Tag Archives: joy formidable

Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock…Lovely & Loud in the Now

29 Mar

The ladies rocking the rock scene right now have the numbers and the talent that rivals any other decade in this series, but they are sadly lacking in publicity and commercial presence. The word “indie” applies to almost all of them in the genre sense, largely out of a lack of knowing where to put them. Too bad, because this part of the list is comprised of some serious kick-ass talent.

karen o

Click to watch “Zero”

Karen O - Karen O wonders where the balls went in rock n’ roll, begging the question, “Where has all the charisma and the sexuality and the gnarl gone?” Nowhere, Karen O. Not as long as you’re around.

alison mosshart

Click to watch The Kills’ “Tape Song”

Alison Mosshart - Mosshart has her hands in almost as many projects as Jack White, which is fitting since  White tapped her to lend her lead vocal stylings to his side project, the Dead Weather. Her day job is with the Kills, a garage-rock duo who are a little bit blues, a little bit American (Mosshart), a little bit British (guitarist Jaime Hines) and a whole lot rock n’ roll. They’re mastering a throwback quality set to a synth soundtrack that is best viewed through a haze of cigarette smoke and after a slow pull of whiskey, which, coincidentally, describes Mosshart’s voice.

Grace Potter

Click to watch “Never Go Back”

Grace Potter – I’m kind of obsessed with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the moment, and you should be, too. Potter is a knockout with a voice that’s an aural assault, tinges of Janis Joplin and Sheryl Crow running through, and the Nocturnals are a perfect combination of classic, Southern-flavored rock meets modern indie/synth rock. Check them out now.

lzzy hale

Click to watch “Love Bites (So Do I)”

Lzzy Hale - Lead singer for Halestorm, Hale has talked of forming a female rock supergroup a la the Runaways. She was also tapped for a remake of the Ozzy Osbourne/Lita Ford power ballad “Close My Eyes Forever” with Disturbed vocalist David Draiman on his side project Device’s new album. Hale could no doubt give Joan Jett and Lita Ford a run for their money.

bandofskulls

Click to watch Band of Skulls’ “I Know What I Am”

Emma Richardson – As bassist and vocalist for the Brit trio Band of Skulls, Emma Richardson is a woman who rocks because of this simple fact: she can explode out of your speakers with her sultry voice and driving bass line and then quiet it down to a come hither whisper and sing oh-so-sweetly.

amy lee

Click to watch Evanescence’s “Everybody’s Fool”

Amy LeeRecently labelled 2013′s reigning Goddess of Rock by Loudwire, Lee is also the Ambassador for the Underdog, giving a voice to all those who feel misunderstood and different. And what a voice it is.

ritzy

Click to watch The Joy Formidable’s “Cholla”

Ritzy Bryan – Don’t let Ritzy Bryan’s sweet, fairy look fool you. As lead singer for the Joy Formidable, an artsy/noise rock trio hailing from North Wales, Bryan is a smasher of guitars and bringer back of baby doll dresses a la Courtney Love, circa 1992. On second thought, when drawing that comparison, let Ritzy Bryan’s sweet, fairy look captivate you. I interviewed Joy Formidable bassist (and Bryan’s boyfriend), Rhydian Dafydd back in September 2011. Check the interview here.

juliette

Click to watch “Sticky Honey”

Juliette Lewis - It’s true: Juliette Lewis is a woman who rocks, and not just for her Oscar nom-worthy acting skills. She’s a legit Woman Who Rocks, with or without the Licks, the band she formed and fronted in the early 2000s. Think Iggy Pop with lady bits.

warpaint

Click to watch “Elephants”

Warpaint – Like Veruca Salt before them, Warpaint co-founders Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman are besties and have been since eighth grade. No bad blood and break-ups to speak of yet – and hopefully ever – and after a revolving door of line-up changes, which has included actress Shannyn Sossamon (her sister Jenny Lee Lindberg is and always has been Warpaint’s bassist) and the Chili Peps’ Josh Klinghoffer, Warpaint are a solid all-female unit of art rock, dream pop and beauty. Want proof? Click the pic above.

