Revered by the likes of NME and BBC Radio One, Leeds band English teacher’s first ever headline show was highly anticipated. One of three dates to celebrate the release of new EP Polyawkward, the Leeds date had an extra edge of importance to it. For a band, who all met in Leeds to headline the Brudenell is somewhat the holy grail. Undoubtedly a momentous occasion, handled with the endearing humility that makes the band so amiable. Drummer Douglas Frost’s magnificent elbow drumming ensued when the magic of the former old working men’s club was alluded to on the performance of the eccentric Yorkshire Tapas, the fourth track off Polyawkward. The initial, poignant musings of lead singer Lily Fontaine were startlingly already being recited by members of the audience on this both noisy and reflective track, which encapsulated the band’s appeal and allowed them the ease to improvise.
Place is seemingly important to the band with the influence of Leeds seeping into other tracks including the title track of Polyawkward, which can be interpreted as, if the video is anything to go by, an Otley Run gone very wrong. A particularly emotional moment of their set was their live debut of Wallace, a song about a Lancashire Wetherspoons an hour away from where we stood, but close by to where Lily grew up. Complimented beautifully by their strings section, the band grew still and silent at a moment where solely the strings played, which I felt artfully portrayed the necessary grounding hometown roots can provide to a young band on the cusp of further success.
The emotion of the performance wasn’t just channelled through the quieter moments. Lily’s vocals really suit a live show where her energetic stage presence channels into her voice and adds a wavier dimension to the songs. Whilst Lewis Whiting, the master of an intricate, gratifying riff, and strong bassist Nicholas Eden held the tracks together and demonstrated their creativity. Eden’s bass flair was particularly impressive in leading their most popular single, R&B, daringly played twice at different speeds. Once for an encore where the increase in speed erupted the room, an end that triumphantly conveyed the appeal of an English Teacher live show where the louder parts of their songs rejuvenate the audience.
What bears mentioning also is how the gig was not just a success for English Teacher alone, but also for the thriving, alternative punk scene that English Teacher grew from. Also emerging in the scene, one of the supports, Pop Vulture, played what appeared to be their most phenomenal performance to date. Having played support slots at Brudenell and Hyde Park Book Club and fresh from their weekend headline of new venue in Meanwood, Light Space’s inaugural gig, the band members seemed confident and comfortable in portraying their erratic and angular sound. Their displays of movement and energy visually pleasingly corresponded with their sonic approach. The assuredness in which they drove their set left no time for jokes. Bassist and vocalist, Sam Curwen pondered on telling one, only to be refused by drummer Luc Gibbons, whose conviction and visual likeness to Lord Kitchener indubitably stopped Sam in his tracks. Their multi-layered, multivocal, jazz-influenced approach was further enhanced by trombonist Adam Wilkin and saxophonist Arron Francis. Their inclusion made the live performance of their latest single Kosmische Musik? anthemic, contributing to an easily headline-worthy performance, an experience poles apart from their recorded output.
Words by Becca Healy