Grace Petrie, the Folk Singer Writing New Gay Anthems
In May, my family and I had the pleasure of seeing an English folk singer named Grace Petrie performing at Summerhall, a delightful arts center housed in the building that used to be the veterinary school at the University of Edinburgh. (Because some part of me will always be twelve years old, I feel obliged to add that the veterinary school is called the Royal Dick, as is the pub at the venue.) Petrie is a thirtysomething folk singer who specializes in guileless, self-penned protest songs about Brexit and income inequality and gay rights—a sort of butch-lesbian Billy Bragg. On stage, she’s an effervescent charm-bomb of a performer, even alone with an acoustic guitar, as she was that night, singing about Theresa May. “We’re getting standup and music,” a woman next to me said.
But Petrie also brought me and my nineteen-year-old gay daughter to tears. The song that got us was “Black Tie,” a winsome declaration of gender nonconformity that I recommend if you’ve had to read about the Trump Administration’s attacks on trans people or are in need of a sweet, stirring sing-along that somehow pulls off this rhyme: “and the images that fucked ya / were a patriarchal structure.” (It’s pronounced “struct-cha”; it helps if you can fake an English accent.)
In the song’s video, Petrie and a band are playing at what looks like a fun queer prom, in front of a curtain decorated with silver mylar balloons that spell out “You are enough.” Her hair is in a spiky quiff and she wears a white dress shirt with a black suit and tie. Reassuring her “Year eleven self, in her year eleven hell,” Petrie sings:
And I swear there’ll come a day
When you won’t worry what they say
On the labels, on the doors.
You will figure out what’s yours.
It would make a great Pride Month anthem.