Norman Music Festival 6 rocks three blocks of Main Street

Welsh alt-rock band The Joy Formidable and Broken Arrow singer-songwriter JD McPherson headline Norman Music Festival 6.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Modified: April 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm •  Published: April 26, 2013
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Ritzy Bryan and Rhydian Dafydd spent a cozy three weeks in January 2012 sequestered in a cabin in the snow-carpeted woods outside of tiny Casco, Maine, making beautiful music together in more ways than one.

They were a couple, and they were bandmates, and they had their love and their songwriting to keep them warm.

A year later, their powerful whisper-to-a-roar pop songs were released on “Wolf's Law,” the sensational sophomore album from The Joy Formidable.

And Bryan and Dafydd are no longer a couple.

But in the best tradition of Fleetwood Mac — which famously survived divorce and broken romance among its members — The Joy Formidable forges on, and Bryan will be out front on vocals and guitar with Dafydd backing her up on bass and Matt Thomas bringing the thunder on drums when the Welsh alternative power trio takes the main stage Saturday night as the headlining act at Norman Music Festival 6.

“We decided to call time on our relationship in November, but we haven't really talked about it that much,” the blond, blue-eyed frontwoman said in a phone interview from the band's Salt Lake City tour stop.

“I mean, I'm happy to mention it in interviews,” she said. “I think we definitely felt like, you know, we've known each other for a very long time. We grew up in the same area. And the music came first. We started the band before we actually became a romantic couple. I think, you know, we're in a really good place now.”

One wonders if those long winter days and nights in that isolated cabin on the northeastern-most tip of the United States might have caused romantic ties to unravel, but Bryan credits the snowy peacefulness of their surroundings for much of the inspiration that went into the writing and recording of “Wolf's Law,” which boasts richer instrumentation and production and more accomplished songwriting than The Joy Formidable's well-received and aptly titled 2011 debut, “The Big Roar.”

The beauty and cruelty of nature, the briefness of life, familial breakdowns and the need to seize the moment are recurring themes throughout the album, from the towering, buzz saw-edged beauty of “Cholla” to the elegiac acoustic ballad “Silent Treatment,” the lofty, pulsing, wall-of-guitar anthem “Forest Serenade” and the stunning orchestral grandeur that is the album finale, “The Turnaround.”

“I think we needed somewhere that was very peaceful and away from it all, so Maine and Casco definitely fit that description,” Bryan said.

Timely retreat

The band's 2011 tour had come to a premature end when a Portland, Maine, concert was canceled, and a friend recommended the forest retreat to the road-weary Bryan and Dafydd.

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