MusicfestNW Recap 2: The Joy Formidable, The Men

Joy Formidable at Roseland Theater

Here is my second MusicfestNW recap featuring Joy Formidable and The Men. I attended the festival Sept. 4-7.

“This venue’s at capacity” became the unwanted, all too common mantra at this year’s MusicfestNW. I heard it at no less than four shows which might not sound like a lot but amounted to at least a quarter of the shows I attempted to access.

Typhoon’s Old Church show on Thursday night marked the first such failure. Small venue, large demand, local band – all factors that forced my friend Ben and I to reevaluate our options and head across town to the Roseland Theater.

There we saw the UK rock trio Joy Formidable, whose manic power walking onstage, blinding strobes, and lead singer’s resemblance to a ninth-grade science teacher I loathed led me to focus my attention more on the audience than the stage.

The set’s opening song served as a primer for everything to come – obnoxious volume, the aforementioned power walking, crashing cymbals for the sake of crashing cymbals. To my right a man danced his ass off, flailing like Gumby every which way without regard for the sound emanating from the stage. Because, well, who could dance to this?

The strobes recalled the previous night’s Deerhunter show at Crystal Ballroom, except The Joy Formidable had them beat in this department. When I broke from people watching I stared a hole in the floor to avoid the epilepsy lights.

A light (pun intended) went off in my head midway through the set. I had been digging for the subconscious reason why I disliked this band so fervently. And then it appeared – the singer Ritzy Bryan reminded me of Ms. Gauthe, a pint-sized, middle-aged woman who sapped all the fun out of science with her disciplinarian teaching approach my freshman year of high school. Thusly, the fish-eyed Bryan removed any semblance of fun from the music with her robotic presence on-stage. Oh god, the power walking, make it stop!

To the couple who sucked face in front of me during The Joy Formidable’s set like they were listening to slow jamz, I say, “Congrats, I can tell you’re built to last.” I, on the other hand, felt like the man wearing a suit next to me who covered his ears during one particular chorus that bore a strong whiff of Sabbath.

The Joy Formidable’s set shook my faith in MusicfestNW’s goodness but not enough to stop me from walking across Burnside to catch The Men at Dante’s.

What little I had read about The Men before the show centered around their genre hopping and how none of the band’s members viewed himself the leader. I determined both as true sentiments during the 15 or so minutes I spent in their presence.

The Men started off their set with a promising countrified rock tune that piqued my interest. Unfortunately the band followed this with three straight droning numbers with different members taking cracks at lead vocals on each.

Ben and I left after song No. 4, and as we walked toward his car a block away I could hear The Men’s guitars attempting to tear down Dante’s walls. Maybe if they played loud enough they could beat back Portland’s inevitable dreary, drizzly winter.


Look for upcoming recaps featuring Dan Deacon, Titus Andronicus, and Radiation City plus a bonus MFNW KEXP recap featuring Chvrches and !!!.

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