Live Review: Giant Drag in Brighton
I’m walking between the curryhouse and the venue with Annie Hardy. Streetlight reflections sparkle in puddles and misty rain permeates the fresh Brighton air. On the closing leg of Giant Drag’s farewell tour, the American singer/songwriter is in good spirits as we talk about the importance of creating great art and how it should always take precedence over the desire to make money. It’s a feeling Annie knows all too well. Giant Drag, once signed on a multi-album deal to Interscope, is touring on an absolute shoestring, aided by an online fundraising campaign. It is though, a tour that simply had to happen.
I’ve known Annie for about seven years. However, our friendship largely has been restricted to that of pen-pals because, simply, it has been that long since Giant Drag was last able to tour the UK. In those seven years, she has been wrestling continuously with a second album. The first, Hearts & Unicorns, was hugely acclaimed, yet after that her band-mate (they were a two-piece) quit and a shake-up at Interscope saw her unceremoniously dropped.
Hardy could, and perhaps should, write a book about the Giant Drag Curse that caused the sophomore album to take seven years to be born. Suffice to say, if something could have gone wrong, it did go wrong but, eventually, with help from her loyal fanbase and friends – and with an incredible amount of hard work on the songwriter’s behalf – the record was released earlier this year. With it came Hardy’s simultaneous announcement that she was putting an end to Giant Drag. Understandably, having endured a seven-year battle, she now has other musical and artistic avenues that she wants to explore. There was though, to be one last hurrah. A tour of the place that most embraced her band, the UK.
Putting the tour together was as stressful as you could imagine trying to organise a run of UK dates with no money and no band would be. She had to recruit English musicians she had never previously met and was afforded the luxury of a solitary day’s rehearsal before the tour started, yet, as soon as she stepped off the plane at Heathrow and was recognised by the person selling train tickets, she knew that she had made the right decision for Giant Drag’s swansong to be in England.
And so it came to be that a wet, miserable Thursday night saw Annie Hardy and two band members who, a week ago were strangers but were now close friends, fill the Green Door Store in Brighton. And what a show it was. The three-piece rattled through songs from Hearts & Unicorns, with You Fuck Like My Dad being thrown away early, while newies such as We Like The Weather added a bouncy, poppy edge to Giant Drag’s familiar post-grunge sound. Between songs, Annie was as funny and engaging as ever. She talked of fox rape (!), of her love of Brighton, of how insanely hot it was in the venue (“I feel like if I peed myself now it would actually cool me down,”) and she even took time out to give a bollocking to a two-man mosh pit who were annoying pretty much every other punter in the room.
Midway through the set came a gentle acoustic breakdown, where Annie sat on the drum stool and played alone, before her band rejoined her for scuzzy, loud, visceral versions of Stuff To Live For, White Babies and Do It. The “encore” (the band never actually left the stage) opened with a familiar/hilarious/probably slanderous story of how the following tune was stolen from her when she was seven by her 30-year-old boyfriend ‘Chris’, who she later saw performing it while he was “rolling around on the beach with some model”. She was especially upset about it considering she had allowed him to “hit it in the rump”. Then followed a brilliant version of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game.
One final song followed and, as the unique Annie Hardy meowed her way out of Kevin is Gay, it left the audience ravenous for more. While ‘more’ might not come in the form of Giant Drag, the songwriter will no doubt be back again soon. She has a new project, Annie Hardy & The Psychos, and her desire to create great art was clearly illustrated at the Green Door Store tonight. We certainly haven’t seen the last of Annie Hardy, thank god.
Words by Bobby Townsend. Check back soon for a full, exclusive video interview with Annie.