Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Oh No Not Stereo and Joel Pack and the Pops at The Bell in Ticehurst

I’m not one for sharing the ins and outs of my personal life with the entire world wide web (hence my avoidance of that proliferation of bullshit known as facebook), but I feel a little sharing is needed to justify my blogging absence of late, and to explain exactly how Oh No Not Stereo and Joel Pack and the Pops came to be playing at a quaint pub in Ticehurst called The Bell…

On 8th December, the boy and I finally took the plunge and got married. If I’m totally honest I don’t like weddings much, they tend to make me a bit nauseous (to say I have a low cringe threshold is an understatement, and all that hearts and flowers stuff?! Hell no), so it took us a long time to decide how to tie the knot in a non-vomit inducing way. We considered eloping, but eventually decided we wanted something small and un-pretentious, with no formalities – any notions of speeches, head tables and first dances were culled immediately. All we needed were good friends, good food, and most importantly good music. We needed some damn good music.

So with one little (somewhat ambitious!) email back in October, the wheels were set in motion for one of our favourite bands, Oh No Not Stereo, to travel from America to play at our party. What we ended up with wasn’t ONNS exactly, but four very talented musicians, Skyler, Joel, Ryan and Rob. Which loosely translated meant a large dose of ONNS and a generous side helping of Joel Pack and the Pops.

We first discovered ONNS on tour with one of my all-time favourite bands, Bayside, in 2008, and we were overwhelmed by their talent, enthusiasm and the fact that they were genuinely nice guys. Their 003 album is still one of the most played on my iPod and is a fine example of their blend of rock and pop and their knack for writing some incredibly memorable lyrics and melodies. (They scored bonus points for the awesome T-shirts too – a rare band that don’t seem to think that all women are strangely square-shaped!)

Joel Pack and the Pops were new to us, but on Skyler’s recommendation we listened to one song and were instantly smitten. So before we knew it these four musicians had hopped on a plane and were assembled in the upstairs room of The Bell. They managed to take the equipment that we had hurriedly cobbled together (a mishmash of amps, generously donated drum kit and a hilariously retro Casio keyboard), and sound nothing short of amazing. (Lesson to all other bands who have managed to sound average in venues like Brixton Academy; you really have no excuse…)

The guys tore through a ONNS setlist that included Hurricanes and All You before returning after a short cake break (even I believe in cake at weddings!) for Joel Pack and the Pops, of which my personal highlight had to be New York City. It was a truly unforgettable night.

I’m not going to say any more as I think that’s quite enough sharing for one day, so I’ll skip the music descriptions and comparisons and leave you with two videos. That way you can find out for yourself exactly why this night was so special. If you like what you see then there are more videos to be found on YouTube and albums that are well worth digging out.

But for now all I can say is a heartfelt thank you to Skyler, Joel, Ryan and Rob, for taking a chance on two total strangers, travelling 3,000 miles to the middle of nowhere, and totally rocking the tits off Ticehurst. It won’t be forgotten.

Ps. No more personal stuff next week I promise… and belated reviews to come from Rob Zombie/Marilyn Manson, and Ben Folds Five

Friday, 30 November 2012

Two nights with the fabulous Royal Republic

Last weekend I experienced a double whammy of Royal Republic, when a slight scheduling mishap meant that I had tickets to see them at The Garage in Islington on Friday and then The Haunt in Brighton on Saturday. And how could I say no to that?!

I stumbled across Royal Republic a few years ago whilst consuming pizza, beer and copious amounts of music television with a very good friend. The video for Tommy Gun came on and when it had finished we immediately shot each other a look that said ‘well that was fucking awesome!’. Within a few weeks we were at The Barfly seeing them live for the first time.

We have seen them on several occasions since then and I will always go back for more, because as live bands go they are pretty hard to beat. So how to describe them? Formed in Malmo, Sweden in 2007, they combine rock and roll, awesome riffs and a great/slightly ridiculous sense of humour (see Everyone Wants To Be An Astronaut and Underwear).

Lead singer Adam Grahn was born to be on stage. You’re hard pushed to find a front man with more charisma and let’s face it, he’s not too bad to look at either! Oh and he knows it too. At a smaller show of theirs a somewhat inebriated Jen was stupid enough to shout out ‘I love you!’ during a quiet moment between songs, to which Adam immediately responded ‘Thanks, I love me too!” We actually met him later that night and quite frankly I’m surprised he hasn’t slapped a restraining order on me...

