Iron City Birmingham celebrated its one-year anniversary on Friday May 16th with a show by the critically acclaimed Welsh trio, The Joy Formidable. This was the band's second show at Iron City, opening for Passion Pit last fall. Velouria, a local band opened the night to a light crowd, but their moody alternative sound featuring female/male vocal harmonies pulled the crowd in for a closer look and listen. The second act, local solo artist Preston Lovinggood, continued the crowd swell, playing a rousing set, showing off his big voice and considerable songwriting skills. Once The Joy Formidable took the stage around 9:45, the anxious crowd had grown to near capacity.
The Joy Formidable are based out of North Wales, consisting of Ritzy Bryan on vocals and guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on vocals and bass/guitar, and Matt Thomas on drums. Despite their dissimilar personalities, the band's sound and stage presence was not disjointed or forced, it's genuine, one borne out of a love of performing their art as a tightly bound unit. This love sparkled during their Iron City show.
An easy conversationalist, Ritzy smiled and told stories, engaging the crowd with her Welsh accent and her charming foul-mouthed banter. Rhydian, the straight man in all of this, but not without a glint of mischief in his eyes, managed to keep Ritzy and Matt on track, or he might have truly been the instigator of all this madness. And speaking of Matt, the goofball younger brother, always smiling, joking, and providing some remarkable hair flips all while destroying a drum kit. Watching a confident band going to such efforts to entertain is refreshing.
The band started the night running with This Ladder Is Ours, then ripping through several hits -- Austere, Cradle, Cholla -- before letting off the accelerator with the somber acoustic number, Silent Treatment. Bathed in a soft light, Ritzy, Rhydian, and an acoustic guitar hushed the raucous crowd with the intimate performance. But the respite from the sonic barrage didn't last long, the drummer, Matt Thomas rejoined the band for rousing renditions of A Heavy Abacus and Maw Maw Song to close the show.
After a brief break, the band returned to the stage to play a rarely heard gem from their debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning. Played live, Ostrich did not disappoint, amping the venom to new heights before segueing into the ever buoyant fun of Whirring. As the band fell into the infectious opening sequence, the already boisterous crowd buzzed even louder, bouncing as if directed by Matt's pounding drum intro. Bringing the successful show to an end, Matt indulged in a heavy metal drum solo that made several hearts skip a beat. A perfect way to end the night.
As the show ended, there were promises of new music soon, and of a return to Iron City. Promises that I am sure will be kept.
The Joy Formidable's setlist:
This Ladder Is Ours
The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade
The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie
A Heavy Abacus
Maw Maw Song
Iron City Birmingham features a 1300 capacity entertainment center with a full service bar and grill in the heart of downtown Birmingham.
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