Rival Son’s front man Jay Buchanan stalks around the stage, his right hand firmly gripping a microphone while the chord it’s attached to is expertly tamed by his left. He reminds me of a regal jungle creature, a leopard perhaps. Buchanan is graced with a penetrating awareness and a soulful howl with enough resonance to permeate the banks of the mighty Fraser River on a late summer evening.
Scott Holiday is an equally magnificent beast who spends most of the night having his way with a formidable collection of guitars lined up on stage left. The leopard print sleeves of his leather jacket defy the debonair form of his elegantly groomed mustache. Holiday’s endless and commanding riffs echo the styles of the legends he emulates while merging his own luscious flair. Basically, he’s the kind of guy who can call himself Mr. Fuzzlord and totally get away with it.
It’s both obvious and inconceivable that the founding members of Rival Sons have been together for an entire decade. Each member has the chops to elevate any ensemble they find themselves in and they are truly the sum of their parts. As the band steadily roars through their set, I find myself next to a fan so enthralled with Michael Miley’s beat keeping that he feels compelled to give me a run down of all the things that make him amazing. It’s quite the list and we agree on every point.
Buchanan glides across the stage, belting out tracks spanning Rival Sons full catalog, getting a little help on long held favourites like “Keep on Swinging” by some die hards at the front. It’s marvelous how many songs let him unleash his vocal range in its entirety, everything from a low, husky growl to a shrill high-pitched wail. A black bandana neatly conceals the buffalo skull tattoo that adorns his chest. He is wonderful to photograph, always moving with purpose and intensity.
A good portion of their set is off their newest release, Feral Roots. Perhaps the most diverse of their works, I love the fusion of folk, blues, and classic rock that is bound together through wild, natural explorations. I lose track of where I am a few times, which for me is not simply at festival ground in a small community outside of Vancouver. There are ancestral memories here for me, and I sense the quieter ones seeking the sun among the mightier branches of my family tree.
Long before their headline set at the inaugural Summerset Festival in Fort Langley, I had been hearing word of some industry experts comparing this band from Long Beach California to one of the greatest bands of all time. After seeing them perform I’d have to say those whispers have merit and there are indeed similarities between Rival Sons and Led Zeppelin. In my humble opinion, the correlations lie in the confluence of vocal and musical mastery. In other words, what set both bands apart was simply finding the right combination of greatness.
Although they’ve always been open about their inspiration coming largely from classic rock bands, make no mistake Rival Sons are blazing their own trail. A deep dive into their previous work will reveal a versatile catalog of songs that touch on a variety of genres but ultimately represent a unique style.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear industry experts using Rival Sons as the measuring stick of greatness sometime down the road.
I also hope you enjoy the photo gallery below as I had a lot of fun doing the edits. Tried a few different things… I may add or change a few in the future if I feel called. Remember to click the thumbnail to see the full image.