Their first album We Are The Royal was released in 2009, it was received well by critics and Tommy Gun reached number one on the MTV Rockchart. They’ve toured the album extensively since then so it must be nice for them (and us!) to finally have some new material to promote. Save The Nation is shaping up to be every bit as good as their debut album, and the setlist both nights was a mixture of both. Standout moments included Everyone Wants To Be An Astronaut, Full Steam Spacemachine, I Must Be Out of My Mind and a spectacular a capella version of Addictive.

Friday night at The Garage was probably my favourite, mostly just because I prefer the venue, but they put on a first class show both nights as expected. Yes, they are fantastic live musicians, but more than that they are really good fun. Go and see them live and I promise you a great night – you’ll be singing, dancing, laughing, and man or woman, I guarantee you will go home with a bit of a crush.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Billy Talent at The Roundhouse, Camden

Straight up I’m going to admit that this won’t be the most insightful review in the world. (Are they ever?!) The combination of a monster hangover and a rather nasty cold that emerged out of nowhere last weekend, meant that for the first time in my life I really wasn’t in the mood for a gig. I honestly felt that level of utter shite where you are almost willing a car to run you over and put you out of your misery. It was all I could do to haul myself onto the tube and crawl to the venue. Even the power nap I’d just had in a cosy pub hadn’t helped!

Upon arrival at The Roundhouse it struck me how pointless security checks are in some venues. A stern looking bouncer took one look at my overflowing handbag and clearly couldn’t be arsed to take a proper look through. “Is that your makeup bag?” he asked, gesturing to a partially visible Cath Kidston number. “Yes,” I replied. Satisfied with my response, he ushered me straight in. Ok, so it was indeed my makeup bag, but I’m hardly going to say “Actually it’s mostly filled with knives and smack!” Bizarre.

Once inside, my equally hungover companions and I sat on the floor feeling sorry for ourselves until Billy Talent came on stage, at which point we snuck in at the back and stood motionless for the whole show, barely capable of mumbling the odd lyric.

Luckily I’ve seen Billy Talent several times before and will no doubt see them again, because quite frankly they killed it, and it was incredibly frustrating not to be able to enjoy the night properly. Opening with Lonely Road to Absolution, Viking Death March and Devil in a Midnight Mass, the setlist was a strong mix of all three albums and their latest offering, Dead Silence. This is a band that know how to write lyrics as well as riffs, and that has an aggressive quality (in the best possible way!) that aways gets the crowd on side.

Formed as Pezz in 1993, Billy Talent didn’t achieve mainstream success for almost a decade – coinciding with a necessary name change thanks to an American punk band of the same name who it transpired had been using it since 1989. Re-emerging as Billy Talent (a reference to the guitarist in the novel Hard Core Logo), their self-titled 2003 album produced four singles and eventually went three times platinum in Canada. Thank goodness they did break through, because what a wasted talent that would have been! I can distinctly recall the summer of 2007 when I survived on a diet almost entirely consisting of Billy Talent I & II until even my car stereo became sick of them.

To sum this band up in a word, they are consistent. In my experience, they always put together a strong setlist, sound every bit as good (if not better) live and they always give one hundred per cent. They also like to remind you constantly that they have been playing together for nearly 20 years! Although this is probably because they are rightly proud of the tenacity that has put them where they are today.

In conclusion, Billy Talent were awesome at The Roundhouse. I, however, was not. Note to self: no more gigs on Sundays.

Yep, far too hungover to operate a camera... so here are Billy Talent at Download 2012

Friday, 16 November 2012

Twin Atlantic at Shepherds Bush Empire

What a difference a year makes! I last saw Twin Atlantic in Brighton at a smallish venue called The Haunt. It was pretty busy and the band clearly had plenty of fans, but they weren’t yet of the die-hard variety. I think many, like me, were new to the game, having stumbled across a little song called Make a Beast of Myself – a real treat in that the video is every bit as good as the song.

© Twin Atlantic
I’ll admit I was a little late to catch on – Make a Beast of Myself was in fact the fourth single off their 2011 album Free. Twin Atlantic formed back in 2007 and they have already toured with the likes of Biffy Clyro, Smashing Pumpkins and Taking Back Sunday (a gentle reminder that once in a while I should really go and check out the support at gigs instead of filling my face with Nando’s). They have also played a handful of big festivals, but somehow they hadn’t quite hit the big time.

