The Joy Formidable, Oran Mor Glasgow, 19th October

At last! A gig to attend and something to write about! It’s been really quiet gig-wise for me since, ooh June? That’s way too long. I have tickets booked for November but just couldn’t wait that long.

My music-loving friends have been recommending new music to me, so when I get the chance (not often) I’ve been working down the list.  A week or so ago I tried The Joy Formidable. They turned out to be one of those bands that I was instantly drawn to. I listened to the album several times over and started doing some research on them. Found out they were playing in Glasgow in a few days time. Those same friends encouraged me to go and said their live shows were always good. I didn’t need much persuading frankly.  It was too close to order tickets online, and there seemed to be plenty left, so my obliging husband offered to pick them up when he was in town for work.

Unfortunately by the time he got there, Tickets Scotland had sold out. I phoned the venue and they said there would be some available on the door but I would have to get there as early as possible. Argh – I had a parents’ night at my daughter’s nursery to go to beforehand! I had been planning on doing that, then just wandering down to Oran Mor in time to catch TJF, not caring much about the support bands. So the race was on. The wee one was left at home playing with her new lego set with her dad, I raced down to the nursery, exited as soon as was polite and legged it to the West End.  After literally running from my car to the venue, arriving dead on 7pm, I found a note pinned to the door saying that due to unforseen circumstances doors would be opening at 7.15 but there were still tickets available. I breathed a rather large sigh of relief, then noticed that there was nobody else there. No queue, no loiterers, no touts, nothing. Odd. Then I realised that it was bloody freezing and everyone had probably gone upstairs for a drink. I couldn’t risk missing out on getting a ticket so I stayed put, trying not to think about the squillions of rats that used to live there before the venue was done up into its present condition.  Slowly people started to emerge and queue, I bagged a space right by the door for maximum ticket grabbing opportunity. Eventually, it must have been after 7.30pm, the doors opened, I got my ticket (still with a fecking booking fee, my current pet peeve!) and I got into the warmth to thaw out.

I’d never been to a gig at Oran Mor before, so I had a wander round, initially taking up a spot on one of the comfy seats round the side, but as the first support band came on I ventured out on to the floor.  Well what can I say about Creatures of Love?  They were loud, but I would discover that was par for the course as the night went on. They certainly put a lot of effort into their image, the lead singer wore a hooded black cloak and her actions and gestures seemed to be rehearsed and overly theatrical rather than spontaneous reactions to the music.  They had lots of small but very bright lamps everywhere, and strobing all over the place. I hate strobe lighting, it makes me feel uneasy. And I am inherently distrusting of  bands that put too much emphasis on style over substance, but actually they were not that bad. The singer had a strong voice, and the elongated lyrics and soaring melodies allowed her to show that off without being too self-indulgent. The accompaniment was a kind of wall-of-sound approach but it suited the look and vocals. It took me a while to get into them, partly cos I was focussing on thawing out and partly cos I really wasn’t expecting that kind of thing.  I probably won’t seek them out further, but I’ve certainly seen worse support bands and they did set the tone for the rest of the night.

Next up was As So I Watched You From Afar. I’d heard of them, vaguely (kind of memorable name) but had no idea what they were like. They set their own kit up, and I just thought they were the roadies, but after much twiddling of knobs, complex electrical engineering and discussion of tunings and levels etc, they gave the stage the ok, walked offstage, paused for about 3 seconds, then walked back on again, picked up their guitars / sticks and immediately began thrashing about, louping around the stage, bashing into each other and producing the most incredible sound. It was actually kind of funny to see that transition, and the seriousness with which they undertook each role. At first I found it hilarious and a bit weird, but once I started to listen to the music I was well impressed.  They are an instrumental band, no vocals at all, so that in itself makes them interesting. In the middle of the 2nd song the term “math-rock” crept into my mind, they have lots of complex rhythm and timing changes, and a tightness to their playing through multiple pauses and changes of direction. Well I say that, they did rely on lots of rather obvious nods and winks between each other, but regardless it was pretty impressive. I had properly warmed up, in both senses of the word, by that point and really got into their set. The floor was still quite empty so I had moved down to the front and managed to get on the edge of the barrier. There was a group of dedicated ASIWYFA (even that isn’t easy to type) fans in the middle, and at one point the lead guitarist jumped over the barrier and threw himself in amongst them. Most non-ASIWYFA fans kind of leapt back in horror and didn’t know what to do with themselves. I just laughed.

And So I Watched You From Afar

Once they finished their set they walked off, to great applause and cheering from the whole crowd, I reckon they’ve got a bunch of new converts there, again paused for about 3 seconds then were back on to pack up their stuff. I know a lot of bands do that, but it was just so funny to see the contrast with the way they act during their set.

The good thing about the delay in us getting in was that there was less of the interminable wait between bands.  TJF’s set was all prepared (they had their own roadies) complete with nautically themed backgrounds, a mini ship’s wheel and bell, an electric harp and a massive gong.  I mean a humongous gong. I wouldn’t like to be responsible for moving that. So they came out and I was dissapointed to see that Ritzy’s head was obscured from my vision by the aforementioned ship’s bell. But thankfully she is just as prone to louping about the stage as the guy from ASIWYFA was, so I didn’t miss out too much.  They were awesome. The crowd were really up for it after the 2 supports, and the band looked like they were having a good time too. I’m still not that familiar with their songs, having only been properly listening to them for a couple of weeks, so I wasn’t able to sing along etc but it was kind of nice for me to be able to watch a band as a kind of impartial observer, rather than having a lot invested in them.  The performance was energetic, raucous and loud. Very loud. My ears were ringing for 2 whole days afterwards. But it was good, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Joy Formidable

I liked that the drummer was out at the front of the stage, to the right of us, perhaps to accommodate the harp and gong, but it’s nice to see drummers being able to escape the confines of the back of the stage.  There was nice interplay between the band members and some chat from Ritzy.  My only problem was that the bassist, Rhydian, tried to spur the crowd on by repeatedly shouting, “come on you f*ckers!” which, given that I was standing right in front of him, felt quite aggressive and uncomfortable.  Actually the crowd were remarkably well-behaved, usually when I’m on the barrier I get a bit crushed, but there was no surging forward or stampeding at all. Well maybe in the middle, but not where I was.  They finished and went off and everyone was expecting an encore, but the roadies mercilessly began ripping the set up, without so much as a pause to give us time to bask in the glory of what we had just witnessed.

It was only about 10.15pm when I got out but I didn’t feel like we had been short-changed, I think the sets were all a decent length they had just reduced the usual massive break beetween bands. It was mid-week and I had work to go to the next day so I was quite grateful to be out early.  I wasn’t so grateful for the £60 parking fine I found on my car when I got back to it – apparently it is metered until 10pm there. I hadn’t even checked because every other street I have ever parked on in Glasgow is only metered until 6pm. Oh well, I had had such a good night even that didn’t bring me down.

So now I can add The Joy Formidable to my list of must-see bands, my wise friends (that’s be mainly you Zoe 😉 ) were right, they are an excellent band and their live shows are even better. I’m glad I made the effort,  I feel much better for having seen some live music again and I have another new band to check out in the form of And So I Watched You From Afar too. Not bad.

PS I apologise for crappy images, but I only had my phone and I was right at the front, so didn’t want to be fiddling with it and trying to get shots all night. To the guy who was 3 along from me and kept waving his camera and using flash(!) all night – you are a twat and should’ve been thrown out.