'Tell Me A Story' comes in a fold around, recycled cardboard cover. Inside, it informs us that 'no trees were harmed in the making of this CD case'. LOL She included a couple of coasters, bearing doodles and the legend: 'Be strong, be resilient, be young, be fucking brilliant'. It's a refrain that we all know from the last album, as it's belted out in the song, 'Inspector Morse'. I didn't actually need the physical CD, as I'd already downloaded the electronic version of this album. But Grace Petrie is going to be huge. I want the kudos of saying that I bought the CD before anyone had heard of her.
It's not often that you watch the heir apparent to a rock'n'roll legend being handed a touch of the baton. It may have happened in private already, or in some Leicestershire music venue, but this was the public bestowing. Glastonbury, Leftfield, 2010. Grace Petrie's festival debut.
In truth, we were only in there because it was so unbearably hot outside. This was a marquee. It had shade and, if you braved a quick dash in the sunshine, a nearby vendor of fine ciders. Billy Bragg told again his oft-repeated story of attending the Rock Against Racism gig, in London, some time in the Middle Ages to hear him tell it. He saw the Clash and was politicised by the passion of that great punk orator, Joe Strummer. To say that Billy Bragg then spent the next few decades being inspirational, to a generation of left wing leaning people, is like implying that the Pope is influential in the world of Catholicism.
One such fan is Grace Petrie. She listened to Bragg, in both the music and the politics, and learned to play guitar. When Bragg turned up to play a gig in her native Leicester, she waylaid him afterwards and handed him a CD of her songs. He liked them so much that he contacted her and asked her if she would like to play Glastonbury.
Can you imagine that? How must that have felt? "Hello, this is your idol on the 'phone. Would you like to play your own songs at the biggest, most legendary festival of all time?" I wonder if she actually screamed down the receiver, or managed to keep her decorum until she had hung up.
I was in the Leftfield, sipping cider in the shade, when Billy Bragg introduced her. Everyone was sitting on the grass, but one woman stood up, right in front of me and my friend, totally blocking our view. We raised our eyebrows in silent indignation, but being very British and polite, we held our tongues. It was nothing that a bit of shuffling across couldn't solve.
(Later on, we had to forgive her. This turned out to be Molly, Grace's girlfriend, with her face moist with proud tears, standing up there so she could film this momentous occasion. Molly gave me such a hug afterwards, overwhelmed with it all to the point of trembling. With the gig and Grace playing; not with the fact she was hugging me, just to be clear here.)
Grace Petrie's set was amazing. We all paid attention. As the songs poured out, one after another, we even got up to dance. There was a familiarity here. None of us knew her (apart from Molly and the gang from her 'hood, obviously), but she was a fan. She was an ordinary person, who had got to go up on the stage and she was so gleeful about that. She took us with her. It helped that the songs were good. She was 'our' Gracie by the end of it (Gracie Fields held that fond moniker for way too long).
She came back to the Leftfield this year. 2011 was a year of mud and sunshine and the crowd was even bigger. Word was getting around. Another friend came with us to see what all of the hype was about. "She's like a female Billy Bragg, isn't she?" Yeah, she is. Just like Billy Bragg is a protegy of Joe Strummer. I saw the baton being passed on. It was great.