Fast forward to last Thursday and Twin Atlantic were performing to a sold out Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and wow there is a lot of love now for the boys from Glasgow. Even the people seated on the balconies spent most of the night on their feet!

I have a sneaking suspicion that this display of enthusiasm was partly due to the fact the audience had youth on their side. They were young, and I mean very young. I can safely say I haven’t felt so old since my assistant told me that she had never heard of Ally McBeal. I should have sussed that something was up when we arrived and that kid from Busted was on stage. I know, I know, I should probably be a little more open minded. But it is kind of hard to forget the fact that he was… well, in Busted.

Anyway, age aside, it would be unfair to take anything away from Twin Atlantic, the enthusiasm was mostly because they were great – an incredibly strong performance and a positive attitude that makes you like them all the more. The tour was a successful promotion of Free, and it really is an album full of the kind of songs you can’t help but sing along to – in your very best Scottish accent of course (seriously, listen to Crash Land and tell me I’m wrong!).

Make a Beast of Myself was the final song of the night, and subsequently the tour, and was accompanied by some pretty special giant Twin Atlantic balloons and a huge amount of thanks from a very appreciative Sam McTrusty, who I think is as impressed by their recent skywards trajectory as I am. It felt like a celebration of all the hard graft they have put in which is certainly paying off.

I hope the incredibly young audience isn’t a completely accurate representation of their fan base these days, I’d hate it to make them any less credible when they clearly have a lot more to offer. I can't really pin down their sound with an obvious comparison, and I think that is always a compliment. I’ll leave you with the song that first made me sit up and pay attention, because quite honestly, it speaks for itself.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Fighting With Wire: Colonel Blood

You might recall my little rant back in June about the lack of love being shown for a band called Fighting With Wire, and the painfully long wait that we (and they!) have endured for the release of their second album, Colonel Blood. Well good news people, it’s finally here.

I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect having heard a few songs at live shows and online, but to finally have the album in its entirety in my mitts is a treat. Cahir and the boys have done good. Great in fact.

The opening song and first single, Waiting On A Way To Believe, sets the tone for the rest of the record – memorable riffs and energy-fuelled choruses. They’ve drawn comparisons to grunge legends like Nirvana in the past, and although there are definite shades of some seminal nineties bands, FWW have their own unique sound that is laced with their Irish blood – listen and you’ll see what I mean.

I won’t say anymore, but I thoroughly recommend you get your hands on a copy and give your ears a treat. They are currently supporting Coheed and Cambria, so if you can catch them live then even better!

FWW are now signed with Xtra Mile Recordings and the tour means that they are finally playing some venues that reflect their sound and talent. This is a well-deserved new start for the boys from Derry and the only way is up.



Monday, 5 November 2012

A cup of tea and a good book..

So things have been a little quiet on the blog front for the last week, mostly because I have been plagued by a never ending ‘to do’ list but partly because I seem to spend half my life on the train at the moment. You know those bastards that shove you in the back to get onto a tube that is clearly at capacity? Yep, I hate them too. And now I’ve become one.

When I do manage to spend some time at my desk however, I’ve been working my way through a stack of very good reading material to review for My Creative Diva magazine, and frankly you can’t beat a good book and a cup of tea on a cold, rainy afternoon. So I thought I’d share three of my fashion favourites from the first three issues – all well worth a read.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can find more of my reviews plus loads of features and interviews over at www.mycreativediva.co.uk.

Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation by Kristin Knox
Published by A&C Black, £19.99

The late Alexander McQueen has long been one of my favourite fashion designers and consequently this was one book that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I remember attending London Fashion Week shortly after his sad death in 2010, and being moved by a wall of tributes covered in messages and memories. McQueen was a designer whose genius truly touched the lives of many.

Kristin Knox is a journalist and fashion blogger at theclotheswhisperer.co.uk. Through Alexander McQueen: A Genius of a Generation, she has successfully created a beautiful keepsake filled with images of McQueen’s most memorable designs and show stopping catwalk shows.

The comprehensive introduction charts the designer’s rise to fame, from his humble beginnings as the youngest of six siblings in Stepney East London, through his early career as a tailor at Anderson & Sheppard and later discovery by Isabella Blow, to the many (often controversial) collections that made him one of fashions brightest stars.

