Grant Hart live at the Water Rats, London

Grant Hart
w/ Thirty Six Strategies
June 18, 2013
Water Rats, London

Ph: Steve Cotton

Grant Hart

Considering Thirty Six Strategies’ brand of melodic rock pays a healthy respect to the generation of eighties US punks that spawned bands such as Dag Nasty and Husker Du, they must be pretty chuffed to be sharing a stage with the legend that is Grant Hart. And with less than five shows under their belts, their confidence is impressive but understandable because between them they feature ex-members of UK bands such as Shutdown, Decadence Within and Stamping Ground, so it’s no surprise they know their chops. Their first release is due soon on Boss Tuneage Records – check it out.

Grant Hart last played Water Rats back in December of 2011 to an audience far smaller then he deserves – this is a man who wrote some of the greatest songs to ever come out of the fertile US eighties musical underground, but his life took a very different path to that of his once song writing partner Bob Mould, who achieved enormous success in the wake of the post Nirvana underground music explosion with his band Sugar. The path that Grant took is written all over his face, but he’s survived and lived to tell the tale – stories that are contained within all of his songs.

His last set here back in 2011 was played solo, just Grant and his songs – fragile and brittle and amazing. Tonight, however, he returns with a new band, a record deal with Domino and a new album due in August. The first thing you notice as Grant and his band take the stage is just how young his supporting (Irish) musicians are. From the slightly panicked look on their faces, they’ve not played many gigs together but as the set builds and Grant leads the band through a selection of tracks from the forthcoming double album ‘The Argument’, they begin to sound more confident with each passing song. And by the time they roar through a majestic ‘She Floated Away’ – possibly the best song on the last Husker Du album ‘Warehouse Songs…’, the band hit their stride and provide simple but powerful backing to Hart’s distinctive songs. ‘Is The Sky The Limit’ is a highlight from the new album, but it’s the Husker Du songs that obviously command the biggest response and when Grant returns alone to run through acoustic versions of ‘Flexible Flyer’, ‘Never Talking To You Again’ and ‘The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill’ you know you are in the presence of a genius song-writer.

Grant Hart is the real deal, operating outside of the mainstream – an outsider with cult appeal that hopefully will finally start to get the recognition he deserves.

James Sherry