Press & Reviews
The Drum Media - 7th Sept 2010
Time Out Sydney - Issue 26: May 7 - 13, 2008
Interview with Graham Coupland - Guitarist & Band Manager
your glad rags on, kids, because The Velvet Set are hosting another
sassy, swingin' night at 34B - and Graham Coupland, the man behind the
night and in front of the band, was happy to answer the probings of
Andrew P Street
How did the last event go? The last show was practically sold out and went off! There was a great
turnout and a really good mix of music lovers and dancers alike.
Thankfully there was just enough dancefloor space for the lindy
hoppers, although 34B isn't the world's largest dance hall.
Does a swing/rockabilly community exist in Sydney, or do people only come out when there's a night like this to celebrate? There's quite a large rockabilly community in Sydney with bands such as
the Casino Rumblers and Zombie Ghost Train at the fore. Swing, to a
large extent, is where rockabilly began so a lot of that crowd will
happily crossover and come to a Velvet Set show even though the
majority of our repertoire is traditional 1930s, 40s and 50s - Frank
Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, etc. A lot of the girls in the
burlesque scene also come to our shows and from time to time we have
them perform with us too, which really spices things up.
The Sydney swing dancing community is also growing exponentially
after migrating from Melbourne three or four years ago. These days both
Swing Patrol and Swing Time run dance classes every night of the week
all over Sydney and shows like ours give their dancers the opportunity
to come and practice their moves. Swing dancers also seem to be a damn
sociable bunch; there's definitely a strong community vibe amongst them
There's also quite a large community who not only love the look but
live it. For them it's an opportunity to have a night out in the scene
they cherish. The fashions from the 1940s and 50s were also amazing and
so stylish so our audiences always look incredible. For others it's
just a great opportunity to dress to the nines - and we know how much
Sydneysiders love to dress up.
What sort of people come along? We get everyone from
professional swing dancers to first timers and old timers in their 70s
who've been swing dancing for 50 years! There are a lot of regulars at
our shows and it's great that they keep coming back and supporting the
band so strongly. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to have a dance, a
drink and a great time.
Can anyone just wander in and have a good night, or is it best
directed at people who are already familiar with all things swingin'? Absolutely anyone can come! As much as the night is for swing dancing,
it's first and foremost a gig so anyone who loves live music should
come and enjoy the show.
I don't actually dance myself but love swing music immensely. The
roots of rock'n'roll can be traced back to swing and its influences can
still be heard across so many genres
What happens during these shows? Generally our shows are
just a great fun night out with plenty of amazing dancing and
tomfoolery but every now and then things go a bit crazy - screaming,
guitarist-obsessed female fans, dancers slipping through holes in the
floor, power failures and collapsing stages. The Velvet Set has ten
members so it's always a squeeze on stage, especially at 34B!
How important is the live band element to the night? It's
everything! There are plenty of swing dancing nights around Sydney but
few have a dynamic live band. The energy and performance of the band
brings something special to the night and it's quite a theatrical show
rather than just four hours of a DJ spinning tunes on a laptop PC.
The Velvet Set bring the swing to 34B on Sat 10 May. Interested in learning to swing dance? Check out www.swingtimeaustralia.com and syd.swingpatrol.com.au to find classes near you...
Inventory: big red dress with swing skirt, basic poker skills, knowledge of swing classics and jazz standards, basic swing lessons, bottle of red wine (in stomach), cute girl in matching red dress accessory, willingness to dance (be thrown around and twirled in circles) with strange men, matching shoes. Event: The Velvet Set Swing the Gaelic. Swing, burlesque, poker and a significant amount of red wine.
The Velvet Set are a ten piece swing band with a male and female singer, and they are pretty much the most fun you can have in or around a giant red dress. You might not realise it but the swing dancing scene is actually fairly big in Sydney; Swing Patrol is a noteworthy offering of regular dance classes in different locations. And if taking swing classes sounds like something where you go, “oh hey we should do swing classes some time look how fun it looks!” and then they go, “yeah yeah! Lets do that!” and then you both end up at the same pub again instead, well that’s because it is. But it really shouldn’t be.
The event also tapped into another revival that’s been happening lately all over our strange little island; that of the Burlesque scene (read: ladies in spangles dancing to show tunes and taking their clothes off, but classier.) If your interest is piqued by the notion of ladies in spangles dancing to show tunes and taking their clothes off (but classier), see The Ruby Revue, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art Class and I’m sure a bunch more…
So yes, the Velvet Set gets full marks from me. Men in hats spun me in circles. Girls in big dresses did amazing twirls. I lost really badly at poker but I felt like a tiny gangster. If you’re looking for more of this, The Gangster’s Ball is coming up. Go to it, dress up, forget about the other things for a while.
by Amelia Schmidt – www.throwshapes.com.au 20/7/09
Excerpt below from a review by Diana Faith in the Jazz Action Society Newsletter, July 2007
Don’t ever worry about Jazz dying. Everything old is indeed new again and the Velvet Set Swing Band is going to keep us all swinging. I have seen the band twice and each time they improve and amaze.
These musicians all trained at the Con. This is music with production. The musicians assemble on stage in suits that resemble the Blues Brothers and straight away the vigour of their playing sets the mood. There is nothing “straighty one eighty” about this band. But wait, there is more to come…
Heading the frontline are the two singers. They are fabulous. Sarah O’Connor complete with forties dress and with the hair waves created by butterfly clips and hairnet forming the ‘snood’ look (remember?). She assumes the character of the great gals of swing – a sort of Veronica Lake look – shoulder to the mic and that “lets party” look to the audience. This girl can sing (lets not forget that she is a graduate of the Freddie and Bev Wilson home of Jazz). Her rendition of Orange Coloured Sky really appealed.
Evan McInnes was the male singer – just wonderful – a sort of swinging Mario Lanza. His rendition of My Way buckled my knees (quick Jeeves pass the smelling salts). My friend (who loves My Way) had to be physically supported on my second band visit and we were compelled to do the best of ‘smaltzy’ – rush up to the stage and hold Evan’s hands at the end of his song. It’s good to be embarrassing!
The swing dancers (a zoot suit) of all ages were there and the best light show keeping the atmosphere pumping. In all 24 of the favourite songs from Frank Sinatra to Minnie the Moocher were presented with gusto. Let’s support this young band – their influence is social as witnessed by the packed venues (The Hopetoun Hotel and Bar Broadway).
The dancing was remarkable and the event left me with the happiest of feelings.