Constellations Festival - Leeds University - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Constellations Festival - Leeds University

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

It's two in the afternoon and it's a rather lovely autumnal day in Leeds. The perfect kind of day to take things easy and relax, maybe sit in the garden with an ice-tea and a copy of the Independent while watching a neighbour's cat chase butterflies across the freshly cut lawn. Or failing that, you could always go to an all-day festival and watch loads of great bands.

The curtains are closed in the 'Riley Smith' room at this year's Constellations festival and the first band to take to the stage are Leeds' very own Hookworms. The calm of the day outside, and my persistent hangover from the previous night, didn't prepare me for the pummelling Hookworms were to give my rather fragile mind. It's with a potent mix of Neu! inspired rhythms, Spacemen 3 strength fuzz and Wooden Shjips-esque drone that they give the assembled crowd a well-needed wake up call. Definitely a band to watch. At the opposite end of the spectrum dream-pop duo Big Deal are a much more relaxed proposition. Recalling the simple, pop sensibilities of The Vaselines, without the kooky humour, Big Deal play a rather charming early afternoon set. My hangover suitably soothed, I'm now ready to take on the rest of the festival.

I struggle to make my mind up about new indie-rock types Zulu Winter. Their brand of earnest, anthemic indie-rock is not without its highlights, it just feels a little derivative at times. However, they manage to pull it round with their final song featuring unexpected flute accompaniment from a member of Givers. My day is given a more decisive lift from the wonderful Summer Camp. Far more confident live performers than maybe their at times twee lo-fi pop would suggest, Summer Camp put a huge smile on my tired face. Frontwoman Elizabeth Sankey has an incredible voice and is a fun, sensual and commanding presence on stage. Guitarist Jeremy Warmsley also proves himself to be an annoyingly gifted musician, fleshing out the bands 80s-indebted twee-pop with his guitar and keyboard work. The duo are accompanied tonight by a drummer and a projection of suitably 80s film footage (definitely saw Teen Wolf in there). At one point someone shouts out "I love you, Lindy" to which Sankey calmly replies "It's Elizabeth". No one's going to make that mistake when Summer Camp are a household name.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks are on bafflingly early in the day (well, around six-ish) but I guess Malkmus is still better known for his work with a rather famous indie band (now, what was their name?!). The Jicks open with 'Senator', one of the finest cut from their latest album Mirror Traffic and I've got those words in my head for the rest of the day. Everyone sing now: "I know what the senator wants, what the senator wants is a blow job…"

Malkmus is chatty and relaxed throughout the set and even dedicates a tune to the people of Wakefield (they've done gigs with The Cribs before). The Jicks' drummer is fucking brilliant too; sporting a finally groomed moustache and Hawaiian shirt as he lays into his drum kit like the living reincarnation of Keith Moon. I'm a little disappointed they don't play some of my personal favourites ('Jenny and the Ess-dog' or '1% of one', anyone?) but you can't really fault the performance. They close with the psychedelic freak-out of 'Real Emotional Trash' from the 2008 album of the same name and I'm as in awe of Malkmus as I was as a teenager listening to Pavement in my bedroom (oh yeah, that's what they were called).

Following one of their musical heroes was never going to be easy but Yuck put in a really impressive set. After dealing with some technical issues (which seem to annoy one of the guitarists quite a bit) they launch into 'The Wall' from their self-titled LP and it's a genuinely exciting start. Their set is pretty impeccable as they veer between Teenage Fanclub-esque swoons and Dinosaur Jr indebted fuzz-rock. They finish with the giant fuzz-rock behemoth known as 'Rubber' and I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. By far the heaviest moment of the festival (for me anyway), 'Rubber' is a thing of bone-rattling beauty.

I catch a bit of The Antlers set and their melancholic, shimmering rock sets me up nicely for what's to come. Now, I have a bit of a confession. I don't actually own any albums by Wild Beasts. After their set, I vowed to correct that problem as swiftly as possible. Wild Beasts are unique, strange and absolutely captivating tonight. Playing older songs like the beguiling 'Hooting & Howling' in amongst tracks from their latest album Smother, Wild Beasts appease their faithful fans while also giving those a little slow on the uptake a chance to gawp admiringly at their back catalogue.

They play perhaps their best known song, 'We Still Got the Taste Dancin' on Our Tongues', fairly early on and it's received like an old friend. Hayden Thorpe sways along to the pulsing rhythms of their set, taking a rest occasionally to sip some red wine. Thorpe and Flemings vocals complement each other perfectly and it's made abundantly clear that I've been missing out by the time they play the wonderful 'Reach a Bit Further'. Thorpe thanks the crowd and says that it feels good to come back to the place where he failed so badly with the thing that took him away from his studies. I think we should all be grateful that he decided to concentrate on the music.

I leave with a sense of optimism and a list of albums to purchase in my head. Constellations has proved itself to be a thoroughly satisfying experience and I'm definitely set on coming again next time. If there's any criticism it's that you just can't see everything you want in one day. I missed Vessels set as it clashed with Malkmus and managed to completely forget about Ringo Deathstarr, Stealing Sheep and Braids. And while I'm still kicking myself about those missed opportunities, it's hard to feel disappointed with a day that included Stephen Malkmus, Summer Camp and Wild Beasts. A lovely, autumnal day well spent.

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