Constellations Festival – Leeds University 14/11/2010

By Joss Worthington

Festivals used to be just for the summer but nowadays it seems like the summer never ends. God bless that pioneering genius who first worked out that you could transport the same amount of festive fun back to the city, minus the trench foot.

Constellations, a new festival modelled very similarly to the Dot to Dot Festival, is today being held over three stages at Leeds University and features a carefully selected line up of forward thinking Indie Rock acts, all at the rather neat price of £22.50 per ticket.

Up first on the Refectory stage are three Leeds Acts, Honour before Glory, I Like Trains and Sky Larkin. I only catch the last song ‘Forever’ of Honour before Glory’s set which builds somewhat predictably to an epic post rock conclusion. It does have an unexpected twist of some soaring vocal harmonies but the sound is just too familiar to distinguish itself from its peers.

I Like Trains also have strong post rock sympathies but with the added extra of the devilishly dark baritone vocals of Dave Martin. Their music is perhaps better suited to being played at 3.30am in a Berlin Bordello rather than 3.30pm in Leeds Uni’s Refectory but they turn out a perfectly executed half hour set regardless.

The Single, ‘A Fathers Son’ is well received and marks a successful attempt by I Like Trains to break off the shackles of their cult status, however, they still sound at their happiest delving into the darker depths.

Sky Larkin inject some much needed spark into the afternoon. Katie Harkin energetically bobs up down and around the stage, firing out slacker rock riffs like a female version of J Mascis on speed. Their sound is an intriguing mash up of angular and slacker rock. It’s kind of like listening to the sonic equivalent of a tug of war between Be Your Own Pet and Dinosaur JR.

Harkin’s enthusiastic charm and hometown big ups win over the awakening audience and if there was an inter Leeds band competition going on today then Sky Larkin take first prize.

Meanwhile in the dark dungeons of the Stylus stage, Gold Panda, is dishing up his own brand of chill wave for the masses. I have to say that one man in a hoodie playing with a laptop and occasionally twiddling the odd knob here and there is not really what comes to mind when I think of live music. Which is pretty much what Gold Panda is as a visual spectacle but I stick with it regardless and fortunately the music makes up for the severe lack of stage persona.

It’s the third time I’ve seen Liars this year and each time they somehow manage to regenerate themselves in the most compelling of ways. Watching them perform live is like being on a dark acid trip. The music constantly twists and evolves and it feels like there is something darkly sinister underpinning the whole experience.

It’s like the sound of paranoid psychosis swirling out of control. Tonight this is accentuated even more by lead singers Angus Andrew’s feral yelps into a space echo device which he takes delight in manipulating to further demented dimensions. Closing their set with ‘Scarecrows on a Killer Slant’ the intensity is ramped up to the max before Liars skulk back into the shadows setting us up perfectly for Les Savy Fav.

It’s very hard to convey in words the mind blowing experience that is a Les Savy Fav gig. Les Savy Fav turn the notion of a rock concert on its head, strip it down to the Y fronts  and then toss it screaming into a rabid mosh pit.

Over the course of tonight’s set we witness (to mention but a few) lead singer Tim Harrington swan dive backwards off the mixing desk, casually toss a full bottle of wine into the crowd, and simulate rape with young male stage invaders, the rest of the group all the while playing on unfazed and tight as hell.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about Les Savy Fav is they do have fantastic songs as well. Ok, Tim Harrington may spend the majority of the set circum navigating the venue wrapping his mic cable around a bewildered audience, but he is also a formidable singer.

They are without any shadow of a doubt in my mind the most exciting band that you could hope to see live and an experience that you will never forget. I would urge anybody to go out and see them at least once in their lives and hopefully you might live to share the experience.

It’s hard to imagine watching another band after just witnessing the full force of the Les Savy Fav experience, Broken Social Scene certainly have a lot to live up to. Kevin Drew is sporting a luminous pink ski hat which kind of makes him look like he’s got an oversized glow in the dark condom on his head. They open with ‘World Sick’ and ‘Texaco Bitches’ from their latest (slightly mediocre by their standards) ‘Forgiveness Rock Record.’

Broken Social Scene as a live prospect come across a little bit more celebratory and overblown than on their records. Kevin Drew works the crowd pleasing stage banter well but at times it feels a bit corny. There are no less than 5 guitarists on stage which certainly helps them recreate their expansive sound, but most of the time half of them look like spare parts strutting around the stage not doing anything.

Cue special guest Jonny Marr to add yet another strutting guitarist to the fray for ‘Cause = Time.’ I guess we can expect the announcement of Jonny Marr joins Broken Social Scene to be imminent. Like they need another guitar player? He does a job well enough but his continual band wagon jumping act is starting to wear thin.

They continue to whittle through the hits with noisy flare. ‘Fire Eyed Boy’ whips up the crowd well, along with ‘Anthems for seventeen year old girl’ with Lisa Lobsinger doing an admirable stand in job for Feist.

As the curfew approaches ever closer, Broken Social Scene have to make do with a much shorter set than usual, which makes it feel a little bit like a greatest hits parade.

It would have been nice to see them indulge a little bit more of their experimental side; however, I have been warned that this can usually entail adding an extra 2 hours to the night, so maybe it’s for the best.

All in all, Constellations is a great success and yet another excellent urban festival option for an increasingly gig savvy and demanding public. More of the same next year please.

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One response

19 11 2010
Mark Angus

Re: BSS…

Original Singer on Anthems for a 17yo Girl = Emily Haines.

Singer on the day of constellations = Lisa Lobsinger.

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