McQueen was appointed CBE, named International Fashion Designer of the Year at the Council of Fashion Designers Awards and named British Designer of the year four times. His name brings to mind, for many, images of his iconic skull print scarves and knuckle-duster clutches but there was so much more to this multifaceted talent. This book will serve as a lasting reminder of the fabulous couture that captured the minds and hearts of women the world over.

The Fashion Design Directory by Marnie Fogg
Published by Thames & Hudson, £18.95

For anybody with an interest in fashion, this little guide is nothing short of essential, featuring 125 internationally known designers. It begins with a brief history of fashion throughout the ages, which charts the history of couture from its beginnings in Paris through each decade and highlights the designers and models that have defined each era.

The main body of the book is devoted to profiling the 125 featured designers; including information about their individual styles and beautiful photographs that capture their seminal looks. Browse through this sartorial A to Z, from Acne to Yves Saint Laurent, and you will be inspired by the proliferation of talent on display and the iconic looks that have punctuated modern day fashion’s colourful history.

Standout moments for me include Vivienne Westwood’s 1981 ‘Pirate’ collection, Christian Dior’s ubiquitous New Look collection in 1947 and the late, great Alexander McQueen’s futuristic 2010 collection, with those shoes that will never be forgotten! There is even a swatch directory at the back of the book, which showcases the memorable patterns and textures of fashion designers such as Basso And Brooke and Diane Von Furstenburg. This is a fabulous reference.

Isabella Blow by Martina Rink
Published by Thames & Hudson, £29.95

This month’s inspirational diva comes in the shape of the late Isabella Blow. She is a character that has fascinated me for a long time; a true fashion icon, instantly recognisable with her bold Philip Treacy headwear and trademark red lips.

Blow is widely recognised for discovering and nurturing up and coming talents such as Treacy, Alexander McQueen and models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant. But this 192-page book reveals so much more, in a selection of touching letters from friends, colleagues and former acquaintances. Contributions come from Mario Testino, Manolo Blahnik, Victoria Beckham and Boy George to name but a few.

Isabella lived her life in her own uniquely glamourous way. My favourite recollection in the book is probably that of US Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour, who revealed that Blow cleaned her desk each night with a bottle of Perrier water and Chanel No. 5.

This is a fantastic insight into a much loved and talented women with a mischievous sense of humour, whose achievements were not always recognised when she was alive. I can safely say that once I picked the book up I barely put it down until I had finished!


Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday Fashion Fix: Sophia Webster

Today's Friday Fashion Fix is dedicated to the rather fabulous Sophia Webster, whose shoes I had the privilege of drooling over at London Fashion Week. Her designs are stylish yet fun, and she is not afraid to work bold colours and patterns. So far, so good!

Sophia studied at the Royal College of Art and Cordwainers before moving on to work for Nicholas Kirkwood as a design assistant. Kirkwood also acted as a mentor, and after two years he helped her to launch her own collection, which has already been picked up by the likes of Harvey Nichols, Saks and Net-a-Porter.

Describing her current collection, Sophia says, "Spring/Summer 2013 is inspired by the traditional dress of the Hmong people, Yayoi Kusama and deconstructed Aztec prints, all with a tropical West Palm Beach feel."

My favourites are probably the Aztec open-toe boots above – the pastels are perfect for spring, but the strong lines and use of black prevent them from being too cute.

In light of the uncertain economic climate of recent years, accessories have become increasingly important to consumers who are a little more cautious with their spending. The budget might not stretch to head-to-toe couture, but would anyone even notice the rest of your outfit in a a pair of heels as fabulous as these?! Probably not.

Expect to see a lot more of Sophia Webster, this lady has a bright future ahead.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Gaslight Anthem at Brixton Academy

My story from Monday night begins in the same way that so many of my stories seem to – I’m in a packed out Brixton Academy, beer in hand, waiting with anticipation for a band to come on stage. This time it’s The Gaslight Anthem, a band who has graced my iPod for a few years now and who I’ve been lucky enough to see on two previous occasions. (The most recent of which was at a rainy Download in 2011, and put it this way, if a band can make you forget that you’re knee-deep in mud you know you’re onto a winner.)

Hailing from New Jersey, and headed by frontman Brian Fallon, The Gaslight Anthem released their debut album Sink or Swim in 2007. They followed it up in 2008 with The 59 Sound, and the same year made British music history as the first band ever to appear on cover of Kerrang without the magazine having previously written about them. American Slang, released in 2010, took a different approach to song writing according to Fallon, who citied influences such as Rolling Stones and Derek and the Dominoes. (This man has taste.)

