Gig review: Rival Sons @ The Roundhouse

(Originally published in The Upcoming:

Floral suits and robotic dance moves are SO rock and roll, right?

Photo originally published on The Upcoming. Credit: Nick Bennet

Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons is clearly an intense man. Not big on conversing directly with his audience, he spends a lot of his non-singing time on stage at the Roundhouse with his head thrown back, eyes closed in trance-like rapture, palms outstretched before him. Is he sending a silent spirit message to a rock deity? Perhaps he’s asking for divine guidance on how to cram in more influences from his record collection into his band’s performance. If that’s the case, he’s doing a pretty good job already; over the nearly two-hour long show, his band, having come onstage to the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, switch from Doors-esque psychedelia to AC/DC-ish riffing to mega-weight Soundgarden-style grunge. There’s a pretty, Joni Mitchell style folk section in the middle (including a gorgeously delicate rendition of Nava), followed by some Woody Guthrie-inspired dustbowl Americana. Jay Buchanan has a voice like Robert Plant, emotes like Steve Tyler and dances like Prince. Even his keyboardist seems to have half-inched his magnificent beard from a member of ZZ Top. Classic rock is a slippery, catch-all term these days, but Rival Sons do their best to embody its every interpretation.

Buchanan is a charismatic frontman, writhing across the stage, clawing at the air and wrapping himself seductively around his mic stand, but even he can’t consistently hold the audience captive over such a lengthy show. Guitarist Scott Holiday is an engaging foil, bouncing around the stage with boyish enthusiasm and displaying some impressive shredding, but some of the solos meander for too long and the crowd’s interest wanes. It’s not until Torture, nearly 40 minutes in, that they convince the audience to show some real enthusiasm, prompting air-guitaring and devil horns held high. But then the pace flags, and the excitement subsides. Half a dozen false finishes, encores, and numerous influences later, Keep On Swinging is a crowd-pleasing closer, but through the 180-odd minutes, it’s difficult to pick out an original idea that’s truly their own.

Rival Sons are band of solid musicians with a great frontman, but they need to come up with some fresh concepts and cherry pick their strongest moments if they’re going to reach the heights of their rock heroes. It’s a fine line between passion and self-indulgence, but Rival Sons have managed to stay the right side of it. Just.


Gig review: Sheppard @ The Borderline

(Originally published on The Upcoming: )

Mermaid hair!

Photo originally published on The Upcoming. Credit: Guifré de Peray

It’s often espoused by pop theorists that certain parts of the world excel at producing certain kinds of bands. Sunlight-starved parts of Norway and Finland have a knack for producing doomy goth metal outfits such as Nightwish, while former factory towns in northern England are famous for eloquently brutal social commentators like Pulp. Australia, a land that according to certain TV shows is populated almost entirely by bronzed surfer dudes and lovable kangaroos, is adept at birthing sunny, chirpy pop. For Sheppard, the Brisbanian sextet fronted by perma-smiley George Sheppard and his mermaid-haired sister Amy, chirpiness is their stock in trade.

“Let’s see some hands!” George yells during the first song. “Wow, you guys are awesome, thank you so much!” George yells, after every song. The band are keen to let you know they’re having fun, and even keener to make sure everyone else is too. Though they nod to various styles – acoustic folk on These People, soul on Shine My Way, even a hint of calypso in Smile‘s bass line – everything is filtered through a sing-along pop prism, with nearly every chorus littered with easy-chant “woah-ohs” and “nanananaaas”. Constantly jumping, dancing, thanking individual fans, any hint of rock ‘n’ roll wildness implied by the beefed-up live sound is breezed away by their rosy-cheeked wholesomeness. This is a band you could take home to your mum – indeed, half the band’s own mum, Linda, is briefly in the spotlight when George persuades the crowd to sing her happy birthday. She blushes, then glows with pride.

At times, it seems like their boundless energy may be the only thing going for them. No amount of earnest grins and hand-claps can hide the fact some of the lyrics are overly simple and occasionally verge on the cheesy, and with most of the songs following the same bouncy-paced/big chorus/thunderous ending formula, they start to feel a little samey.

But the hard core of their flock didn’t seem to mind, with the chorus of Geronimo, the band’s best known song, turning the Borderline into a sea of raised hands. If you’re after enthusiastically cheery, relentlessly fizzy pop, and aren’t bothered about lyrical depth or credibility, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better band. “That’s passion!” beams George, indicating a small stream of sweat as he wrings it out of his t-shirt, “that’s what we do!” And he’s right.


A love letter to lurex



My newest addition to my collection of vintage lurex: a 70s ankle-length frock in raspberry pink sparkles. Yum.

My newest addition to my collection of vintage lurex: a 70s ankle-length frock in raspberry pink sparkles. Yum.