hayley williams

Click to watch Paramore’s “Now”

Hayley Williams – Paramore’s siren haired songstress has had a rough year, navigating her way through many of the cliched trials and tribs that come with being in a rock n’ roll band. But like any true rockin warrior princess Williams has emerged victorious with some of her fiercest, most honest lyrics yet. After a line-up shake-up last year, Paramore are back with a leaner, meaner version of themselves on what critics are already calling their best album yet, entitled Paramore, which drops in early April.

metric

Click to watch Metric’s “Youth Without Youth”

Emily Haines – Haines has all the trappings, I mean, makings of an independent woman. She’s stylish, talented and smart. An analog embracing, social media shunning, self-aware lady who not only knows the value of cultivating an image but of embracing her post as a woman and lead singer for indie-rock outfit, Metric, Haines is not a bad role model for ladies to have. Oh, and she rocks pretty hard, too.

jenny lewis

Click to watch Jenny and Johnny’s “Big Wave”

Jenny Lewis - You may recognize Jenny Lewis from the Shelley Long helmed cheesefest Troop Beverly Hills or the obscure girl-power nugget Foxfire starring Angelina Jolie, or you may recognize her from one of the various musical projects she’s dotted the musical landscape with. Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Jenny and Johnny with boyfriend Johnathan Rice, and has made quite an impact all by her little lonesome.

carrie brownstein

Click to watch “Romance”

Carrie Brownstein - Brownstein is a tour-de-force on the indie scene. She was at the tail end of the riot grrrl movement in the late 90s, singer-guitarist for alt-rock trio Sleater-Kinney, star of Portlandia with SNL’s Fred Armisen, NPR blogger and current singer-guitarist for the all-female Wild Flag alongside Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. Singer-guitarist-blogger-actress-riot-grrrl-woman-who-rocks. Carrie Brownstein boasts what is perhaps the single most impressive hyphenate.

Click here to hear my Spotify playlist of all the women on all four lists in this series, plus many, many more.

Popped! Music Festival Rocked North Philadelphia

28 Sep

Popped! Music Festival got off to a rocky start, before the first peal of reverb ripped through the air. Due to a flood inducing, very rainy forecast, festival organizers made the decision to move the event indoors to the Liacouras Center on Temple University’s Main Campus. That meant no more Food Bazaar and one stage instead of three. And all this rapid fire change took place in what seemed to be an impressive 24-hour time span. The result could’ve been chaotic and disorganized, but such was not the case. It was as if the Liacouras Center had been part of the plan all along.

Dead Confederate opened the festival late Friday afternoon, opting to play Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night front to back. Well, that was the intention until the festival was relocated indoors and their set time was whittled down to 30 minutes. The concept was cool, but I would have liked to hear some original tunes out of them. The band is a septet from Georgia, and although you can hear the southern in their style, they don’t seem too heavily rooted in it. They have a chill, haunting vibe that is very nouveau-grunge. And dare I say I hear hints of Kurt Cobain in the lead singer, Hardy Morris’ voice…?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. were the total package. Neon checkered jackets? Check. Lots and lots of bubbles? Check and check. The bubbles bumped the duo’s feel good vibe up to 11, and their rendition of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” only added to the endearing little bromance they seem to have going.

Company of Thieves may be in their mid-twenties, but they rocked it as good as, if not better than, some of their veteran rock & roll counterparts. Singer Genevieve Schatz packs quite an energy injected wallop for such a tiny person, and I think it’s safe to say that all in attendances’ collective jaw hit the floor that such a tiny person could fill up a stage so much. Everyone was buzzing about their set and were especially buzzing about Schatz as a lead singer, who channelled the likes of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick, and even a little Scott Weiland when she whipped out a megaphone. Schatz is a bonafide powerhouse and she’s joined by a band who rises up to meet her. These guys are the ones to watch, and if you don’t know about Company of Thieves yet, you should.

