The last time the Joy Formidable was in Boston, it was for a show that never happened. The Wales-by-way-of-London band was parked outside the House of Blues and ready to play. There was just one problem: The day of the concert was Friday, April 19, when the city was on lockdown as the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers reached its final phase.
“We hate canceling shows,” says bassist Rhydian Dafydd, “but obviously [with] the particular circumstances there, it was agreed some time in the afternoon that it just couldn't happen. As you said, the whole city was pretty much on lockdown. So yeah, it was right up until the last minute, really. Obviously, it was a bit disappointing, but ultimately our thoughts were with the people that were hurt, and we knew that we could reschedule it.”
That’s the show that fans will finally get on Thursday, as the Joy Formidable takes the House of Blues stage after an unscheduled two-month delay. With the city up and running again, the band’s visit is sure to have a substantially different feel to it than the last one, as Dafydd’s recollections make clear.
“We ran off the bus and had a walk around,” he says, “and it was weird, you know? It was surreal. It was pretty desolated. Apocalyptic. Kind of strange. . . . If you just wanted something to eat, it was even difficult.”
Even so, he’s happy to embrace isolation when it can be found under less chaotic circumstances. Recording for the Joy Formidable’s sophomore album, “Wolf’s Law,” in a cabin in Casco, Maine, in the dead of winter, where Dafydd and singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan set up their mobile studio. It was a practically Bon Iverian approach, applied not to bearded acoustic melancholy but to guitar-powered modern-rock songs that seem to shift and churn until they crack open with light.
“Initially, we had a tour finishing around there, so it was just a logistical thing to start off with,” says Dafydd of how they ended up self-producing much of the album in the woods 30 miles northwest of Portland. “We had a couple of weeks off that we decided to do something there. We just enjoyed it so much, this place in particular. We had a lot of solitude there, which is exactly what we needed, to just get consumed by the songs, no distractions.”
In many ways, that working environment was a physical manifestation of a mindset that the Joy Formidable holds dear. Despite having gone on tour with Foo Fighters, the band is determined not to let that de facto thumbs-up from unofficial mayor of rock ’n’ roll Dave Grohl go to their heads.
“We don't look for outside validity in any kind of way,” Dafydd says.“That’s what we’ve always done, and that’s what a lot of the artists that we look up to have done anyway. . . . I think when you can stand behind what you’ve written, then it’s not really about whether or not it’s fitting in now, fitting in later or whatever. It’s more exercising your unique voice and people will discover that instead of trying to fit in in any kind of way.”
And people have discovered what the Joy Formidable are doing, which made the April cancellation a reasonably smooth process. According to Jay Anderson, marketing and PR manager for Live Nation, everybody sprang into action that morning, got all the details taken care of, and got the word out quickly.
“The second everything started happening that morning and people started waking up and seeing the news and knowing what was going on, pretty much all parties involved were 100 percent on the same page” as far as rescheduling the concert, Anderson says. “We had the dates set before we announced the postponement.”
From there, fans who were already glued to Facebook and Twitter for updates on the day’s events helped spread the word. Anderson says, “Social media, obviously, [is] the key to most everything these days,” and comments from understanding fans on the band’s official Facebook announcement followed within minutes.
So Thursday’s show is all about delayed gratification for ticketholders who’ve been waiting patiently for an extra two months. Not that the Joy Formidable intends to make a big deal of their make-up show. Dafydd insists that the trio’s usual level of intensity will suffice.
“I think it’s important to do what you always do, really,” he says. “So I’m not sure we’re going to draw attention to it. I think more than anything, [the point is] just to give it your all and allow people to forget about things for a couple of hours.”
He adds, “People still need to escape. That’s actually a way of losing themselves, isn’t it, going to a concert?”Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @spacecitymarc.