You build a wall, we’ll build a bridge

Grace Petrie – Islington Assembly Hall, London; May 12th, 2022

It had been a long time coming this concert and the long wait and anticipation  made it all the better. When I bought the ticket back in February 2020 I had no idea it would be another two years before I’d finally see Grace Petrie live, but I must say it was totally worth the wait. What an amazing show!

Had a lovely afternoon in London with a friend and showed up at the Assembly Hall around 5:15 pm, very much surprised to b the first in line. There were very few of us until about 6:30, so I could have stayed somewhere warm instead. Oh well. Never thought I’d get a front row center spot at this show. If I had not already been excited, I was now.

We did not have to wait long and first up was support Jasmine Kennedy. I knew I liked her music, but must admit that I could not remember much about it or how she appeared on my radar – The Guilty Feminist I assume? Either way, it was really lovely, soft music, that she described as mostly depressing. We cheered loudly for hr before she even started and she loved it, then played ‘Laura’ for us. After that came a new song and from the lyrics I’d guess it might be called ‘The Things you miss’. I loved it. ❤️ She talked about ‘You made my teeth hurt’ being the title song of her EP, even though it was “a bit early in the set to start selling you stuff, but thats where we are”. What a beautifully sad song. Next was a song about her nana dying and the time se visited her at the hospital. And claimed it wasn’t hard “because everything that happened rhymed”. It was ’14 Miles’. Before her last song she joked that if we didn’t like her or either of the other performers we would not get refunds. She ended with ‘Percy Anderson’ and left me with a smile.

Setlist

Laura
“The things you miss” (new song)
It made my teeth hurt
14 Miles
Percy Anderson

Soft Lad was up next and I enjoyed her set as well, but it wasn’t completely my style. I definitely liked her softer songs better, i.e. the ones that didn’t use so many effects. My favorite was ‘Famous Songs about average people’. She explained how strange it is to meet the people that her mates have mad songs about and find out that these people are nothing special at all. At the end of her set she told us we might see someone looking exactly like her on the drums. 😀

Setlist

Eyeroll
2 Know U Betta
Human Condition
Singapore
Famous Songs about Average People
My Name
Least of My Worries

It felt like a really long wait for Grace then. I hoped she’d start at 9, but it was about 20 past when the lights finally went down and the crowd started cheering. The show was sold out and everyone sounded just as excited as I was. 😀  She stepped up to the mic, introduced herself, told us, it was incredible to be there and asked who had seen her before and for whom it was the first time seeing her. I cheered both times, because it both felt true since my first gig was Grace supporting Hannah Gadsby where she played fours songs, so this was the first full concert. She remarked that the second group sounded even happier.

Grace told us that booking the hall had been a gamble at the time and now this was her biggest gig ever. Sh introduced her band, consisting of Jasmine Kennedy on bass, Soft Lad on drums and Ben Moss on the violin. They kicked off the show with ‘Storm to weather’ that is “very much about the pandemic, but a political song as well”. I had been waiting for a long tim to har this song life and I sang along at the top of my lungs. “I will love you forever, we will dance again next year” – these words meant everything when I first heard them and helped carry my through the early pandemic days – singing them now felt like a great weight falling off of my shoulders.

Grace explained that she only had two types of songs: angry and sad and that she was a protest singer, writing left-wing songs about politics, trying to make Britain a more left-wing place, so ‘Farewell to Welfare’ was next. Quite a few people around me sang along to every word and I remembered surprisingly much of the lyrics. Afterwards she joked about how the young people in the audience don’t know who Theresa May is and she was “as bad as we thought it gets 12 years ago”.

According to a quick poll there were a lot of proud snowflakes in the audience and with ‘You build a wall’ came the first song that had me in tears. It was all sorts of beautiful, especially with so many people singing along. ❤️ After that, Ben Moss got to sing one of his songs, as he said “about how hard it is to be a man” 😁 He explained how masculinity needs to be rethought and that he had vailed all his thoughts on the topic thinly with the metaphor of a tree. ‘Sturdy Oak’ was absolutely lovely and I decided then and there to buy his album. Not only is the man a talented multi-instrumentalist, he is also a great singer. If anyone needed more reasons, he told us he was running a marathon to raise money for rainbow migration and part of the album sales was going towards this.