The thing that made Monday night so exciting for me was the extent to which I’ve been enjoying their latest album, Handwritten, which was released in July. When a band have four or more records under their belt, you tend to be crossing your fingers and hoping for the old stuff – the songs that made you fall in love with them in the first place. The Gaslight Anthem however, consistently impress me with every new album, and there are songs from each one that I love in equal measures. So although I was hoping to hear earlier songs like 1930 and The Backseat (in fact pretty much anything off The 59 Sound!), I’ve fallen hard for some of the songs on Handwritten and was eager to hear something new.

I got my wish and highlights from the new record included Mulholland Drive, Too Much Blood and Keepsake. Their performance was flawless as ever. There’s no messing around with these guys, they keep the chat to a minimum and just play a damn good set. Their laid-back attitudes and the pure enjoyment of what they do always seems to bring out the best in a crowd, it’s infectious and Brixton was literally a sea of smiles.

I think that what I, and so many others, love most about The Gaslight Anthem is their ability to tell a story. They really paint a picture with their songs and have a beautiful nostalgic quality, and that is what sets them apart from the teenage angst favoured by so many bands. (Although don’t get me wrong, I can still handle a bit of teenage angst too!)

They seamlessly blend folk style and storytelling with a New Jersey punk attitude. Even when they first emerged on the scene, you had a strange feeling that you had been listening to them your whole life. Not because they are in any way boring or predictable, but because they are genuine and exude a certain confidence in what they do that just feels right.

If you have seen them before you will understand why I was so happy on Monday, and how even the nightmare journey home that didn’t see me stumble into my bed until 3am couldn’t ruin my night. I have been told they have been getting some Radio 1 airplay lately, and quite honestly they deserve every bit of success they get (although please god, spare them from the ridiculous Kings of Leon style saturation of the airwaves...).

But if The Gaslight Anthem have managed to escape your radar up until this point, my advice is very simple: go and find Great Expectations and turn it up. Loud. You won’t regret it.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Top 5 sartorial reasons to appreciate Autumn/Winter

Well my holiday is officially over and I must admit I have a touch of the post-holiday blues. It's never much fun coming back to reality, but for a sun-worshipper like myself, it's even harder to make the Florida to England transition at this time of year. I swear I left England at the end of summer and returned two weeks later in the depths of winter! Returning to this country's heavy rain and arctic temperatures (ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little) has been pretty painful, so in an attempt to cheer myself up, I’ve come up with a list of my top 5 sartorial reasons to appreciate Autumn/Winter.


From left to right: Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Biba at House of Fraser

Particularly fur coats, or should I say faux fur coats (the real deal is neither financially or morally appropriate for me). These take up a large portion of my wardrobe space and I’m always happy when I can start wearing them again. Admittedly I’ve been called Bette Lynch for wearing my leopard print coat and asked whether I skinned the polar bear myself for wearing my white one, but I couldn’t care less! Fashion will continue to fall in and out of love with them but I remain faithful – fur coats rule. And Alabama would agree. Alternatively for the best military coats this season look to Burberry and for a classic style with a splash of colour try Alexander McQueen or Zara.


From left to right: Zara, Alexander McQueen, Dr Martens
Oh how I’ve missed my Dr Marten's over the summer, and that fabulous smug feeling I get when it rains or snows and my feet are warm and dry. I’ve been that girl wearing ballet pumps in a torrential downpour many times before, so you’ll have to allow me a little smugness. Also on the wish list this season are a pair of biker boots and some new shoe boots, of which a girl can never have too many pairs!


From left to right: Chanel Extreme Shine Nail Laquer, Dior Vernis in Purple Revolution,
Yves Saint Laurent in Rough Pop Art, Nails Inc. London in Mount Street
After a happy summer of corals, pinks and oranges it’s time to return to my winter wardrobe of black, plum and classic red. There’s a bit of a goth revival going on at the moment which suits my addiction to black nail varnish perfectly. My one rule is to reapply regularly – chipped black nails just aren't appropriate once you've left school! Chanel, Dior and YSL are always good quality and up to date with the new season's most desirable colours. But I'm actually a big fan of cheaper brands such as Revlon, which always has a nice range of colours that generally only require one coat to stay chip-proof for days.


