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English Teacher / Alien Chicks @ Night & Day – a grassroots graduation ceremony

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Featured image: Press/Tatiana Pozuelo

Paper lanterns left over from Halloween dangle from the Night & Day’s rafters. The yellow, lilac and turquoise decorations waft in the breeze from the venue’s hulking AC unit, a piece of kit with a sizable job on its hands tonight. Coats and cardigans are already slung over arms by the time Alien Chicks rev their engines in front of a swelling crowd. A mirrored cowboy hat and an urn of flowers accompany the Brixton trio stage front, as they tear into an opener full of screams, shrieks and feedback.

A jumble sale of syllables cascade from frontman Joe’s restless maw, playing lyrical Kerplunk as he ricochets between ideas that collide like neutrons in an atom smasher. They’re a band that don’t signpost their twists, but you know something’s going to happen. ‘27 Stitches’ flits from bossa nova to monstrous jazz odyssey, while recent single, ‘Candlestick Maker’ sees drummer, Martha, clatter her kit into shattered submission.

Alien Chicks make an absolute dog’s dinner of a din, but it’s one you’d wolf down in a heartbeat.

“It’s the last day of the tour,” says English Teacher’s guitarist, Lewis Whiting. “We don’t wanna go home.”

Who can blame them? Tonight, along with the other ten dates on their UK jaunt, has sold out. The Leeds quartet are on a dizzying upward curve. Opener, ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’, is irresistible, with Lily Fontaine as happy as she is relieved about nailing the song’s big finishing note.

Fontaine has a magnetic presence. Necks crane to follow her every step, with punters commandeering benches into use as makeshift viewing platforms. She slinks, she shimmies, and even when she’s on her haunches at a keyboard during ‘Broken Biscuits’, she owns the place. Unreleased tunes from their upcoming debut album elicit the most fervent reactions, with ‘I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying’, ‘You Blister My Paint’ and the slow-burning ‘Mastermind Specialism’ almost breaking the venue’s clap-o-meter. 

The new tracks and the addition of touring cellist, Blossom Caldarone, reveal an added depth to English Teacher. They have gears. Comfortable whether they’re at full tilt or glacial. They’re a band maturing before our eyes, pizza dough on the rise, and tonight is, without a doubt, a grassroots venue graduation ceremony.

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Ian Burke

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