Joywave released Possession in March 2020 and was set to tour to support it, including a show at The Social, in Orlando, Florida, but that tour was canceled by the pandemic. Originally rescheduled for mid-2021, the show was canceled again. On Friday night, Joywave finally brought a tour back to Orlando, but it was to support a newer album, last month’s Cleanse.
The show started in bizarre fashion by CLIBBUS. Wearing a cloak and headlamp, CLIBBUS shouted nonsensical lyrics through a distorted microphone over dance music, offered dollar bills and sticks of gum to the crowd, and reached a tape measure through the crowd to see how large it was.
Singer-songwriter joe p, real name Joe Parella, then served as a more traditional opening act. His energetic performance featured a number of songs from his 2021 EP Emily Can’t Sing as well as music from his previous band, Deal Casino. “Off My Mind” started as a soft ballad before kicking into uptempo rock. Before playing “Color TV,” Parella taught the chorus to the crowd so they could sing along. “I’ll teach you the words and you can sing it back. Then Orlando will be my favorite forever,” he said. Parella played with punk intensity in dynamic songs that jumped between a soft croon and aggressive rock, all backed by danceable beats on electric and traditional drums.
Joywave took the stage dressed in car wash attendant jumpsuits. “We normally have a car wash behind us, but tonight we just have four pieces of plastic,” said vocalist Daniel Armbruster. “But we did bring this nice Corvette,” he said, holding up a toy car.
The Social is a small venue with no backstage area and a narrow stage that only allows each band member to move a few feet in each direction. Armbruster joked about the cramped conditions throughout the night, though those same conditions brought great intimacy to the set, like playing a bit house party. And if there’s one thing Joywave does well, it’s hosting a party.
The band’s unique sound combined elements of alt-rock, funk, dance, and pop. Drummer Paul Brenner and touring bassist Kevin Mahoney laid down slick, danceable grooves while Armbruster strutted and danced back and forth, trying to make the most of his limited real estate. Guitarist Joseph Morinelli mostly played a backup role in the beat-driven music but delivered bursts of rock intensity, such as the bruising power chord riff in “Somebody New.”
But it’s mostly about those grooves — the bouncing funk of “It’s a Trip,” the propulsive disco swagger of “Obsession.” Throughout the show, Joywave played to that strength. The swelling synth ballad “Traveling at the Speed of Light” was the only slow song of the set, with everything else up-tempo and beat-heavy.
”We were supposed to have an entire Florida tour for Possession, so is it okay if we play a few songs from it now?” Armbruster asked. The band then mixed in some songs from the album that never got its own tour.
Armbruster talked to the crowd between songs, joking about the tiny stage, his young nephew’s nicknames for the songs, and TV screens above the bar that advertised upcoming shows. “A special hell for me is having four LED screens with words on them right in front of me when I’m trying to remember the lyrics. By the way, The Afghan Whigs will be here on May 13,” he said and then read off several more upcoming shows. It became a running joke. “I have a special announcement,” he said later in the show. “Built To Spill is playing on September 13.”
The set was dominated by Cleanse, though there were plenty of crowd pleasers from other albums as well, including “Ugly Ending,” a cover of Best Frenz, a side project by Armbruster and Jason Suwito of Sir Sly. After playing the funky “We Are All We Need,” Armbruster said goodbye and faked an encore. With no backstage to disappear to, he had to improvise. “That’s all for tonight, unless of course there was a spontaneous chant for more songs,” he said.
When the crowd obliged, the band launched into the ridiculously catchy earwig “Tongues,” the crowd dancing and singing along with the infectious jam. Morinelli and multi-instrumentalist Connor Ehman then traded their guitars for bass for “Dangerous,” a song so thick in bass that it required three bassists. To close the show, Joywave went with the most Joywavey song of all, the eccentric “Destruction.” The thumping dancehall beat, menacing hook, and circus-like guitar licks got the packed Social floor jumping.
Though Orlando missed out on a Possession tour, the Cleanse tour provided plenty of pulse-pounding entertainment. And after two years of the show being canceled by the pandemic, the claustrophobic conditions of The Social provided much-needed intimacy. The people needed a reason to party and Joywave provided the perfect reason and soundtrack.