Back to Grace, asking us if anyone of us had the new record and pointing out how happy we sounded about it. No wonder, it is an amazing album. She mentioned how the next song had a bit of a country feel and how Ben recorded banjo and fiddle for it on top of each other which sounded great until it was time to play it live. Thus, they invited Deborah Chalmers on stage to play with them. Thy could not, however, start playing, before Grace explained about the swearing and how there was “a prominent Dick” in the song that Radio 2 was not happy about. 😉 Of course we fully supported her artistic integrity by singing along loudly to “Last Man on Earth”. There was even some clapping along going.

‘Some Days are worse than others’ followed and I was crying again again. It is my current favorite on ‘Connectivity’  – I love it for the lyrics and the distinct Springsteen vibes I get from. Ben played accordion beautifully and I sang along softly while tears were streaming down my face. ❤️ Next was ‘We’ve got an Office in Hackney’ and w learned how much of the lyrics were direct quotes from people in the music industry that Grace had encountered. 😀

It was time to play the song that was the reason she was wearing ‘Black Tie’ and it was the loudest sing along of the night. There is something very powerful about screaming out that “the images that fucked ya were a patriarchal structure” and we do need and anti-transphobia anthem now more than ever. If songs can change the world, even just a little bit, this is one that will. The set ended with ‘Losing Side’, a powerful reminder that trying is the most important bit and that we may not see the fruits of our actions, but if we stand up for what is right we will hopefully leave a better world to those who follow us. As far as final statements go, nothing could have been more fitting.

We clapped and cheered loudly for more, until we got ‘Northbound’. One of the most upbeat songs of the evening perhaps and another wonderful sing-along. It as all over too soon, but I left elated, feeling I had gotten exactly what I hoped for and more than I was ready for. It was a great night and I took the bus home with a bunch of merch in my hands and a happy smile on my face. Can’t wait to do this all again in Berlin in September!

Setlist

Storm to weather
Farewell to Wellfare
You build a wall
Sturdy Oak (Ben Moss)
Last Man on earth
Some Days are worse than others
We’ve got an Office in Hackney
Black Tie
Losing Side

Northbound

Voice lost, songs found much laughter

Árstiðir – Imperial Theater, Hamburg; May 2nd, 2022

It was one special night, when Árstíðir returned to Hamburg’s Imperial Theater. When they stepped out on stage, to stand on the stairs in the back, I did not yet know how special, but that was soon to be revealed. Unusual circumstances required unusual solutions and they turned it into something amazing.

It was an easy trip to Hamburg, only one train. I just had to get to the station first. There was a bus stop right at the hotel, but all the busses seemed to go in the wrong direction. In search of the opposite stop, I asked at a car dealership where it might be, but they didn’t know either. However, One of the salespeople offered to drive me to he closest tram station. Win! Everything went smoothly and I even had a little time to rest before heading to the venue. Met I. and H. when I arrived and we were joined by J. soon after. G. arrived a little later and we were all ready for a good show.

Platon Karatev played a solid set. I thought the sound was a bit muddy at the front, but that wasn’t their fault. It was great fun either way and I had the feeling they had changed their setlist a little, but don’t know their songs well enough yet. I surely enjoyed it.

The break was spent chatting and sooner than expected Árstíðir stepped on stage, making full use of the theater setting and standing on the stairs in the back for the first song, ‘Ísland farsældafrón’. It sounded great and even the Frenchmen sang with them. Gunnar explained that this is what a concert in Iceland might have sounded like 100 years ago and how they like singing it. Then the guys told us it was going to be a special show because Daníel had lost his voice the previous day. Jokes ensued about what type of songs he might be able to sing, causing a lot of laughter.

