Posted: 08-23-2013
The Joy Formidable

Written by Rosie Renkow // Photography by Bryce Lafoon Photography

On Friday, May 10, The Brooklyn Arts Center hosted The Joy Formidable along with two opening bands, Fort Lean and IO Echo.

Fort Lean performed first, opening with their single High Definition off their EP Fort Lean. Based out of Brooklyn, NY, Fort Lean is comprised of five musicians. “We met in college at Wesleyan,” says keyboardist Will Runge. Their sound, a blend of rock, electronica, and pop, coupled with the tender soulfulness of singer Keenan Mitchell’s voice, makes Fort Lean much more than just your everyday average rock band.

After finishing their set, the lights were dimmed and Chinese curtains were placed onstage as IO Echo entered the venue. With a silk kimono draped over her slender frame, lead singer Ionna Giko sang songs like Ecstasy Ghost, I’m On Fire, and Addicted with a sultry, powerful voice. Each song exemplified their complex sound, which combines the grittiness of grunge/goth rock with the gentleness of music from the far East. IO Echo has opened for Nine Inch Nails and Bloc Party, among others, and most recently was given the opportunity to work with director Harmony Korine, creating the soundtrack for his short film, Rebel. Heavily influenced by Eastern culture, the band has received kudos for creating a musical genre all their own: New Orientalism. (

Following IO Echo’s performance, the stage was set for the evening’s headliner: The Joy Formidable. A palpable excitement filled the air, with fans crowding together in an effort to get closer to the stage. “Seeing The Joy Formidable’s live show at Bonnaroo changed my life. I’m so excited,” said longtime fan, Jenna Chillington. She was not disappointed. TJF took the stage in a whirl of shrieking electric guitar, heavy percussion, and screaming fans.

The Joy Formidable is comprised of three musicians: Ritzy Bryant (lead guitar/vocals), Rhydian Dafydd (bass/backing vocals), and Matthew Thomas (drums). Originally from Wales, the band has been touring across the US for the past three months. Despite their exhausting schedule, TJF performed with undeniable, authentic energy, interacting with audience members and expressing genuine gratitude for their fans. “We really appreciate that all these people have paid to come and see us and taken time out and invested in our songs. We don’t take this lightly,” said bassist Rhydian Dafydd.

Opening with their hit single, Cholla, Bryant and Dafydd made the stage their own, dancing and play-fighting with one another throughout the set. Their playful chemistry has a history: They were childhood friends. TJF played an explosive set, performing a vast array of songs from both their albums including This Ladder Is Ours, Silent Treatment, A Heavy Abacus, Cradle, I Don’t Want To See You Like This, and The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie.

When the set ended, the crowd stayed on, demanding an encore. The band returned and played two more songs, Whirring and Wolf’s Law, for the ecstatic audience. The show ended with a crescendo of heavy percussion, powerful bass, and blistering guitar riffs.

Though The Joy Formidable’s sound is bold and intense, their lyrics are often layered and intricate, filled with poignant tenderness that resonates with the audience long after the show is over. “We write songs we can stand beside,” said Dafydd, “and every lyric is something that we’ve genuinely thought about. We relive those moments and memories onstage, and that never dies.” Getting the opportunity to witness the manifestation of those memories onstage at the BAC is something fans of TJF will never forget.


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