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In the music spotlight: The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable | PHOTO BY JAMES MINCHIN

What’s in a name? Thumb through the bins at your local record store or browse iTunes, and try to guess the sound of the music behind the monikers. You can often divine at least a little bit of information about personality, if not style. You might guess that Minus the Bear is a band of brothers sharing an in-joke.

British comedy fans could easily assume that Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket was probably an old-school Monty Python fan. The Joy Formidable, however, is a rare act that tells you exactly what you’re getting. The Welsh trio’s sound is larger than life, powerful, and explodes with euphoric emotion.

The Joy Formidable performs on day three of Lollapalooza in Grant Park on Saturday, July 30, 2016. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times
The Joy Formidable performs on day three of Lollapalooza in Grant Park on Saturday, July 30, 2016. | Lou Foglia/Sun-Times

Spitfire frontwoman Ritzy Bryan, irrepressible drummer Matthew James Thomas, and melodic and powerful bassist Rhydian Davies and have built a stronghold in Chicago by bringing their glorious alt-rock anthems here often. In 2016 alone, The Joy Formidable played four local concert dates at venues ranging from the Double Door to the Vic Theatre. The band’s main stage set at Lollapalooza was an afternoon showstopper.

On Feb. 27 at the intimate Lincoln Hall, fans will see a different side of the group focused more directly on it savvy songwriting than the titanic wall of spacefaring cacophony heard on singles like “Whirring.” The Joy Formidable is currently on a short run of North American shows for its Leave No Trace tour, with a campfire-styled acoustic set focused on its recent “Sleep is Day” EP.

“Sleep is Day” follows 2016’s full-length, fully-amped “Hitch” album, and the band is sending profits from single “Liana” to the Sumatran Orangutan Society. The EP includes a new title track, acoustic versions of “Hitch” songs including the chiming jangle of “Radio of Lips,” the lusty blues riffs of “The Last Thing On My Mind,” and covers like the haunting, pared-down version of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes.” The running order should provide a reliable core for a performance of stripped-down anthems.

* The Joy Formidable with Ohmme, 9 p.m. Feb. 27, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, $25 (21+over); lincolnhallchicago.com.

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.