Lollapalooza 2011, Sunday: The Joy Formidable
The enormous gong hanging at the back of the Bud stage portended good things from the Joy Formidable. One of the hardest-working bands this weekend, the North Wales trio topped a free bill at the Double Door on Thursday, followed by a coveted slot opening last night's late-announced Foo Fighters' show at the Metro. From the onset it was obvious why the JF was offered that slot. The very definition of a power trio, it emits a rapturous energy like few acts I've seen this weekend, let alone all year. In a pink dress draped over black stockings, singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan planted herself firmly center stage, blond hair parted by giant Gloria Steinem–sized shades. Drummer Matt Thomas Rhydian Dafydd directly faced her from stage left, with bassist Rhydian Dafydd Matt Thomas heading up the opposite end.
The title of the band's debut LP, The Big Roar, is as apt a metaphor for its sound as any. Opening with "A Heavy Abacus," the band tore through "Austere," "Whirring" and others off the album, wasting no time illustrating exactly why it should be playing the main Bud stage. Smothering Butler Field in a sonic wash, Thomas punctuated the blanket of sound with metallic 16th-note double-bass bursts and monster Keith Moon fills. Meanwhile, Bryan channeled Rid of Me–era PJ Harvey, coaxing a guitar sound so enormous it'd make the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner jealous; probably Dave Sitek, too. The crowd eagerly soaked up every transfixing second.
Midway through the set, Bryan invited the impressive turnout to submit to the music and "escape the shit of the day-to-day," shortly thereafter putting the gong to good use by smashing her fireburst Strat against it over and again. Each bellowing thump whipped the rhythm duo into an intense fury, and as she dropped her ax and picked it back up, the rumbling feedback threatened to subsume the audience more than the blazing sun. Before long, three ginormous black balloon cats slowly inflated around the band, revealing toothy grins and announcing the end to a set that could've easily gone on for another hour or two without anyone minding. I can't imagine it'll be too long before this band's playing sets of that length in headlining slots. And I can't wait.