Less is more meets more is more
I was a little disappointed when I realized Giant Drag were using pre-recorded tracks to make up for their lack of a bassist — tracks triggered by a synth next to drummer Micah Calabrese downstairs at the Middle East a week ago Thursday. Are bass players that hard to come by? But then, singer/guitarist Annie Hardy brushed her too-long hair out of her face, looked down with contempt at her monitor, and complained in that little-girl voice of hers that the bass was too loud. A little tweaking at the soundboard and Hardy and Calabrese found their way back into the pocket by avoiding the sort of bloozy, White Striped garage rock so common to bass-less duos and sticking to the skewed, in-joke indie pop that dominates Hearts & Unicorns, a 2005 disc on Kickball recently reissued with major-label distribution. With its dissonant guitars, “High Friends in Places” typified Giant Drag’s appeal: a wry title, an unwavering backbeat, steady blasts of serrated guitar, and Hardy’s alluring couldn’t-care-less vocal delivery.
Giant Drag’s tour mates, Pretty Girls Make Graves, came well equipped, not only with a tall bassist (former Murder City Devil Derek Fudesco) but with a full complement of supporting musicians for singer Andrea Zollo, including new keyboardist Leona Marrs. The addition of keyboards has helped PGMG in transiting from the pop punk of their first Lookout! disc to the more expansive post-punk, neo-new-wave sensibility of their new Elan Vital (Matador), and Marrs stood center stage, right next to Zollo, adding nice background harmonies and a bit of melodica to the mix. What’s more, Giant Drag’s shy-girl, less-is-more æsthetic complemented the pile-it-on, forceful female dynamics of Pretty Girls Make Graves nicely, even if Pretty Girls could at least have offered to lend Giant Drag their bass player.
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