Walking into Kilby Court on Friday night was like walking into a time warp. By the sounds coming out of the very young-looking band, The Lonely Forest, I could have sworn I was back in high school. The thing that was odd about The Lonely Forest was that, for such young kids, their music had so much that reminded me of bands that are long gone. One song would start and sound like a Cross My Heart intro, the next would have a seemingly note for note Jazz June riff. The kids must have bought the whole Deep Elm, Initial records catalogue. The music itself, despite all similarities to late ‘90s early ‘00s “emo,” seemed as if it had been filtered until anything that (arguably) may have been interesting about that era of bands had been cut. The result was perfect verse chorus pop songs that were catchy, but didn’t have enough to really stick.
After running away and chugging a few beers to clear the deja vu, I came back to The Joy Formidable from Wales finishing their sound check. More people had arrived, and besides an Iceburn show way back in the day, I have never seen such a broad spectrum of people at Kilby. Something about watching two big beefcake bros sing along to a girl-fronted pop band seemed odd. After releasing their first EP in ‘08 for free via their Myspace, The Joy Formidable have come a long way fast. Since that time, they have released two indie label EPs, one on Try Harder Records, called Cradle and another on Black Bell called A Balloon Called Moaning. Now, two short years later, they are touring the U.S. in support of their major label debut, The Big Roar, out on Atlantic Records. For a band playing out of very small combo amps, this was the biggest sounding band I have ever heard. A purist might scoff at the fact that they rely on a nice PA and sound guy and a backing track with synth textures to sound this huge. Whatever your opinion, the band sound like a tank of pop shoe-gaze rolling over you. The wall of distortion and noise immediately brought to mind My Bloody Valentine, although the songs were catchier. The sound was so big and drenched in effects that vocalist Ritzy Bryan’s voice was sometimes lost. The bass lines by Rhydian Dafydd stood out the most amidst all the distortion-soaked guitar and synth back tracks. The Joy Formidable cleansed my ear holes of the residue left by The Lonely Forest said that Kilby Court was the best shack they have ever played in. They have found a way to add to the whole shoe-gaze rock genre and sound completely fresh.