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The Joy Formidable Crushes at Underground Arts in Philadelphia

The Joy Formidable played an absolutely stunning set Wednesday night (11/7) at Underground Arts in Philadelphia, PA.

Supporting their latest release “Aaarth”, the Welsh rockers are currently on tour with alternative pop sweethearts Tancred.

I arrived at the train station in the Philadelphia suburb of Wayne with only moments to spare. Unfortunately, the store where you buy tokens was closed and to make things worse, the train was running late! I really hate to miss the opening band so I broke down and just ordered a ride from Lyft.

My Lyft driver asked where I was from and I told him Omaha, Nebraska. He said he has family there and is coming for Thanksgiving! We exchanged numbers and have plans to hang out. (Just kidding), but it’s crazy how small the world really is.

I arrived at the venue just a few minutes before show time and got a spot up front. There was a varied crowd from folks in their late 60s to kids in their early teens! I wish my parents let me go to a show in the city on a school night when I was thirteen. Good for them!

Up first was the indie pop quartet Tancred. Going in completely fresh, I had no idea what to expect. But as soon as their light hearted jams started I was instantly hooked. They had a spot on 90s vibe similar to Veruca Salt and Nada Surf. You could slip almost any one of their tracks in a 1996 MTV buzz bin compilation and no one would bat an eye! I loved every minute of it. There was something so comforting about their alterna-retro tunes. The only strange part was hearing this 90s-tinged music coming from a band who were most likely born in the 90s! They must have gone back and watched MTV reruns with Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren. Wherever they draw their influences, I was seriously impressed with the end result.


After a short break The Joy Formidable stepped out and proceeded to annihilate the room! Instantly I was hit with a wall of sound. Sometimes heavily distorted bands bum me out if they have little to no vocals. That was not the case here. The Joy Formidable had the most amazing harmonies layered over fuzzed out synth bass and crushing drums.

It’s not very often that I get chills, but by the second song I had goosebumps.

I knew I was witnessing something special. My favorite song of the night which I believe was “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” (third song in the set for anyone keeping track) had an awesome synth-bass groove reminiscent of “Hella “Good” by No Doubt. Other highlights included the fan requested “Bats” and “Cicada Song” from the band’s new album “Aaarth.”


There were highlights from all aspects of the band’s career and they mentioned several times that they were celebrating 10 years of their first album. For how well they played it’s hard to imagine The Joy Formidable is are only 11 years into their career. I could easily see these guys playing alongside U2 or ColdPlay, granted, it’s awesome to see a band in such an intimate venue rather than a massive stadium.

I’ve been to over 30 shows in 2018, but this definitely ranks towards the top. I can’t wait to see these guys again. Thanks so much to The Joy Formidable’s management for the press pass.

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