Left to right: lordandtaylor.com, boohoo.com, Jonathan Aston, modcloth.com
The unpredictable English weather and a refusal to spend every day in jeans means that good hosiery is often a girl’s best friend, and it is something that the great British high street is actually very good at – I’m thinking Pretty Polly, Jonathan Aston and good old Topshop. If you can brave the Oxford Street store madness then the selection available is well worth the effort. Topshop are a real favourite of mine as they actually make tights in a small, medium and large rather than limiting you to just a small/medium and medium/large option like most brands. And don’t even get me started on ‘one size fits all'! It just doesn’t.


From left to right: Coral cut-off gloves and teal snood from Accessorize, grey beanie from oliverbonas.com
It’s quite possible that my obsession with scarves, gloves and hats stems from a job I had in Accessorize ten years ago – a discount of up to 75% meant that my wardrobe has never been filled with so many accessories as that era. Accessorize are still great for winter woolies and this season my favourites from their Winter Shop include the very cute coral bow cut off gloves pictured above and their chunky snoods.

Finally as a bonus I’m going to add sunglasses to the list. There are still opportunities to wear them in winter, even in England, and they are a nice reminder that summer will eventually roll around again. Plus I broke my own cheap sunglasses rule on holiday and brought a beautiful pair of Ray-Bans, which if I can avoid breaking or losing, will be in my wardrobe for many years to come.

So there you have it! Five very good reasons to appreciate the changing of the seasons. I may be happiest in hot climates, but having spoken to a girl in Orlando about how she never gets to buy nice coats, I must admit I would be a little sad not to have the chance to adopt autumn/winter’s finest. And anyway, there's nothing quite like a good old British winter to make you truly appreciate the sun.

Friday, 21 September 2012

London Fashion Week: Inspired by Minnie Mouse

Today’s Friday fashion fix is devoted to a little something that I found at London Fashion Week – the Inspired by Minnie Mouse Exhibition, where several prominent designers have celebrated Disney with a one-off creation.

Shoes by Terry De Havilland
From Giles Deacon to Katie Hillier, these are some seriously stylish pieces, all incorporating that infamous mouse. I’m not sure I can actually pick a favourite design, but I will say that when I saw these Terry De Havilland peep toes, I wanted to smash the Perspex display case they were contained in, stuff them into my handbag and run like hell! (Take from that what you will.)

Dress by Giles Deacon

Necklace by Katie Hillier

Necklace by Tatty Divine
 This is also a very appropriate post as I am saying goodbye and heading to Orlando for two weeks of fun in the sun. My holiday is perfectly timed, because frankly I don’t deal with cold weather all too well and the last few days the temperature has really dropped. Has anyone else caved and put the heating on or is that just me?!

I was hoping to line up a guest blogger for while I am gone so that my little blog doesn’t stay too quiet, but unfortunately I haven’t had the time and as usual I seem to be working up to the eleventh hour! So I’m afraid you’ll have to sit tight and check back on my return.

In other news, for those of you who haven’t seen it, I thoroughly recommend heading over to My Creative Diva, a new online lifestyle magazine aimed at creative women. Edited by the lovely Joan Gordon, it is full of food, fashion and all the things ladies loves, plus interviews with lots of creative women. Check out p24-25 for my book reviews – some seriously good reading material has been landing on my desk lately including The Fashion Design Directory which I have reviewed in issue 1.

Have a wonderful few weeks and a big thank you again for regularly reading my ramblings. I would happily write with no audience at all because it’s a pretty cathartic process, but having such a lovely audience makes the whole thing so much more satisfying. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive my posts via email – it requires no effort and who doesn’t love that?!

So long and see you on the other side! Probably a tad exhausted but hopefully with a tan and a big smile on my face.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

London Fashion Week – a mad dash in a day...

Last Friday I went to the first day of London Fashion Week. I didn't have as much time as usual and it was the only day I could go, but I still managed to squeeze in three shows and a mad dash around the exhibition. Over 100 designers are exhibiting this season and I'll introduce a few of my favourites soon, including some amazing up and coming shoe designers and a fabulous Disney tribute!

This was my first fashion week as a freelancer and I must admit it's not quite the same by yourself. For starters, if you are waiting in line for a show to begin you haven't got much else to do but listen to other people's inane chatter! Speaking of which I learnt one very important lesson  – I might be a journalist with a blog but I am definitely not a 'blogger'.

