Friday, September 23, 2011

Joy Formidable at The Firebird, September 21

All photos courtesy of Derek
No, this blog is not turning into The Joy Formidable fan site, despite what my last few posts suggest. (In fact, I'm not even sure what this blog is turning into at all.)

Consider this the resolution to our TJF tornado story. On Wednesday night Derek and I finally got to see The Joy Formidable play at the Firebird in St. Louis. (The Firebird is like Mojo's turned on its side: same tiny size but stretched horizontally around the stage rather than vertically.) We didn't have to dodge tornadoes this time, and the most stressful thing was trying to find the venue tucked into a row of deserted shop fronts on Olive Street.

Let me just say we got our faces rocked off. You know a show is good when you get that same rush you felt at 17 blowing out your friend's Cutlass Sierra speakers with My Bloody Valentine. TJF is a band made for ear plugs, but their massive wall of sound turns your entire body into an ear drum: you pulse from the inside. Maybe it's their Smashing Pumpkins loudness... I don't know; they invoke a weird 90s nostalgia in me. Apparently I'm not the only one of a certain age who feels this way. There was a lot of headbanging in the crowd from older folk. We apparently still feel the need to rage against some sort of machine and not go gently into any grungy good night—which is not to say that the next-generation contingent was missing: they were represented by a dude with an ironic mullet and rat tail near the front of the stage and a Whisker Wars contestant who screamed Hell, yeah! throughout the show. (Hair is huge for hipsters.)


TJF's set was just over an hour, which isn't surprising since the band is relatively new. They followed glam rock openers U.S. Royalty. (Really, I'm only considering U.S. Royalty glam rock because the lead singer was wearing a silver sequined shirt and lots of eyeliner. What the hell do I know?) I have nothing but good things to say about U.S. Royalty: they were very, very tight and had excellent vocals and amazing energy. And the guitarist has some seriously Slash-worthy hair.


Ritzy, Rhydian, and Matt took the stage around 10:00 and opened with "Abacus." Head banging began. Hell, yeah! screamed bearded man. The crowd surged forward and up, down, and all around with an unspoken cry of Hell, yeah! The force of this band is impressive, balanced only by Ritzy's cute gibes with the audience between songs. And what a little pixie she is! Standing at what looks to be under five feet, she somehow manages to unleash a torrent of aggression when she and her mates are rocking out.


TJF ripped and tore through most of the tracks off The Big Roar, finishing with "Whirring" and coming back to play two encores: "I Don't Want to See You Like This" and "The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie." The set wasn't long, but it felt about right. The  band packs so much power into each song you need some recovery time to check your ears and make sure they aren't bleeding.

We stuck around after the show to meet the band. Like Mojo's, the Firebird encourages audience/band interaction with its dinky size. It was worth the wait because TJF are so nice. Ritzy remembered us from the St. Louis/tornado incident and the TJF forum and said, "You guys got stuck in traffic, right? You got a bunch of goodies, no?" She was incredibly sweet, all smiles, and so tiny. We didn't meet Rhydian, but Matt was also very down-to-earth and friendly. I always feel bad for bands having to deal with a horde of drooling fans after a show, but the band was so gracious. It was nice to be able to thank them in person for sending us signed CDs and a photo this summer after we missed their April show.

Word on the street has it the band might be returning to St. Louis some time in December.


  1. Feel bad for bands for hordes of drooling fans? Isn't that what they live for and try to gain? I would think it would be better to have drooling fans than none at all. Anyways, enjoyed the rest of your blog. Good writer.

  2. I agree--a very good writer!!

  3. Thank you both for your comments. Bands are much better with fans than without 'em.