Joy Formidable tour diary - day five

Monday 2 April 2012, 15:32

Adam Walton Adam Walton

Tagged with:

So, to my last day with The Joy Formidable. Typical that I should get used to the touring bus lifestyle on my final day with them. I slept last night; if not like a baby, well, like a big-sideburned toddler.

The trip from Philadelphia to Boston takes over seven hours, so we're still in transit when I wake up early and eager to get yesterday's tour blog in before my colleagues at the BBC finish work. A rather dead, wintery landscape - dead fields and leafless woods - rolls by in the bus window. By the time I have finished my scrawl about Philly, Boston has crept up all around us. We're quite a distance from downtown Boston. No skyscrapers here. We're in the university district and it's disconcertingly like a British town.

The Joy Formidable on stage in Boston

The Joy Formidable on stage in Boston

An old-time theatre front outside the venue declares: "The Joy Formidable: SOLD OUT". More pride! But in the world of rock 'n' roll, it's best to feign indifference: of course the show's sold out!

Back home, today is Radio Wales Music Day. This is my favourite event of the year, bar none. I delude myself into feeling paternal about it because it was 'my idea'. To be an ocean away feels wrong. But what could be more powerful - more inspirational - than being with a Welsh band making real inroads to a sizeable American audience?

The Joy Formidable on stage in Boston

The Joy Formidable on stage in Boston

I jump off the bus to do a two-way into Roy Noble's show, thinking "this should be easy, Roy will ask all of the right questions..."

As it transpires, BBC Wales are enduring something of a technological meltdown (not that you'd have noticed) so our two-way is via satellite.

The Joy Formidable on stage in Boston

The Joy Formidable on stage in Boston

"There is a very long delay," says Lydia, the producer. "You'll have to do a monologue."

You try doing a cohesive monologue after four nights on the road!

Back at the bus, I get a few words with Bob, the driver. He's highly valued by the crew. They tell me that many drivers are speed freaks and blowhards, unreliable and antisocial. Bob, though, despite having driven for over 20 years - for the likes of Bob Seger and Frank Zappa - is modest and funny.

"I like these guys. They're nice kids and they sound good."

"You seen their show?"

"I only check out the bands who are good to me and the bus... yeah, I like what they're doing."

Quite a compliment, by all accounts.

The Joy Formidable: sold out

The Joy Formidable: sold out

Bob sleeps through the day, then comes over to pick everyone up after the show. That's 'Bus Call'. It's reverently adhered to. No one wants to upset Bob.

We have to get our interview done today. It's the main reason the band have flown me over here. But, as they have been so busy with vital preparation for the second album, and they've had a non-stop run of shows for nine nights, there just hasn't been an opportunity.

If you had any illusions that life on the road is a non-stop party, it isn't. These guys are dedicated workers. It's an impressive ethic. There are parties, but only after all of the word is finished.

The Paradise Club is Boston's most legendary venue. Someone inside tells me that "U2 and The Police played here.."

Oh, well. How about hometown band Pixies?

"Hell, yeah! Lots of times."

I go and kiss the stage.

It's a more intimate venue than the others I've visited. It holds just over 900 people. It's a shallower but wider room which brings everyone present closer to the stage. My heart starts to beat a little faster.

Soundcheck done, there is another meet and greet. If you've read all of these tour diaries, you'll be beginning to see a pattern emerging. Their day is more unusual and exciting than ours, but it's also much more regimented. Someone, somewhere is always checking a clock on the band's behalf.

This meet and greet is unusual because the 40-plus people who have turned up for it are allowed on stage to hear the band play a song. The techs look on nervously lest a clumsy foot should total a pedal board.

Ritzy hands a giant kid a hammer to hit the band's gong with. When he gets the opportunity, in the right part of the song, he looks like the happiest big kid in Christendom. Every one on stage is beaming. These meet and greets are powerfully good at forging a connection with the band. My predictable British cynicism might have had me snorting at the thought of these some days ago, but definitely not now.

So, interview time... at last! Once we've negotiated a couple of hurdles - it's rather difficult to find somewhere quiet to film an interview in a venue full of soundchecking bands, or a tour bus with its throbbing generator.

I do love talking to The Joy Formidable. they're passionate, opinionated and fascinatingly contradictory. I can't reveal much. The interview is the domain of the people who paid me to go out there to conduct it. Suffice to say, Rhydian is impassioned, enthused and defiant. Ritzy original, fiery and confident. Matt is funny and a little bored, I think. He has his C Mixolydian scale to learn. He's brushing up on his guitar skills in the long hours between gigs.

The second album will be a real progression. I've heard a couple of unmixed tracks from it and they sound remarkable and different.

There is an underlying frustration that they don't get as much coverage at home as they do in the States. It's not that they have a childish sense of entitlement, far from it. It's more a general bemusement verging on mild disappointment. We all want the people closest to us to love us the most. Don't expect bands to be any different.

