Giant Drag - Green Door Store, Brighton - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Giant Drag - Green Door Store, Brighton

by Alexis Somerville Rating:9 Release Date:2012-10-15

LA's Giant Drag have been around for 10 years, playing grunge in its most summery, Californian form. Their debut album, Hearts and Unicorns, features killer track after killer track, from the opening strains of 'Kevin is Gay' to the final song, a cover of Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game'.

Earlier this year, singer/songwriter Annie Hardy announced that this would be Giant Drag's farewell tour, partially funded by IndieGogo. After losing band members and dealing with some serious health problems over the years, she's calling it quits. This is almost the last show (London has claimed the final one). At one point she demands we all go to see them in London too, until someone informs her that, like tonight's gig, it's sold out. The IndieGogo campaign paid off, it seems.

It's a grey and strangely humid Thursday night in Brighton, and The Green Door Store has filled every crevice of its cobbled floor. I regret my autumnal clothing as I force my way through a sea of unusually tall people to a pocket of air by the stage. Hardy announces: "We like the weather. We do. In California." She spends much of the set complaining - in a good-humoured way - about the extent to which she is sweating and suggests the venue invest in "a thing called air conditioning". Later she claims she wants to wee on herself because she thinks it'd cool her down (then, remembering science, acknowledges that people usually do this for the opposite reason).

After a couple of tracks from Hearts and Unicorns, Hardy gives a rambling introduction to 'Garbage Heart' - a grungy take on 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' - from the band's sophomore album Waking Up is Hard to Do. I must admit I'm much more familiar with Giant Drag's older stuff, but I find myself enjoying the new songs just as much. A rare feat, it has to be said, when familiarity can sometimes provide half the enjoyment at gigs. The new material is definitely up to the old standard: still simultaneously riff-heavy and poppy.

Hardy's song titles often display her blunt humour (including their second song tonight 'YFLMD' - an acronym for You Fuck Like My Dad) and there is no shortage of this trait in her onstage banter. Her voice is so gleefully childish; she's like a sassy character in some Nickelodeon cartoon. This, combined with her tiny frame, makes it all the more amusing when she goes off on tangents peppered with swearing and bawdy imagery. But the baby cartoon voice transforms into a thing of rare and rasping beauty when she starts to sing.

That voice takes centre stage midway through, when Hardy shoos the two other band members offstage (claiming they're going to talk about what they did at school today). She is going to play a solo set, which she is apparently nervous about and hasn't really planned. At one point she calls out for requests but turns down one suggestion as she can't remember how to play the song. Somehow she pulls it together and plays some pared-down but no less affecting songs. Hopefully, the acoustic set suggests she plans to keep making music in the wake of Giant Drag's demise, whether solo or with her other band, Annie Hardy and the Psychos.

Hardy is the only original member of Giant Drag and she only just met the drummer and bassist for this tour. Sometimes it's fine, other times it really shows. They are all capable musicians but the onstage chemistry is definitely lacking and the bassist in particular looks slightly bemused by Hardy's idiosyncratic patter between songs. This might be a problem if it weren't for her stage presence and the overriding quality of the music.

After the solo interlude she brings back the others for one of Giant Drag's slower tracks, 'Cordial Invitation', in which Hardy sings trance-like: "Your dream/ is my nightmare." This is followed by 'White Baby' from the Swan Song EP. At one point a bit of moshing goes too far and a drunken fight breaks out. I am mostly oblivious, mesmerised as I am by Hardy, until she tells the people off and a guy gets thrown out as she muses: "No one goes to a Giant Drag show to mosh, bro."

The band don't go offstage before the encore; Hardy just rather sweetly asks if we want more (um, yes) then pauses to allow time for us to imagine them leaving and heroically reappearing. The cries for more are no weaker for the continued presence of the band onstage. At this point there are also a couple of glaring omissions from the set, the aforementioned bookends of their debut.

Then comes one of my favourite moments of the show, when Hardy tells the meandering and mock-vitriolic 'story' of how she wrote her first song aged seven for her "then 30-year-old boyfriend", who allegedly ripped her off and made a video of himself singing the song while writhing around with a model on a beach. Unsurprisingly, this is the precursor to their 'Wicked Game' cover. This is followed by the final song of the night, the brilliantly catchy 'Kevin is Gay', and the gig ends with rapturous applause.

RIP Giant Drag, you will be sorely missed.

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