The Joy Formidable would have been a great follow for the rockin’ energy Schatz & Co. created but alas, they opted out of their performance. Speculation was swirling as to the reason and there were murmurings that it was due to lack of getting a soundcheck but a formal reason was never given. The band did issue the following veiled apology on their Facebook page:

“Oh Popped Festival… we tried so so hard, but circumstances beyond our control forced us to abandon today’s set. We’re gutted, we were so looking forward to playing Philly again. Rest assured, we’re back soon & we’ll make this up to you. This isn’t something we take lightly. Details soon. All our love, RRMx”

Synthesizers, synthesizers, synthesizers. That was the theme of Day #2 at Popped!

Hometown boys Sun Airway were the first band that I saw on Day #2 to debut the 80s music staple, but their sound was firmly rooted in The Bends-era Radiohead. But where Thom Yorke constantly sounds like someone killed his cat, Sun Airway’s sound is mellow and ethereal, but there’s still a sense of hope in the melancholic, sense of longing the tone of their songs takes on. They were very The National meets whatever would come between Joy Division and New Order. Sadly, however, the crowd was still pretty thin by the time of their late afternoon performance on Saturday, as many shuffled in for the early evening performances of Foster the People, Girl Talk and Pretty Lights, the first of which were the highlight of the festival.

By the time Foster the People took the stage, the crowd was ready for them. Kreayshawn, who was performed just prior was a droning, grating, annoying miss, but Foster the People was a major hit. Singer Mark Foster knew how to win over his audience the second he set foot onstage, showing some Philly pride by wearing a snappy, red Phillies vest.

The band had the stage presence and energy that reminded me of Coldplay and a musical style that is refreshingly all their own. Foster’s voice has a pitch this side of Adam Levine’s, and given the love/hate reception Levine seems to be met with, I am on the love side of the line meaning Foster’s following in his footsteps is an absolute good thing. Levine and his moves like Jagger are sex on two feet, even with that falsetto, and something tells me Foster isn’t that far behind.

And he’s already got some groupies, that’s one thing for sure. “Someone lost a bra…who is the owner of this bra?” Foster drawled after someone hurled a black brassiere his way. “I’m keeping it,” he said and hooked it onto his mic stand. This is definitely a band worthy of their buzz. They’re phenomenal – and that’s not a word I throw around, especially when it comes to my music. They blistered through rocker after rocker, barely coming up for air, and by the time they launched into a rock/techno hybrid remix of “Pumped Up Kicks,” the entire arena was going nuts. Foster the People proves there’s hope for music yet.

The Joy Formidable are a Formidable Force to Be Reckoned With

15 Sep

Rock acts have been sorely absent from the music charts of late, and North Wales band the Joy Formidable sounds worthy of a place at the table. Their full length debut, The Big Roar, is a nineties throwback, but in more of a refreshing homage rather than a carbon copy kind of way. The Big Roar mixes fuzzy guitar riffs and heavy, heart thumping drum beats with layers of deliberate distortion. Songs like “A Heavy Abacus,” “Austere” and “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” have infiltrated indie rock airwaves, standing out with their pop/rock hybrid of hooks to the tune of singer Ritzy Bryan’s ethereal yet driving voice. Simply put: they are a big deliciously blurry sound of grungey rock goodness, and they are breathing life into a genre that has been stale for quite some time.

Their influences are varied, drawing from many different genres, past and present, and not settling on any one, lending even more so to their timeless sound. Growing up, bassist Rhydian Dafydd tended towards Hendrix and other artists of the 60s and 70s, but says, “It was all really just a gateway to good and bad music, in my eyes. I’m not drawn to any specific genre. I enjoy anything with a story and a unique voice and, ultimately, a soul is good enough for me.”

Same goes for the other members of the band. Dafydd says singer/guitarist Bryan was “spoiled for choice” by her mom and dad’s massive record collection. At an early age, she was exposed to Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and other great songwriters like Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.  “I’m sure that had a big effect on our songs being very lyrically driven,” he says. Drummer Matt Thomas’ taste is also varied, spanning the spectrum from jazz to metal with some Frank Zappa in between.

