I was put on assignment to staff a concert at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Saturday, Sept. 17. My boss informed me it was a free show open to the public at the Boulevard Pool no less – one of my favorite venues for concerts! After a summer of established names like Adele, Death Cab for Cutie and Queens of the Stone Age… who was The Joy Formidable playing at the Boulevard Pool?
While delicately putting up a new shower curtain, I decided to whip out my iPhone, pull up YouTube and check out this band I was about to listen to while working tonight. The first video that popped up was for their single called “Cradle”. A striking and unconventionally gorgeous female was the still image on the thumbnail for the video. I was a bit more intrigued than I had been 30 seconds prior. I clicked the image and waited (about 4 hours, thank you 3G network) for the video to load. Once the song started playing, I froze. Echoey “ooo’s” followed by the wailing Welsh voice of the band’s lead singer, Ritzy Bryan, bounced off the walls of my bathroom. I loved what I was hearing. By the time I could rewire my Negative Nancy brain to process the raw, grungy, wonderfully 90s-inspired music, the song had already ended. I hit repeat. And I was more in love the second time around. Then I kept moving down the list of all their videos and songs I could find, liking each one just as much as the last. Somehow, I emerged from my musical reverie and realized I was sitting on the floor of my bathroom and needed to get changed for the live show. I was amped.
Fast forward: I’m at The Yard at The Boulevard Pool watching the band’s crew ready the stage. I couldn’t wait for the show. I felt like I already knew “Cradle” word-for-word and was so anxious to hear how they sounded live. Right on the dot at 9 p.m., the band came out and began playing. They sounded just as good, if not better, than they did in their studio recording. Just like Adele, Death Cab for Cutie and Queens of the Stone Age, this band was made up of real musicians who had a loyal following and genuine love for music. Ritzy was all over the stage as she belted out her lyrics and interacted with the audience. The bassist, Rhydian Dafydd, grounded each song with his booming bass guitar and background vocals while the drummer, Justin Stahley, was so immersed into the music it was nearly impossible to not be awed by his concentration and outright love for every second he was up there.
Later, I learned the free show was part of a brilliant lineup of musicians The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas rounded up for a complimentary experience for locals and visitors alike. Artists such as Christina Perri and Foster The People were among the many in a long list who have dazzled crowds at the Boulevard Pool’s music sessions, and The Joy Formidable was the latest addition.
I highly recommend checking this band out. If you tend to stick to the over-polished, synthesized and digitized sound reigning over the Top 40, then you might not be too keen for The Joy Formidable. But if you appreciate traditional rock band instruments and the unrefined sound of many groups we grew up listening to before the turn of the new millennium, then it might do you some good to turn an ear to this understated trio. In case you’re interested, I suggest the songs “Cradle,” “Austere,” “9669” and “Whirring.” Happy listening!