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Gig review: Giant Drag at Nation of Shopkeepers, Leeds

Giant Drag

Giant Drag

  • by Susan Darlington
 

Giant Drag’s dream turned sour very quickly. Seven years ago the Los Angeles duo were riding high on the back of their debut album, a sweet collection of fuzz-soaked alt-rock that won them acclaim and support slots with The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Lemonheads.

At the end of 2006, however, drummer and keyboardist Micah Calabrese quit and lead songwriter Annie Hardy vowed to continue without him. Thereafter followed years of record company fallouts, ill health, and drug addiction.

She re-emerged earlier this year with a self released second album, Waking Up Is Hard To Do, and promptly embarked on a farewell tour. It doesn’t bode well when she walks on stage and announces that it’s the “first gig with the new line-up, who met at the airport yesterday.” Confidence in their professionalism is hardly boosted over a 90-minute set that’s punctuated by sprawling introductions, misplaced set list, and broken guitar picks.

It’s a frustrating, self-deprecating slacker attitude that would tax the audience’s patience if it wasn’t for the sheer quality of the material. ‘Cordial Invitation’, which opens the performance, sets the tone by neatly filling the gap between Hole’s Live Through This and Veruca Salt’s American Thighs. Heavier than on record thanks to the introduction of a bass player, it’s sweetened by the vulnerable rawness in Hardy’s vocals.

This is emphasised during a three-song acoustic interlude, during which she confesses she’s “ruining my life ‘cos I got bored.” Its ravaged blues, combined with lyrical honesty, has the harrowing quality of Nirvana’s Unplugged and suggests a possible future musical direction away from her grungy back catalogue.

Claiming to have had her interest in music reinvigorated by her life falling apart, it would certainly be a loss if Hardy quit the industry. Tracks such as ‘We Like The Weather’, ‘YFLMD’ and set closer ‘Kevin Is Gay’ are near perfect ear worms of heavy, fuzzy pop that deserve a life long after the band play their ‘funeral show’ in London later this month.

Gig date: September 12

 

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