Paving Slabs to Yorkshire Tapas: English Teacher at YES Basement

By Emma Walker

The YES basement is sold out tonight.  A statement that really meant nothing to me before, but now I’m standing in a queue of 15, waiting as a girl checks off names on a sheet of paper with no sense of urgency whatsoever.  This impatience follows me from the queue and into the venue – the support bands doing nothing to satisfy my hunger for good music.   

English Teacher cures my impatience from the start.  The clanky, abrupt music reverberates around the room and into the ears of the audience, who are squashed together like sardines inside this tiny basement. They open with an instrumental piece that’s punchy and experimental, and they perform it like they’ve got something to prove. 

Not quick to define themselves, English Teacher are vocal about disassociating themselves from the post-punk label fans have given them – maybe this is their secret to such a disjointed and ever-evolving sound.  The band’s natural wit transcends from the studio and into their live performance with ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ setting the tone with its clever one-liners and natural comedic timing.  The poetic nature of English Teacher’s lyrics creates a complexity to their sound that makes their music unique to anything I’ve ever heard live before.  

“Alright, let’s get this one over with,” lead singer Lily Fontaine smiles into the microphone. The bass plays us in and we’re a dancing mess as the fan’s favourite song ‘R&B’ fills the room. Fontaine, whose warm and gentle personality can be felt from the stage, giggled her way through the song, loving the crowd’s reaction. 

The band are glowing green with the reflection from the stage lighting and an atmospheric haze falls upon the crowd as they introduce the next song. The title track from their latest EP release, Polyawkward. Like the others, this song feels rough around the edges in the best way possible – the wail of the synthesiser takes me to a circus, English Teacher the ringmaster and I the clown. From circus to school, ‘Mental Maths’ is everything school wasn’t. I love it, unlike school, and apparently so do the rest of the audience who sing along to the words, regardless of its abruptness.  

The concept of ‘Yorkshire Tapas’ has me sold. The title of the song alone is brilliant. But as Fontaine delivers her verses of poetry without a chime of music behind her, the crowd go still. It’s as if we’re in a trance. English Teacher’s ‘Yorkshire Tapas’ is a packet of crisps and a pint. The trance is broken when the monologue ends with another instrumental, with special guest (and one of my favourite instruments) the cowbell. On hearing the cowbell, the crowd ascends into cheers and we’re moving once again. 

English Teacher ends the gig on a high with another fan favourite ‘Good Grief.’ They play the song fast and the crowd shout the lyrics back at the band as they eat up the crowd reaction. The cheesy grins on everyone’s faces are a reflection on how great the band are tonight, and the basement vibrates with adrenaline as the crowd see off English Teacher with one final cheer.  

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