By Russell Warfield
Single-day festivals are a real pleasure of mine: lots of great bands, all in one place, without guy-ropes. And my favourite incarnation of forefather event Dot to Dot was the Manchester version, where pretty much the whole affair was homed within the confines of the Student Union building, minimising both drinks prices and walking distances. How fabulous, then, to have Constellations Festival fall into my life in Leeds last year, fully formed, seemingly from nowhere, operating almost identically, but better. For a debut appearance, its line up was staggering, with the likes of Four Tet, Broken Social Scene, Les Savy Fav fronting the bill – and this year is looking just as sexy. But, alas, the inevitable other side of the coin rears its ugly head: clashes. The schedule is out, so let’s talk this through together…
Steven Malkmus and the Jicks vs. Braids
I’ve no idea why Malkmus is such a mid-carder at Constellations – performing at a tepid five o’clock hour being something of a disheartening slide down the ladder from the blazing reaction to the Pavement reunion a year or two ago. And indeed, still riding that goodwill, I’d every intention of finally catching Malkmus’ jaunty guitar work after managing to spend about twelve months being exactly wherever Pavement weren’t at every point of their fairly extensive reunion. Up against Braids, however, things get less clear cut – with their luxuriously unwinding textures and (reportedly) astounding vocals being sure to suit the dank atmospherics of the Mine venue. A potential balance tipper: if you’re going to Constellations on some sort of date, and you’re looking for a way to allow the word ‘blowjob’ to at least enter the discourse, a performance of Malkmus’ new single could be the catalyst you’re looking for.
Summer Camp vs. Islet
Two bands I’ve seen before, two bands I’m very keen to see again. Both have new material knocking around which I’m interested to see translate into the live setting – although both have been touring a lot of it before committing it to tape and releasing it. Summer Camp’s debut LP has finally been released, comprised of unsurprisingly darling pop numbers, some of which have been doing the rounds for a year or so now. And who can say what Islet have been dreaming up recently. The songwriting is probably stronger with Summer Camp, but with the early-career decision to drop the backing band for the laptop approach, Islet’s instrument swapping, maximum throttle, hyper-charged performance instinct might take the biscuit when it comes to selecting a performance you can fully connect to.
Yuck vs. The Antlers
For me, this is more of an unfortunate piece of scheduling than an outright dilemma: I’m almost certainly going to be at the Antlers set. However, it’s not without regret that I discard the fuzzed-out riffs and feel-good melodies of the young, sprightly Yuck. But the Antlers flex a little more musical muscle for me, and with a one-two punch of two staggering albums in a row, they’ve currently got a wealth of rich material to draw upon, creating what will sure to be a crushingly emotive hour. Ultimately, it will probably depend what kind of drinking I’ve partaken in up until this hour, these sets coming in as they do at an early evening period. If I’m feeling especially merry, loved-up and in the mood for three minute blasts of life affirmation, Yuck could just about sneak up from behind and twist my arm. In any other circumstances: I’ll see you at the front for the Antlers.
The upside of so many saddening clashes, of course, is that there’s – for the second year running now – a vast wealth of amazing music competing for our attention at this year’s Constellations. Whichever sides of the above fences you come down on, we’re all sure to have a great day. Ignore all my conclusions, go with the flow, and I’ll see you in the Fav afterwards.