Joy Formidable tour diary - day two
Day two started off with a breakfast that would kill an elephant at Carnegie Deli. That particular destination was recommended by Bern from MusicBox studios in Cardiff. He wasn't wrong, but my arteries and waistband would like to have a word with him.
Today is the day that I get to meet The Joy Formidable. Of course, I've met them many times before - but this feels different. I'm working for them this time round. So I make sure I arrive early so as not to disappoint them.
The Joy Formidable
Unbeknownst to me, I arrive three hours early - having traipsed half way across the city. I don't do cabs, see: 1) They're expensive and 2) If I only have two days in New York, I'm going to see as much of it as is humanly possible.
I walk from my hotel off Times Square most of the way down 8th Avenue. This is the New York I was expecting. Busy, vibrant, a little seedy in places (Gotham), grand (Madison Square Garden) and alive with a multitude of aromas I can't identify. It's a thrilling, exhausting and surreal traipse, but one of the best traipses I ever did have.
I stand outside a slab of a building at the end of my journey and wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. The security aren't keen to let me in:
"I'm here with The Joy Formidable. They're doing a session for YouTube."
"Do you have a contact name?"
"Then we can't let you in sir."
I feel like a very old, very disappointing (from the band's point of view) groupie.
So I stand outside in the sun. It's freezing but I manage to get sunburn.
Long story cut short, the band eventually arrive. Seeing Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt over here is almost more than my brain can cope with. Fortunately, they're seasoned travellers and their calmness and professionalism - and friendliness - carry me through.
They may only be a three-piece, but their tour retinue is sizeable. Seems like a massive family has descended on New York: an array of techs, tour managers, engineers... their dedication and expertise is clear the moment the band start to soundcheck. It sounds pristine and powerful: like being hit in the ears by one of the 'proper' limousines that sails down Broadway. (No hen nights in there, for sure.)
They're due to do a live session for YouTube in front of millions at 5pm EST. The soundcheck is finicky, but it's understandable. And the band's attention to detail - making sure everything is right for them - is impressive and laudable. They're not throwing this together, not by any means.
Soundcheck finished, there is some hanging round. And introduction (for me) to the type of humour I can expect on the tour bus from Matt (drummer) and his creative ways with a whiteboard and marker. Let's put it this way, it's unlikely that Google will adopt his design as their logo. More's the pity!
The band don't seem nervous at all, considering what they're about to do. They fall into a routine of limbering vocal chords and playing fingers up. Pizza is ignored in case they end up vomiting on stage. So, I eat the pizza.
The Joy Formidable on stage
And they're on stage. They begin with a sinuous and massive sounding The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade and it sounds phenomenal. A sizeable and appreciative audience of Google employees and staff from the band's US record label nod their heads, whoop and holler: "We love you Ritzy!"
And, they do! Not bad for a lass from Rhydymwyn. I feel so, so proud. I can't explain it.
I shan't describe every element of the set. We'll have plenty of time for such post-mortems over the next few nights. Suffice to say, the band are great and occasionally sweary.
It strikes me how much this band are rated over here. I think it's a lot to do with their openness and desire to give people a "bloody good time". Ritzy doesn't use the word "bloody". She does like the odd, strategically-placed f-word!
They come back for a Q&A from the stage. I learn that Ritzy was an au pair in Washington. Not a very good one, by all accounts: "well, do I look bloody maternal?"... again, she doesn't use the word "bloody".
They go gather themselves in the green room - it's a Google conference room and it has the longest table in it you have ever seen. Matt rides round it on a Google scooter. We're taken out for sushi in a fancy restaurant. I'm wearing walking boots and three day old jeans. It's the most amazing meal I've ever eaten.
I get to bed with the band's songs echoing around my head and make a mental note that their success is as simple as that. No need to over intellectualise it. They write good tunes an increasing amount of Americans want to listen to. Worlds and oysters are queuing up at their feet.
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