It’s almost 7:00. In Carrboro, North Carolina, sits a typically bustling venue called Cat's Cradle. Joywave hasn’t been here in five years, but frontman/vocalist Daniel Armbruster remembers and jokes later on in the night that as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic calmed down enough to allow live music, he told a promoter: “Send our asses straight to North Carolina!”
Of course, neither Armbruster nor Joywave as a whole arrived alone. Brooklyn-based Elliot Lee, the show’s first opener, helps the crowd settle into the space. For their first tour, Lee already has a great handle on their stage presence and plays music that, if following the trend of similar artists like Poppy and Chloe Moriondo, should have quite a satisfying skyrocket soon.
Elliot Lee’s music is worth its weight in gold and covers a ton of topics: mental illness being swept under the rug (“Pink (Freak)”), shameless complacence and materialism in the face of deep-rooted unhappiness (“Drama Queen”), and not being sorry for cutting off toxic people (“54321”).
Next, Canadian indie pop band Dizzy took the stage. Brothers Charlie, Alex, and Mackenzie Spencer and lead singer-friend Katie Munshaw sing of home, nostalgia, nature, and softness. If Elliot Lee were the neon kid-core younger sibling eating Uncrustables and playing MASH, Dizzy is the older sibling who goes for long drives through the mountains and meets up with friends in the supermarket parking lot.
It’s clear that Dizzy’s music appeals to new fans and returning listeners alike. Salem Burtner, a student from Hillsborough, NC, told me that he was at the show because of Dizzy, not headliners Joywave.
At just past 9:10, as promised, the house lights went down, and the headlights on the distinct half-car on stage ignited to life. As fans cheered, each member of Joywave emerged from backstage in navy blue car wash uniforms. While at first I found the theming to be cheesy, I’ve come to realize that’s sort of the point. That’s just what fans have come to expect.
Morgan Spivey of Scotland Neck, NC, saw the band in 2018 on a whim and still maintains that they put on the best show she’s ever seen. “They make you feel like a long-time fan even if you’re not,” Spivey remarked in awe.
The band achieves this by emphasizing their performance's energy — the entire show was on full throttle. The hype delivered in the performance is infectious, and at one point, Armbruster even roped the crowd into singing “Happy Birthday” to drummer Paul completely impromptu.
Of course, the music was incredible, but it almost seemed counter to what you would expect. The music was grooving, funky, and taking its time (special shout out to guitarist Joseph Morinelli for holding down the fort with his jamming strings on guitar and bass at one point), but fans were still cheering, and at some points, even headbanging. Their music is so easy to enjoy. It gets you on your feet. So if every performance is like the one I went to (and I’m certain they all are), then I truly believe there are two kinds of people in this world: Joywave fans and soon-to-be Joywave fans. Give their tracks a listen, and you’ll see what I mean.
All photos are by Spencer Cruz
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