I was delighted to catch The Joy Formidable’s show at Mercury Lounge last night. As one of the UK’s most exciting bands at the moment, their performance was fantastic, and far exceeded all hype (full disclosure – I’ve seen them before so I knew that already). It was an early, sold-out show for the final night of the band’s brief tour, and the Welsh trio, now based in London, did not disappoint.

With many pedal effects on the guitar, The Joy Formidable could easily be labeled shoegaze revivalists, but unlike earlier shoegaze bands, whose tendency to stand still and stare downward while performing gave the genre its name, these guys (and girl) rock out, all over the stage with equal amounts of playfulness and intensity. Petite lead singer Ritzy Bryan is a vocal powerhouse who at times recalls PJ Harvey. The band also includes Rhydian Dafydd on bass and backing vocals, and Matt Thomas on drums.


The U.S. release of the band’s mini-album debut, A Balloon Called Moaning, was just last week and is the first for the recently formed (by the Passion Pit’s Ayad Al Adhamy) Black Bell Records. The set included “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” and “The Last Drop,” from Balloon, as well as a couple of non-album tracks, “Greyhound in the Slips” and “Anenome.”

Just as engaging was the opening act, She Keeps Bees. The Brooklyn duo, guitarist/vocalist Jessica Larrabee and drummer Andy LaPlant, played a set of stripped down, bluesy rock songs featuring Larrabee’s raw, soulful vocals. Funny and charming, she kept the audience entertained between songs as well with her many, and sometimes racy, jokes and anecdotes, one even acknowledging the frequent comparisons to Cat Power. Songs included “Gimmie” and “Ribbon,” the latter acapella with percussion and handclaps.  –Teresa Sampson, Photos by Teresa Sampson