In the grand spectrum of fabrics, people tend to forget about lurex. Cotton is practical, silk is luxurious, leather manages the impressive hat trick of being very tough, very cool, and very, very gay –  but lurex is, well, overlooked.

This, my friends, is a crying shame. Because lurex, with its blend of normal threads and spangly metallic ones, is nothing short of fabulous. And here is why:

It can be vampish as a 60s Catwoman outfit.

It basically propped up the entire glam rock movement.

If Poison Ivy wears it, it’s automatically cool.


You hard working little soldier, lurex. You’re bright, shiny, fun, warm, and the fact that you’re essentially lots of strips of very thin metal makes you a bit like some sort of ultra-glam chain mail (which is clearly a good thing). Lurex, I salute you.


Dress – vintage
Necklace – borrowed
Ring – Tatty Divine


My very first piece of “professional” writing…


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…was a blog post to promote Rokit Vintage’s Aloha Friday event last August. I say “professional” as I didn’t receive any money for it (I was merely an unpaid marketing intern at the time), and (bar some Facebook event page spiel/press release stuff for my club night) it was the first bit of proper writing I had done since I handed in my final English literature A-level piece. As such, it’s a little less polished than the stuff I produce these days (I hope), but I don’t think it’s at all bad for a first attempt, and my boss clearly thought it was good enough to publish. My brief was simple: write a basic guide to tropical(-ish) music, make it SEO friendly, include lots of mentions of vintage clothing that could be linked back to Rokit’s online store, and keep the tone light –  the blog has a predominantly teen girl demographic. This is what I came up with…


“So you’ve got the Hawaiian shirt? Check. The tropical print dress? Check. The vintage sunglasses? Check. Now all you need is the right tunes to soundtrack your Aloha Friday experience!

Traditional Hawaiian music is characterised by lots of steel guitars and chanted vocals, and had its own distinctive dance: the hip-shaking Hula. In the 1950s, composers such as Martin Denny and singers like Yma Sumac started to mix Hawaiian and Eastern elements (including bird calls and big cat purrs!) with Hollywood soundtrack influences to create Exotica music, described by Denny as “a combination of South Pacific and the Orient… what a lot of people imagine these islands to be like”. A few years later, performers like Elvis Presley bought lyrics about “Blue Hawaii” and exotic rhythms to rock ‘n’ roll, proving the islands’ influence was still popular.

Rokit’s top Aloha Friday tunes!
 Dorothy Lamour- Moon of Manakoora
Hollywood siren Dorothy Lamour crooned this love-lorn paean to the fictional Hawaiian island of Manakoora on the soundtrack to the film The Hurricane. We love its dreamy vibe and traditional steel guitars! Listen to it whilst wearing a floral hibiscus-print shirthigh-waisted shorts and some chunky bangles for maximum tropical effect.
Yma Sumac- Taki Rari

Fond of elaborate hatshair flowers,  gold jewellery and cocktail dresses, super-glam Sumac was an genuine Incan princess who possessed an impressive 5 octave vocal range. Despite being followed by rumours and conspiracies throughout her career (including one saying that she was actually a failed opera singer from New York named Amy Camus- Yma Sumac spelt backwards), she was one of most popular stars of the exotica genre, often incorporating Tiki influences both in to her music and stage outfits. This tune is perfect for dancing the night away after some cocktails.

Elvis Presley- Blue Hawaii

Who can resist a bit of Elvis? We certainly can’t, and this sultry tune is perfect for watching the sun set whilst drinking a cocktail out of a coconut shell, lounging by the sea on a sandy beach (or by the paddling pool in your mate’s back garden!) It’s taken from the film of the same name, which stars the king as a young man torn between fulfilling his parents’ plans for him, and having fun with his girlfriend and surfing with his buddies. Definitely worth a watch for all the amazing Hawaiian shirts, colourful sun dresses and flower garlands.”


Well, hello there…

Well, hello there...

This is me. Sophia Wyeth, esteemed writer of glittering words, wearer of shiny outfits, spinner of records at countless clubs, parties, and other decadent soirees across the length and breadth of ol’ London town (and, indeed, beyond). So fabulous and famous am I, that I am already getting my portrait painted by the finest emerging artists (this particular one above is by Sam Dashiell Jackson). Why, I’m like the new Marchesa Luisa Casati.

Or maybe not.

Actually, I am not an early 20th century eccentric heiress/the third most artistically depicted woman in history (or even the three hundredth), but a 20-something living in a little room in South London, surrounded by ridiculous vintage clothes and dusty glam rock LPs. By day I work as a copy writer for Rokit, by night I spin tunes as a DJ-for-hire (see, not all of that opening paragraph was hyperbolic nonsense!) This blog will showcase my writing chops (and maybe some of my wardrobe too).

Anyway, it is truly wonderful to have you here, and please feel free to help yourself to the sandwiches.