Three weeks ago I learned of the resurrected genre of protest singing while listening to an episode of The Guilty Feminist. Moments after learning of this politically charged genre of music, I heard Grace Petrie sing for the first time through my car radio. Two words – life altering. After a three week long whirlwind of fangirling and obsession, I am now an embarrassingly giddy gig attendee and proud owner of Petrie’s latest album, Queer as Folk. Grace Petrie’s politically relevant folk music has catapulted me into a state of adoration that I haven’t felt for years. The Queer as Folk gig I attended in Leicester (yes, I drove an hour to get there) had the audience hanging off Petrie’s every word – from the crowd defeatedly referencing Tory cuts in the ‘Farewell to Welfare’ chorus, to triumphantly singing along with Petrie’s favourite rhyming verse:
“And the images that fucked ya, Were a patriarchal structure” – ‘Black Tie’
The Queer as Folk album (and all of Petrie’s music for that matter) is a treasure trove of lefty in-jokes, with choruses delivered wittily by Petrie. Her lyrics are peppered with political punchlines.
“And it’s a bloody nightmare, Tryna fight the spread of bigotry and fear, That’s uniting Piers Morgan and Germaine Greer” – ‘Black Tie’
Tackling topics such as transphobia and gender stereotypes, her lyrical crafts(wo)manship is unrivalled. ‘Black Tie’ is an anthem dedicated to Petrie’s younger self, as she reflects on how society viewed (and still views) her masculinity as outside of the narrow “two teams” and how she was bombarded with the damaging notion that “anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”. It feels like every young person struggling with their sexuality and identity should be prescribed the medication of Petrie’s ‘Black Tie’, as a beacon of hope that ‘everything’s gonna be alright’:
“Cause I’m in black tie tonight, Get a postcard to my, Year 11 self in her year 11 hell, Saying everything’s gonna be alright, No you won’t grow out of it you will find the clothes that fit” – ‘Black Tie’
The Y Theatre in Leicester felt like a snug fit for the amount of energy in the venue – I was perched on the balcony overlooking the theatre stage where Grace stood, humbly, drenched in foggy blue lighting. Petrie’s raw passion for socialism, love and inclusivity was palpable not only in her lyrics, but in her humour and wit between songs. The venue was tingling with solidarity, and Grace’s electric personality was utterly mind-blowing. If you’re after a night that will make you laugh out loud, then cry, then infuse you with a gut-wrenching drive to change the world… this is the gig you’re after.
Petrie took the crowd on a tour of all kinds of emotions (my girlfriend cried… she never cries) for two hours. There was a short interval in the middle where we all poured in to the bar to buy CDs and chat to Grace (Petrie acknowledged the irony of a socialist folk singer selling merchandise… girl’s gotta live). Being at such a small venue felt like we were being treated to the finite time left before this powerful folk singer unleashes her power on the world – I feel a little bit honoured to have seen Petrie up close and personal, before her talent explodes.
I feel extremely under-qualified to write an album review – I’ve never been into music, but something about Queer as Folk has ignited an appreciation for songwriting. Speaking of feeling under-qualified, Petrie herself was totally self-deprecating and revealed that she struggles with an overriding sense of imposter syndrome when she is described as a ‘folk singer’. Her painfully relatable song ‘Nobody Knows That I’m A Fraud’ is a beautiful manifestation of her feelings of insecurity – translating that familiar feeling we’ve all had, of being #foundout:
“When people call me a musician that makes my palms perspire, I took Grade I piano, and I never got no higher, If I didn’t have this capo then you’d all see I’m a liar, Nobody knows that I’m a fraud” – ‘Nobody Knows That I’m A Fraud’
Hearing that song for the first time was like someone had reached into this crazy head of mine and had pulled out my deepest imposter syndrome insecurities and strung them out into a delicious tune. This is a recurring feeling throughout Petrie’s album… in her ode to long distance relationships (‘Departures’), Petrie combines the menial and mundane with her divine vocals, to create a concoction of emotion and humour. She playfully quips about hanging around ‘til the last second when her girlfriend leaves for work trips:
“So I hang around ’til you’ve checked your bags, You won’t get rid of me ’til security” – ‘Departures’
For fear of unravelling all of Petrie’s clever lyrics before you’ve had a chance to discover them for yourself, I will stop here. I wish I could go back to the moment I discovered not only protest singing as a genre, but the moment I heard Petrie’s warm vocals for the first time. You’re in for a real treat. You can listen to Petrie’s music here, and purchase her many CDs here. BRB while I add the next CD to my collection. Check her latest gig venues and tour dates here.
– Jazz Moodie (@jazmoodie)