My Brother Was Right- The Joy Formidable Gives Sold Out Turf Club A Night To Remember


My brother enjoys to concert. He may not go to as many shows as I do but he definitely goes to more than most and tends to have great taste when it comes to the vibe of a live show. That’s how I found myself at The Turf Club on Friday night for a show of a band that I honestly never really thought about seeing live. It’s not that I didn’t want to see them, more that I worried about how their music would translate to a live setting and, with so many other shows in town on any given night, it was just something that I didn’t need to say. My brother said I was wrong and instantly called The Joy Formidable one of his top ten live bands of all times. Okay, I was intrigued so after some dinner with a friend who I conned into coming with us, my brother pick us up and we were off to The Turf Club in Saint Paul.

Instead of heading straight to the bar to grab a round for all of us, I was instantly drawn to the stage by the sounds of opening act Tancred. There was something so familiar about them even though I had never heard of them before. Sure, we were a little late and I felt bad but there was something magical about walking into the familiar venue and being swallowed up by this familiar sound of comfort. It sounded like The Twin Cities and it felt like The Twin Cities– what I’m trying to say is I felt at home instantly. 

Tancred’s set was short and sweet but definitely did the job. Although I eventually broke and did go to the bar to get a round, there was something so captivating yet so simple about this group fronted by Jess Abbott (formerly of Now, Now- a local band that has had their moments of fame in the past). It all started to click why it felt and sounded so familiar. Jess has this sweet sing song voice that is infectious and instantly puts a smile on your face. Although sweet and soft, there’s this energy and almost punk attitude behind it that completely draws you in and puts you right where this band wants you. Tancred’s music was the absolutely perfect way to kick off the Friday night show and the perfect way to wind down from an exhaustive week. If you wanted to stand in back and sip your drink- you could. If you wanted to get up against the stage and get lost in the crowd while moving to the beat- you could. Whatever you wanted to do, you could do it during their set last night all the while feeling like you were home.

After a quick stage change, it was time for the one and only The Joy Formidable. You could feel the excitement in the air that exploded into applause as the lights went down and the Welsh trio took the stage. As mentioned, it’s not that I didn’t love their music or that I was blind to their influence but TJF’s music just never really got me. Sure, I’d play it in the background at work and thoroughly enjoy it but I never really spent the time to really get to know it. Within the first song of their length hour and half long set last night I realized what a mistake I had made and have now spent all of this morning pouring over their discography.

The Joy Formidable has a very distinct sound. It’s spacey and almost ambient at times but there’s this unspoken sense of energy in their music. It’s super hard to explain which is why you should just listen to them or, better yet, go see them. There’s always been this inexplicable sense of energy in their recordings but seeing it live you get to see that energy in person and it adds a whole new side to this already iconic sound and band. You may be wondering why I keep referring to this band as iconic and influential. Honestly, even if you haven’t heard of their band name, you know their music and their sound. Although they have only been around since 2007 and only have four full length releases, they seem to have truly created their own space in the music world that nobody else could come close to filling. Although I feel like they truly are one of the greats (especially after seeing them live) I feel like they have never really gotten the credit they deserve. I also feel like they may not want it. The trio seemed beyond happy as they performed to the sold out crowd last night in an intimate venue. They may have been thousands of miles from home but it, again, felt like home to all involved last night.

Can you tell I was absolutely stunned and in awe by TJF last night? It was one of those shows that I can’t quite put into words. I can write about how they sounded exactly like they do on recordings only with a bit more energy and bite with every beat. How about I tell you about the older gentlemen sitting towards the end of the bar going absolutely nuts in between every songs. There was the conversation between my friend and I about how we wish singer Rhiannon Bryan could just talk us to sleep every night with her smooth and sultry voice that would tell quick stories and funny jokes between every song. How about how heart-felt every single thank you from the band is and how it was always reciprocated with an applause from the crowd that seemed to be just as powerful. 

My brother and I argue about music most of the time because his opinion is typically wrong (spoken like a true big sister right?). But he nailed it last night. So maybe The Joy Formidable won’t end up in my top ten live bands of all time but their performance last night is definitely one that won’t soon be forgotten.