By Ginny Darke, Third Year English
Off the back of her November show at The Fleece, the Sheffield born musician Rebecca Lucy Taylor, aka Self Esteem, returned to Bristol once again with an energetic and empowering show at Trinity Centre.
Entering the stage to the instrumental of ‘I’m Fine’ first came Marged, Levi and Seraphina: Taylor’s backing dancers and singers. Taylor also welcomes her drummer to the stage as the ‘token man’, to the amusement of the vastly female crowd. The makeup of the audience at Trinity Centre wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before at a gig - eclectic to say the least. From just the groups of people standing around me, I spotted a couple with their young daughter, a group of women in their middle age, two women in their twenties as well as a 6Music type man carrying 4 pints in his hands and one in his mouth. Apart from the man, who did kick me in the shin in an attempt to indicate he was trying to shuffle past me to meet his friends, the audience space felt safe - a rarity in contemporary gig venues despite attempts to make venues more welcoming for gender minorities.
Once the band members and Taylor were assembled on stage, the audience was already barking and howling, a somewhat new Self Esteem fan tradition, originating from a spoken word segment of the track ‘I’m Fine’. Taylor lilts “This is like.. and it sounds so stupid but it's genuinely something that me and my friends actually do... If we are approached by a group of men we will bark, like dogs and people always laugh and they're like "Haha, that's so funny", but there is nothing that terrifies a man more than a woman that appears completely deranged”.
Taylor began in the duo Slow Club with fellow musician Charles Watson which had a distinctly more indie and folky sound, but 5 years on from their split, her sound has developed immensely. Self Esteem’s most recent album ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ has a hard sound to define. When people ask me what her music is like, I find myself calling it ‘cool minimalist pop’ that has nods to contemporary hyper-pop and Kanye West’s ‘Life of Pablo’.
The gig continued with only more energy and power, Taylor and her backing singers dancing a heavy choreography in the instrumental parts of songs. There was a palpable, mutual exchange of energy and love from the crowd to the stage; the more cheering and hollering, the more the performers gave. On two occasions after, the crowd applauded for showstopping songs, to which Taylor smiled brightly in disbelief before cracking the line ‘Is this an inside joke or something?’. Taylor didn’t speak a huge amount in between performances but when she did, she had the audience hanging off every single word.
Taylor’s set was a rallying cry for more self-love and for the dismantling of oppressive social structure. The pop harmonies and brave lyrics rang true throughout the set, from belters like ‘I Do This All The Time’ to slower, more emotional anthems like ‘The 345’.
I hope to return to the altar of Self Esteem again very soon.
Featured image: Mia Smith
Have you seen Self Esteem live?