The Joy Formidable + The Dukes Jetty @ Birmingham Academy 3 – 7th June 2009


Unfortunately I arrived at the Birmingham’s Bar Academy too late for the full set of tonight’s first act, Sunset Cinema Club. It wouldn’t be fair to give an opinion on one and a half songs so I’d just say check their Myspace if Hardcore / Post Punk / Funk is your thing.

A quick change of equipment brought the second band of the evening, The Dukes Jetty, a four piece indie set up with heavy influences in 1960’s guitar pop songs. Pretty much all their songs were of the same ilk, catchy upbeat guitar pop which isn’t particularly a bad thing. They actually played really well and were keen to plug their new album, ‘Fine and Dandy’ along with other various merchandise. Vocal duties were shared between members so the some variety in there. The audience were appreciative throughout the set and the band seemed to be really enjoying the performance. They’re not the most original band in the world but they’re very good at what they do.


Tonight’s audience was pretty young overall but not completely, which was good to see. The 200 capacity Bar Academy was about two thirds full by the time The Joy Formidable took to the stage just before 10pm. There was a long wait between the The Dukes Jetty and the start of The Joy Formidable performance, although the crowd didn’t seem too bothered by this. The band are a 3 piece (Ritzy, Rhydian & Matt) from Mold in North Wales and have enjoyed a considerable amount of airplay over the last year on BBC 6music, championed by Steve Lamacq and lately also on Radio 2. They have obviously built up a decent following on the back on this publicity. With this current tour being their first headline tour to date after supporting the likes of White Lies and Howling Bells in the past, there was the sense of them stepping up to headline status. Once they’d finally started to play you didn’t mind the wait at all. The intro was a fantastic wave of guitar noise, bass and drums rising steadily then crashing into the current single, Whirring and then straight into a previous single, Cradle. Introductions to songs weren’t important as the set flowed really well and there always seemed to be some form of noise stemming from Ritzy’s guitar.


It’s fair to say that the band’s singer and guitarist, Ritzy isn’t the tallest front person in the world so anyone standing at the back of the room would have had real trouble seeing anything of her. That said, she does throw herself into playing the guitar and at times seems to be almost fighting with it which makes for interesting viewing, catching the odd glimpse of small blond head throwing itself around the stage. Overall it was an energetic performance from all members which was good to see.

I’d describe their music as epic indie rock. If you like your indie rock loud, then this is the band for you! For a 3 piece they make an enormous noise, wall of sound and even Mogwai-esq in parts, which coming form this reviewer is a huge compliment. The music was surprisingly tuneful regardless of the volume. The volume was obviously an issue with some of the more delicate ears in the audience, who had been very forward in their planning and organised by bringing their own ear plugs. This was duly noted by the band when Ritzy asked ‘how many people in the audience are actually wearing ear plugs?’ The photographers took a little stick for this but in their defence; standing right at the front close to the speakers must be a recipe for tinnitus.


Having only released one 8 track album, A Balloon Called Moaning earlier in the year bands set was never going to be too long. Without much of a gap between songs and little interaction with the audience the gig moved quickly from song to song and the band only stage for roughly an hour. I got the impression that once a few members of the audience had heard the more popular, well known songs like Cradle they were willing to forego the rest of the set and I did see a handful of couples leaving halfway through. Maybe it was too late for them on Sunday night after the wait between bands; maybe they wanted to get back to car before the ticket price went up to £8, who knows. I can’t imagine people leaving due to the quality of the band that’s for sure.


All in all, I think The Joy Formidable are an interesting live band and I really look forward to following their progress over the next year or two to see how their sound develops and which route they end up taking. Ritzy showed on one of the quieter songs in the set that she has a varied vocal ability and not just a shouty voice to accompany big guitars, which I was wondering before the gig. 2009 has been a good year for the band so far and they should certainly be playing much bigger venues than the Bar Academy this time next year. Definitely one to catch at a festival during the summer.

Set list:
Last Drop
Greatest Light
While The Flies

Review – Chris Thompson
Photos – Ian Dunn

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