‘While this way’ kicked it all off with Daníel being reduced to playing guitar. It was all good though. As opposed to all the other gigs so far, the show continued with ‘Ljóð i sand’. The songs sounded ever so slightly different with one harmony vocal missing, but still wonderful. Then Gunnar sang ‘Hvenær kemur sól’ and they were already halfway into the song, before my brain was like “He usually doe snot sing this one”. He did such a great job, it didn’t even feel strange that it was sung with a different voice. Ragnar talked about how during Covid and the band was their bubble they stayed in and explained how writing songs was their way to deal with their worries, “And we had so many worries that we wrote 30 songs” *laughter*

‘Týndur’ was beautiful as always, this time played without any talk about its meaning. I especially love the strings, but the whole song is such a gem. <3 Straight on to ‘Endatafl’, such a dramatic change of tone. The combination of these two songs works well and it was a great rendition. This might have been the point of the night where I missed Daníel’s harmonies most during the “oooohhhh – aaaaaaahhhh” part in the end. Good thing they have three lead vocals. 😀

It was time for the doubly microphone and the acoustic set. Ragnar told us they would take us back to their beginnings on Daníel’s couch. As every night the audience voted to hear ‘Glitsky’ rather than ‘All is well’. It was perfect!. <3 Before ‘Kill us’ Ragnar told us they had thought three guitars might be too much so he bought the baritone and got stuck with it and didn’t truly find his home until he switched to the piano, but likes to come back to the baritone once in a while. They played a great version on the song too.

Gunnar and Ragnar joked about Daníel’s wine brewing skills back in the day and mused they might have not played so much guitar if the wine had been better. Daníel added how everything but the taste of the wine was great and he even had a specially designed label. 😀 ‘Ages’ was next, the first song they recorded and notably 14 years old. Ages ago indeed. It had been a while since I’d heard that one. It fit in well.

‘Mute’ followed. I had not expected that song to make a comeback. Brilliant! Afterwards, Gunnar told us how he had written it in Japan and what it feels like if you cannot really communicate or interact with people due to language barriers. They also chatted a little about how a song becomes an Árstíðir song as soon as one of them has an idea for something someone else brought in and this song was based on something Ragnar had brought in earlier.

Gunnar sang an amazing version of ‘Þar sem enginn fer’- I had for sure thought they’d replace that song, but he just made it his own. <3 Of course they had to gave us a taste of ‘Blik’ with ‘Bringing back the Feel’, which Gunnar declared as their plan for 2022 – getting back to touring life and bringing back that feel. I love the song more every night. The strings sure make me feel like being in an old style coffee house. It grooved just like it should with Gunnar on vocals. We also got some laughs when he forgot the lyrics at some point and just ad libbed it. Fun!

Ragnar pointed out they were trying to be Shamans of sorts, trying to tell the universe that everything was going to be well, casing a spell for the sun to come back and lastly bringing back the feel. ‘Lover’ was back in the set and I loved having it there. <3 Afterwards, Gunnar told us how happy they were to be back on the road and how weird it was to pretend that nothing had ever happened, thanking us for our support. They ended with ‘Shades’ of course, great as always.

We cheered and clapped for them to come back and they joked about having forgotten what it means. Once again they stood on the stairs, with Ragnar explaining how the torture instruments that made up the stage setting where a nice contrast to the party song ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’. 😀 One more time they stepped down to the stage and played ‘Heiðin’ for us. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful show. <3 We cheeered them back for one more bow and that was it. More tomorrow.

I hung out for a while, talking to everyone, telling Daníel to get well and praising Gunnar for his excellent work on the unfamiliar songs. He said the hardest part was suddenly having to play and sing some of the parts and that was why he goofed up – he was so concentrated on playing. Isa was there too and we reminisced about Ragnar’s solo tour with her in Germany. Fun times. Eventually I said goodbye to everyone and went back to my hotel, still smiling.

Setlist

Ísland farsældafrón
While this way
Ljóð i sand
Hvenær kemur sól
Týndur
Endatafl
Glitsky
Kill us
Ages
Mute
Þar sem enginn fer
Bringing back the Feel
Lover
Shades

Góða veislu gjöra skal
Heiðin