Boston turns out to be their best show yet. The locals adore this band and get adored right back:

"We love you Ritzy!"

"Marry me, Ritzy!"

A phenomenal sound system juggernauts the songs into our ears via our shuddering torsos. Every melody surges in on a jet engine of power. There isn't a single weak spot in the set. The one new song that has figured over the last few nights - The Silent Treatment - is the most beautiful paean to a fracturing relationship. Unexpectedly, it brings to mind Elliott Smith. But like all of The Joy Formidable's music, it's them first and foremost.

Can you tell I have been entirely converted? To the point of evangelism?

The next time I see them, the venues will be bigger, no doubt about that. Attempting to stop this band's momentum right now would be akin to trying to harness a comet.

What a band. What a show.

There is a little post-show schmoozing. Not for me. I'm not much of a social animal, not great at ligging, and I'm starting to feel sad at the prospect of saying goodbye. I miss my wife and daughter, but I just want to go on - and on - with this experience. The band's life is filled with brief meetings, many faces and a multitude of hellos and goodbyes. I'll remember this week till the day I cough my final breath: a privilege, a blast, a revelation and - yes - a truly formidable joy.

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Tagged with:


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I've enjoyed reading this blog Adam, and agree with everything you have to say about TJF. My friend from Chicago went to one of the meet and greets and echoed your sentiments about the genuineness of the idea. I'm glad to hear your perception of how they are getting known in the US. I'm one of the British followers - from Ruthin, so pretty local to R&R, and have met the band more than a few times. As an example of their connection with the fans, I was chatting with them at an after-show in Camden and it was Rhydian rather than me that could remember exactly when and where it was that we'd previously spoken. The nicest people in rock music. I'm jealous of your chance to tour with them! Regards, Mike

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Thanks for the delightful prose, Adam. Count me among the loyal Boston fans who eagerly waited for the return of TJF. Not sure where many got their first glimpse and earshot of this wonderful band, but mine was from their opening up for the Foo Fighters late last year. As great as that performance was, this one was just something special.

    There is something about when a band an an audience comes together in a beautiful synergy, and between the rowdy Boston crowd and the cocky band, the energy was just right... and dialed in too. The sound was superb and just seems to have been the perfect performance on a perfect night.

    Count me also as thankful that the fans across the pond still still to me a bit in a slumber and have not awoke to the experience that TJF offers, and I also find it ironic that one of the few bands I have seen more two or more times within the span of a couple of months is also one from of all places, Mold, Wales. As well, I can see a bright future for the band; Given their short discography that mainly consists of one album, a few eps and demos, they still can fill a modest length show from end to end with no dead spots, where for most bands it seems to take 4 or more albums to fill out the show so completely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Thanks again, Adam. It's been a pleasure following your tour log. Mike's comments are on the mark as I'm the chap he mentions from Chicago. It's so true about this band. They remember faces, names, even previous conversations (I can attest to that) — all after spending countless hours on a bus from site to site, unpacking, prepping for shows, entertaining guests, doing the show, and then hanging around long enough to meet new friends, and all with the knowledge that they have to do it over and over again. Truly a labour of love from their perspective and ours. And thank you for a remarkable travelogue — our friends chose well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Mike: yes, excellent people. The way they handle the meet and greets is admirable. I know, for a fact, that on at least one occasion this tour, they'd had less than 3 hours sleep / their soundcheck had been fraught with problems & they had a deadline looming for the album mix, but they still did the meet and greet with good grace. "So they should," some might say; but when you're under that kind of pressure, it's no mean feat.

    Maui: what you said about the show is bang on. Remarkably high consistency. Compare this set to the early sets from the likes of any band you choose to mention, and Joy Formidable's would be very, very hard to top.

    Peter: that's very kind. They chose me to do something else, in actuality, and I'm not sure that that went so well! But I've done my best to chronicle this part of the tour here, and I'm really pleased some of you have read it and enjoyed it. That's made my day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Adam - many thanks to you & your TJF tour logs; it gives a real insight and connection to the band for fans like me. I commented on your "day four" entry from Philly but forgot to tell you that.

    For me, "The Joy Formidable" perfectly represent their name - a dichotomy of ideas, feelings, & musical styles (i.e. power & grace); their sound is as special as their frenetic performances on stage, balancing Ritzy’s melodious voice with those thunderous instrumentals. I cannot wait for their followup album & next US tour!

    Thanks again for your blog; hope to see more in the future.



This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Lostprophets' Weapons: what the papers say

Monday 2 April 2012, 09:14

New-look for RSPB Conwy nature reserve

Monday 2 April 2012, 14:36

About this Blog

Behind the scenes on our biggest shows, the stories you won't see on TV & highlights from Welsh history, arts and music.

Follow us on Twitter & Facebook for the latest posts.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

Most Recently Commented

BBC Wales tweets