sized chorus while the post-punk darkness of ‘Buoy’ took a different path to an equally massive sound.
Holding together the swirling supernova of Bryan and Daffyd, drummer Matt Thomas adds a healthy dose of metal to the band’s noise by firing off the double bass pedal like a machine gun. On the massive closer ‘Whirring’, the thunder from behind the kit sounded like Lars Ulrich backing My Bloody Valentine as wall upon wall of distortion hit the audience while Bryan and Daffyd set about twisting every knob on their effects pedals while abusing their guitars. The guitars were tossed down on the stage and the band waved goodbye. After only eight songs, The Joy Formidable had conquered another club on their march towards greatness.
Los Angeles collective Snow & Voices offers up a haunting cover of The Cure’s “Disintegration” on the second release of their covers project. Expect a vinyl release of all the covers at the end of the year. Until then, you can listen and download here.
Describing Jake Shimabukuro as a ukulele player is sort of like calling Jimi Hendrix a guitar player. Revolutionizing the four stringed Hawaiian instrument, Shimabukuro’s success as an artist has taken the ukulele from kitsch to cool. In doing so, his music brings attention to a rich Hawaiian musical history that runs much deeper than Don Ho and ‘Tiny Bubbles’. Taking the stage alone with his ukulele in Henderson, NV, Jake sprinkled stories between each song to shed light on his originals while explaining the reasons behind the covers he ambitiously tackles each night. A Van Halen inspired ‘Bring Your Adz’ ignited the crowd as his fingers flew up and down the tiny neck of the ukulele employing techniques that would make Steve Vai blush. A few songs later, he turned his attention to traditional Japanese music with a gently plucked ‘Satura’. Using the ukulele as a percussion instrument on ‘Me & Shirley T’, Shimabukuro displayed the flair and dynamics of Rodrigo y Gabriela while again lifting the ukulele to new heights never thought possible. While he remains best known for a sparkling cover of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, his new album Peace Love Ukulele contains his most ambitious rock and roll cover to date. Taking Queen’s masterpiece ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and bringing it to life with the limited range of an ukulele is nothing less than brilliant and the crowd agreed. After the show, a line of aspiring ukulele players, young and old, stood in line to meet Jake and get their instruments signed. The visionary artist who inspired the musical evolution of the ukulele into mainstream music appeared more than happy to spend the rest of the evening talking music with the fans. That spirit of aloha towards fans might be even greater than the unattainable heights he reaches on stage.