I know it's like most things in life, (politics, religion..) where a small minority ruin a group's reputation for everyone else, but seriously, when did desperately seeking attention by dressing in the most unflattering clothes possible become a good thing? You might think your hair cut is 'edgy' but to most of us it is quite simply a bowl cut. And ugly shoes? Why oh why?! I am all for a bit of outlandish fashion, but it is possible to achieve it without completely losing sight of what is flattering. And the most amusing thing about these so called bloggers was watching them seek each other out to take photos for their blogs in the name of 'street style'! Hilarious.

Right, now that my little rant is over (apologies, I must be getting hungry), let's get back to the shows. Zoe Jordan was first on my list and it was held at Mercer Studios. Zoe studied architecture at Newcastle and is known for her androgynous designs that combine feminine swagger with a boyish insouciance.

Her Spring/Summer 2013 collection referenced Tina Chow, the African desert and a touch of eighties high school varsity. Loosely translated that meant a versatile collection in a colour pallette of muted greys and browns, livened up with with bright shades of fuchsia and orange. Favourite pieces included bright shorts that I wanted immediately for my imminent holiday, some very cute dresses and skirts, and fabulous slim fit blazers that prevented the more typically girly items from becoming too saccharine.

The photo below is a nice example of her very wearable separates – ideal summer shorts that would look great with a simple white vest and a jumper that you could just throw on with jeans.

Next up was Corrie Nielsen. I was a big fan of her show last season, mainly due to her incorporation of tartan which I just can't resist. This season had a very different feel to it, inspired quite aptly for spring, by the the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

It was very easy to see how some pieces will filter down into the high street, but other more abstract pieces were a little far-fetched. I can't say I was the biggest fan of the coat with the sleeves attached down to the wrists that made the model resemble a walking sleeping bag....

However some of the dresses had beautiful shapes and I particularly liked the tulip shaped cream dress (second picture below), but I'm afraid my dodgy photography hasn't really done it justice!

Last but not least was Bora Aksu's show. Bora Aksu has been based in London for 15 years and set up his label after graduating from an MA at Central Saint Martins. His signature style is a real contrast that he describes as "romantic with a darker twist."

His SS13 collection was inspired by Queen Victoria's grand-daughter who became the Queen of Romania in 1922, and the way that she embraced traditional Romanian culture without losing her Englishness. This inspiration led to some quite dramatic regal headwear which to be honest I found a bit distracting, but also some incredibly beautiful dresses – delicate floral prints and very feminine shapes that were often given a structured formal twist with the addition of neat collars and belts.

A standout accessory for me was the pair of printed tights in the last picture. Their semi-transparency and floral designs will make them ideal for that winter to spring transition.

That's all for now but I will post more about some of the talented designers I met at the exhibition very soon.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Betsey Johnson at New York fashion week

I've been keeping a watchful eye on New York fashion week, and although there have been some great collections, none this season have truly made me sit up and pay attention. Until yesterday.

Betsey Johnson, the 70 year old fashion legend, presented what is to be her final show – a total celebration of why she has been adored for more than four decades. The iconic fashion designer, who made a name for herself clothing rock & roll stars in the swinging sixties, filed for voluntary bankruptcy earlier this year, and although she will continue to design her lines for stores such as Macys, this show was a final hurrah of sorts.

It featured several of her iconic looks including the Cyndi Lauper style skirts from her 80s era and her classic cherry print. Betsey rounded off the show performing the splits on the runway instead of her signature cartwheel (seriously, this woman is 70?!), and Cyndi Lauper even performed Girls Just Want to have Fun. Of course.

New York is celebrated worldwide for its fashion; a style which is often sleek, chic and a little restrained. But restrained is definitely not a word to describe Betsey, which is what makes her designs so much fun. From rockabilly to playboy bunnies, her looks are brash, bold and not for the faint hearted. And in a sea of shows filled with clean tailoring and luxe fabrics, there is something quite appealing about that.

I'm off to London fashion week tomorrow to catch a few shows and hopefully discover some new names at the exhibition, so more on that very soon. In the meantime here are a few more treats from the fabulous mind of Betsey Johnson. Enjoy!

Images from Style.com


Monday, 10 September 2012

New Jack Daniel's Honey

I know I promised that I would keep my ongoing love affair with Mr Jack Daniel's well away from this blog but hell, news is news right?! And it's not every day you find a new kind of Jack on the supermarket shelf. Introducing Jack Daniel's Honey...