For Dafydd, it all comes back to good and bad music. “That’s why an album for us is a very dynamic piece of work,” he says. “I don’t want to hear the same sound or same structures twelve times on an album. I want to take you on a journey.”

And the Joy Formidable deliver. These varied musical tastes come together in a post-grunge sound that has traces of the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins. Bryan only plunges the bands’ sounded deeper into the 90s, drawing parallels to grunge girls PJ Harvey and Louise Post and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt. Even Bryan’s look channels Courtney Love with her updated baby doll dresses, albeit Bryan looks the wholesome, impish anti-thesis to Love’s heroin chic hot mess.

So it is easy to see why Dave Grohl tapped the band to open for the Foo Fighters this fall, alongside Social Distortion. “It’s a kind of nice story because it seemed to come around quite naturally,” Dafydd says. While driving one day, Grohl heard the band’s “Whirring” but didn’t catch the name of the band. Trying to remember the tune in his head all the way home, Grohl figured it out, tracked them down, and since then, the Joy Formidable has played several shows with the Foos, including a secret show at Lollapalooza and some dates in the UK.

Dafydd confirms what so many others are already saying about Grohl and the Foo Fighters being the nicest guys in rock & roll, “We had a blast. They’re very down to earth and still know what’s important about it all and that’s the music,” he says. “Sometimes you get people with motives or with weird sort of egos and competition. They seem genuine, and that means a lot.”

The Joy Formidable came together in its most recent incarnation three and a half years ago. Bryan and Dafydd are childhood friends and reconnected musically in their hometown after a string of bad experiences, “We got back into writing music for the right reasons. We started enjoying and losing ourselves in the music, which is what is important.” They found a drummer. They rehearsed. That drummer didn’t work out. They found Thomas, and since he joined two and a half years ago, Dafydd says, “It’s been non-stop gigging.”

In addition to being childhood friends, Bryan and Dafydd are also a couple.  Dafydd says the only challenge for them in that respect is to find alone time because the band and the music is so all-consuming but says that was a choice the two made early on. “We’re quite lucky in that, first and foremost, the music is what brought us together,” he says. “We had that before we even became a couple.” If anything, he says it adds to the natural dynamic and chemistry necessary in a songwriting partnership. As with everything else, Bryan and Dafydd see it as a blessing that they get to travel this journey together.

“It’s a really beautiful thing that we’ve found it together. Dynamic in a band is a very precious thing,” he says.  He cites chemistry as a crucial element in a band because of the amount of time spent together, and says, “We feel like we’ve got that ultimately. When we get onstage, that’s where it all comes into its own, and we really lose ourselves. That’s where the beauty and the truth comes out.”

That beauty and truth is ever present on their journey, and there is a moment in every day that Dafydd is well aware that he and his bandmates are living a life many only dream of, “It’s not a job at the end of the day,” Dafydd says, “It’s a lifestyle, and it’s a privilege to be able to give value to our creative outlets in a way that it connects with other people. We don’t take any of it for granted.”

Dafydd, Bryan and Thomas have been travelling the festival circuit for a large part of the last year, and the rest of 2011 includes another month or so of festivals before a headlining tour in the UK. Then they’re back in the US for the Foo Fighters’ dates and even more shows follow after that. Dafydd wouldn’t have it any other way, in fact, he revels in the travel and touring to help generate the spark of creativity.

The variety of travel affords the band with the opportunity and freedom to get ideas down, collaborate and feel inspired, “It’s a great time to be feeling these things and seeing these things and meeting new people and seeing the world in that different light.” He adds, “To challenge yourself as a songwriter, you have to be able to put yourself in different contexts.”

The band arrives in Philadelphia Friday, September 23 for the Popped! Music Festival at FDR Park and then again for their date with the Foo Fighters at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, November 10. They’ve been to the states several times, staying mostly along the east and west coastlines, and Dafydd knows they’ve got some ground to cover in between, “There’s still some nooks and crannies, but we’ll get there.” No doubt about that: the Joy Formidable are well on their way.

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