On an unseasonably warm evening, an old friend and I locked our bikes in front of the Wonder Ballroom, bypassing the parking struggles endemic of this venue. We arrived 10 minutes before the opener for the show.

In exactly 10 minutes, the eclectic Mancunian outfit Everything Everything took the stage. Everything (Everything?) about this band should have put me off, including their odd evocation of the Beta Band. Consisting of a drummer, keyboardist, guitarist/keyboardist, bassist/keyboardist and lead vocalist/bassist/guitarist, the lineup was not ordinary. Furthermore, they wore grey jackets and either tunics or wraps over black, making them look like extras from the set of Dune. Musically, they were a shoe-in for backing music for the new “Miami Vice” series, or an updated hybrid of Michael McDonald and Toto. We’re awkwardly OK with all of this. It was uncomfortable yet delightful.

There was no reason I should have liked them, but I did. My friend confirmed both my discomfort and reluctant acceptance. We saluted them, giggling. As they progressed through their 40-minute set, I started to crave the food equivalent of this band: tater tots. Like with the band, no one has any right to like tater tots, but we all do. After some discussion after the set, my friend and I decided that Everything Everything was not quite yacht rock; instead, they’re jet-ski rock: solidly ‘80s, kinda fun, but can be used for evil.

After a 20-minute intermission, the Joy Formidable took the stage. Their set was a decent mix of material from their first, second and newest albums; approximately equal parts of each. (The band’s newest album Hitch launched this week.)

Opening with a backing track sampling the lead line from “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade,” the band trickled in under blue lighting. Ritzy Bryan was in her patented flower dress (tonight it was black with white flowers). From “The Greatest Light” they went into a new track with a long instrumental (yay!) over a ghost tremolo keyboardist (another backing track).

What’s great about seeing the Joy Formidable live is how well they meld indie, metal and shoegaze all at the same time with a punk aesthetic and undertone. Matt Thomas busted out double-kick riffs and pounds toms and cymbals all night while Rhydian Dafydd played arpeggios all over the neck of his bass. Meanwhile, Bryan shred out epic levels of heavily delayed and effected guitars.

Two songs in, we got a drum solo for about three minutes. Bryan quipped in her fairy-like Welsh accent: “It’s a Matt Thomas fucking drum solo.” Yes.

But the Joy Formidable didn’t stick to their primary formula. Dafydd sometimes took lead vocals, playing keyboard, breaking out an acoustic guitar or playing keys, which changed the whole dynamic of the three-person band. In a couple instances, Thomas simply sat out and let Dafydd and Bryan harmonize. These little breaks kept their energy up when things got real and gave the audience a chance to catch their breath.

Additionally, the fluid nature of writing and rehashing songs was evident in a couple of their numbers. “Cradle” was reworked from its album version into a version that was much better suited for live—they increased the dynamism of the song, inserting more quiet part near the end.

While they didn’t have as much presence and sharpness as I’d seen at an earlier show, their graciousness to the audience and love of what they do still shined through. From the high-fives that Thomas gave the entire front row after the set to a couple acoustic-guitar duos, the band isn’t a one-trick pony. Yet, they still do one thing really well: jam. From drum solos to instrumental breakdowns, the power and forcefulness they three bring to the stage is always a delight. Three instruments created a torrential downpour of sonic assault. It sounded like nine people were on stage—only you could actually track it.

My friend mentioned to me during one of these that this is exactly why he loves this band: “They just do this so well together.” Not that there is anything wrong with their lyrics or vocals—they just kick so much ass when they let loose and launch into a blistering guitar solo or thunder-punch, machine-gun drum fit.

The ending jam in “Whirring,” which closed their first set, was a spectacle to behold because it is sheer in-the-moment jamming. It clearly built the case for their name, as well. Under a thousand layers of guitar, my friend mentioned to me “I can watch them do this over and over.” During the breakneck jamming, Thomas integrated a gong behind him whilst playing.

“Have you fucking noticed he likes his gong?” Bryan chirped over the chaos.

“That song is worth the price of admission,” my friend beamed.

As things died down on the guitars, the drums continued. Bryan threw the mallet at the gong as a finale while her glassy, effected guitar shattered into scratchy feedback.

A short interlude brought them back to a three-song encore. The first was an intimate acoustic song in the audience. Dafydd and Bryan each played acoustic guitars and sang harmonies in the middle of the floor. We felt fortunate to be there.

They climbed back on to stage to round out the encore with “Wolf’s Law” and then “The Maw Maw” song, a playful, but almost metal song. They finished with “The Never Ending Spectrum of a Lie,” a beautiful finale to a beautiful night.

As we spilled out of the venue back to our bikes awaiting us in the cool night air, we were aglow with a post-Formidable high. I still wanted tater tots. Thanks to Everything Everything.

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