Yep, that's right! The lovely folk from Tennessee have come up with their first flavoured variety and it's a blend of Jack and honey liqueur, now available in the UK. As you can see, it looks beautiful, but the million dollar question is how does it taste?! Well put it this way, if a bottle of Jack Daniel's and a bottle of maple syrup had one very wild night of passion.... this would be the resultant love child.

It's like the dessert of the Jack world. I'm a savoury girl so it's too sweet for my tastes to replace the original, but after a starter of the classic and a main course of Single Barrel, this is the best way to round off your meal. In a word? Yum.

Seeing as I've broken my no Jack on the blog rule, I may as well go on and introduce two more products that every self respecting fan of Jack will enjoy.

Exhibit A (and this is a new one to me) – Jack Daniel's Hickory Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce. I'm not even a fan of barbecue sauce and I love this stuff. It's perfect for a BBQ of course but it will also liven up any culinary situation that ketchup can and possibly do it better!

Exhibit B is a classic and probably the best (only?) reason to visit TGI Fridays – Jack Daniel's Smokey Sweet Barbecue Glaze. A very good friend of mine has a similar obsession and we will happily order this on the side of absolutely anything that TGI's has to offer! Seriously, once you've tried this on Southern Fried chicken your life will never be the same again.

Ok, so that's my food and drink porn done for the week, normal music and fashion posts will resume shortly.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Meeting Brian May at The RPS awards

Last night at The Royal Photographic Society awards, I had a bit of a 'rock' and a 'runway' moment when I shared the room with two living legends; Queen guitarist Brian May and fashion photographer Tim Walker. Also present were Steven Sasson (inventor of the first digital camera), award-winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz, The Hurt Locker cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and many more inspiring characters from the world of photography.

Brian May was receiving the Saxby Award for achievement in the field of 3D imaging;  he is incredibly passionate about stereography and has one of the most extensive collections of stereoscopic images in the world. He also collaborated on A Village Lost and Found, a book about Thomas Richard Williams' stereoscopic cards, and gave new life to the London Stereoscopic Company. The event was sponsored by Macallan and it took a few glasses of their finest before my partner-in-crime Mel plucked up the courage to say hi for us!

Tim Walker, who received an Honorary Fellowship, was lucky enough to escape us however. This was very disappointing as he is one of my all time favourite fashion photographers and I had spent the best part of the day editing an article about him for an upcoming issue of the RPS Journal. Maybe next time...

I'll be posting more about Walker soon, and hopefully some of his stunning photos, as he has an exhibition and book coming out next month which will both be well worth checking out. But in the meantime happy Friday and have a wonderful (hopefully) sunny weekend!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Bush at Koko, Camden

Oh Gavin Rossdale, the only man in the world worthy of Gwen Stefani….

I saw 90s heroes Bush play at Scala at the end of last year and it was possibly the most excited I’d been about a gig in a while. After a seven year break, the new album Sea Of Memories was the proof I needed that they were back on form and finally they were touring – and oh what a night that was! I said at the time, that if they played Glycerine I‘d have got my money’s worth. Well they did, and I did.

So when the opportunity came up to see them again there was absolutely no hesitation at all, and last Thursday we found ourselves at Koko in Camden. I like Koko, it’s a nice sized venue and even when you are near the back you get a pretty good view – as an added bonus you are also near to the bar, not that I was drinking on this particular occasion. (Yep, even I have the odd night off!)

So the first question I got asked last year by a very good friend (with enough years on me to have seen them on the back of Sixteen Stone), was did they play the classic songs from their first few albums. Unsurprisingly this is exactly what I'm getting asked again. I’m not even going to try and pick out any highlights, because the setlist speaks for itself, so I have pinched it off the ever handy setlist.fm for you:

See what I mean?! One of those nights you just don’t want to end. From the opening chords of Machinehead to the epic conclusion of Comedown it was pure joy.

If I have one tiny little complaint about Bush, it’s their name. As you can probably tell I love these guys – they are one of those bands that make you want to wear their t-shirt and proudly proclaim your love to the whole world. And I get it, they named themselves after their former home, Shepherd’s Bush. But would you really want to walk around wearing a t-shirt with the word BUSH emblazoned across the front?! Me neither.

© Rock & Runway

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