MY HEART TO JOY Live at Lily’s Pad. New Haven CT. 3.4.11
(photo by Tyson Luneau)
Last night, a massive crowd packed into Lily’s Pad upstairs at Toad’s Place in New Haven to see the near-legendary Connecticut emotive hardcore band My Heart to Joy play. The sold-out show had been announced months in advance by Manic Productions in collaboration with The Arc Agency, who billed it as the release party for My Heart To Joy’s new Reasons to Be 7”. But for the dedicated fans at Lily’s Pad last night, the show was much more than that.
On February 14th, the band announced on their official blog that they were planning to break up. Accompanying this announcement, they posted only two tour dates — one on March 4th in New Haven, and a final one on May 14th — thus making the New Haven show their second to last show ever. For many of the show’s attendees, this would be the last time they would be able to see the group perform live. Understandably, the show took on a deeper significance even before it happened. The burden was on My Heart to Joy to make the show incredible and unforgettable.
Given the stunning quality of the four opening bands’ sets, one may have thought this would be more difficult than it appears to have been in retrospect. Local math rock band Fugue played first, and set a high bar with their enormous-sounding instrumental music, which recalled 3rd wave post-rock bands such as Explosions in the Sky in terms of harmony and melody. My jaw definitely dropped at at least three points during their set when they threw the instrumental focus to the wind and each member began maniacally screaming into his or her respective microphone, adding a raw, primal aspect to their already overpowering sound.
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die played second, and after their set was over I was sure that I had already witnessed the highlight of the night. Having seen [long band name] three times now, I can confidently say that this was their best show yet. While their performance wasn’t as note-perfect as their set at BAR back in February, the venue and the crowd perfectly suited their music. The combination of those things, plus a new setlist made it amazing.
After an energetic and rousing set from TWIABP, Topshelf’s premier post-hardcore band Pianos Become The Teeth came on, and nobody was ready. Their set was easily the most intense thing I’d ever experienced in a live music venue, and even having only familiarized myself with their music — a mix of authentic screamo, post-hardcore, and elements of post-rock — fairly recently, I found myself truly swept up by the madness of it all.
Bruised and battered, my friend and I took refuge behind the glass that separated the floor from the bar to hydrate and safely observe the next act, a pop-punk band named Transit, from a distance. I wasn’t really familiar with them, and I wasn’t hugely into their music, but we both agreed that it would certainly be fun to be in a band like that. The members seemed to really enjoy themselves throughout their set, and I suppose it was good to know that at least some people in this scene were not only genuinely happy but could make music that reflected that.
As great as the opening bands were, everyone knew by the time My Heart to Joy took the stage that the best part of the night was still ahead. For those who hadn’t seen a My Heart to Joy show before (myself included), their setup was immediately striking. The band’s two drummers were positioned directly across from each other, while guitarists Chris Teti and Greg Horbal stood at opposite ends of the stage, with the group’s bassist positioned between them. In the center of it all was singer Ryan Nelson, whose tremendous height and shocking blonde hair made him appear as intimidating as he was indomitable.
The band started without warning, and opened with a track from their debut EP called “That Ungodly Arch-Villain Voltaire Is Dead”. In addition to being one of my favorite My Heart to Joy songs, it was a perfect choice for an opener. After a couple minutes of buildup, the song exploded with energy that surpassed the studio version by far. When the song reached its climax, I was instantly brought back to when I saw Titus Andronicus at the very same venue over the summer. But while screaming the lyrics to “Titus Andronicus Forever” was an amazing experience, shouting the repeated line in “Voltaire” was on an entirely different level. Forgive me if it’s cliche to relate my experience to the lyrics of the song, but at that moment, I really did feel as though not even a god damn mountain could stop us. It was a huge musical moment for me, and countless others in Lily’s Pad that night.
They then proceeded to rocket through an amazing, career-spanning setlist that brought out the very best material from each of the band’s four albums. In the intense live environment, My Heart To Joy’s newer material gained a rawness that is not present on the studio versions, making songs like “Steady Habits” and “Farewell to a Raincloud” — both from Reasons to Be — flow together seamlessly with more aggressive tracks such as “The Hours Change So We Don’t Have To” and “Virgin Sails.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the show was the incredible range of emotions that the group expressed through their music. Whether it was anger, sadness, or uninhibited joy, these incredible songs conveyed the most extreme feelings conceivable. While “Voltaire” may have filled me with more anger and aggression than is probably healthy, I can’t remember being as filled with happiness as I was when I heard that gorgeous opening riff to “All of Life Is Coming Home” live. Similarly, I don’t think any live show has given me feelings of such urgency as I had when singing along to “Giving My Hands Away”
The setlist was also geared towards audience participation, and featured many of My Heart To Joy’s most sing-along-ready songs. Incidentally, the crowd was more engaged than pretty much any crowd I’ve ever seen at a show. It was really something to behold, but also something that I’m proud to consider myself a part of.
Before I knew it, the show was over, but not before the band pulled out its most rewarding song at the very end. With that instantly-recognizable, absolutely sinister sounding opening riff, they began to play “Ethics”, the opening track from Heavenly Bodies. Fittingly, the band finished one of their last shows ever with their first song ever, a fifty second rager that quickly explodes and then implodes just as quickly into a gang-shout of awesome proportions before the instruments come back in for one last fifteen second stand. In concert, they expanded the shout-along part, but not by much. Nevertheless, those last thirty to forty seconds of the show packed enough catharsis to last a lifetime.
I can only imagine what their last show is going to be like…
- That Ungodly Arch-Villain Voltaire Is Dead
- Empty Homes
- Steady Habits
- The Hours Change So We Don’t Have To
- Virgin Sails
- Seasons in Verse
- All of Life Is Coming Home
- Farewell to a Raincloud
- Giving My Hands Away
MHTJ (EP Release), Transit, Pianos Become The Teeth, The World is, Fugue
This Friday, gonna have a good time.
Follow AllAgesCT for the best local all-ages music news. Also this show is going to be amazing.
two fucking drummers.
Pop/punk band Transit has been confirmed as the replacement for Algernon Cadwallader at the MHTJ show on March 4th. I’m disappointed, but whatever. It’s going to be a great show nonetheless.