WAKEFIELD’S Long Division Festival – now that’s a lovely little (and these days, really not so little) event in the West Yorkshire musical calendar.
It was founded back in 2011 by the fanzine Rhubarb Bomb; festival director Dean Freeman cashed in his NHS pension to fund a happening that celebrated the pool of musical talent in and around the ‘Rhubarb Triangle’, as well as giving an arena to pull in touring acts who may otherwise stick to Leeds and Sheffield on their swing through Yorkshire.
The good people behind Long Division say: “Did it bother us that there were no venues over 150 capacity, or that the regional and national press routinely ignored Wakefield and its artists? Not really.
“We held shows in Wild West-themed nightclubs, abandoned libraries and other corners of the city rarely used for live music. We made the press stand up and take notice by drawing artists who would never have otherwise come to Wakefield.”
And they’re really not wrong there. Take a look at some the artists on the festival’s roll call, 2011-19: British Sea Power, Ghostpoet, Ash, The Vaselines, Allo Darlin, Billy Bragg, CUD, The Fall, The Lovely Eggs, Rozi Plain, Seazoo, This Is The Kit …
Last year, for the first time, Long Division issued a compilation alongside the fest, entitled New Division Vol.1, pressed up on rather sexy yellow vinyl and featuring the cream of the 2019 event’s up and coming bands, such as One Day, After School; Imperial Wax, Mayshe Mayshe and Broken Chanter. It went down a storm and so a 2020 volume was lined up as a memento of another exciting year’s musicmaking.
And then, of course, 2020 came and …
This year’s fest was set for June, moved back to November; eventually, the difficult decision was taken to put it off until next year, mirroring the wider experience of the UK circuit. Long Division set up a crowdfunder to help support the event for the future and also the Wakefield community in the shape of education and mentoring opportunities for young people. They set a target of £6,000, passed it with ease. The crowdfunder is still open, should you be philanthropically inclined towards the arts; click here.
And it was also decided that no globe-wreckin’ pandemic was gonna stand in the way of what could be salvaged from the viral wreckage: Long Division Vol.2, the compilation of this year’s crop of local talent – that could exist. Ten of the bands who were due to take the stage would have their appearances enshrined on vinyl (and digital) and mark a year that coulda shoulda been. It’s out tomorrow, August 21st.
And what of these ten selected? Time for a listen. Proceedings kick off on the vinyl stage with York’s Cowgirl, whose “Wasn’t Listening” is just the sort of scuzzed-up indie rawk‘n’roll with bursts of noise you need to get your virtual Long Division 2020 off to a flyer.
Priestgate are from over in the east of the county, and they marry the high melodies of early 80s’ pure pop with a more post-punky, shoegazey aesthetic that provides arms-in-the-air moments. They sit nicely alongside the gentler guitar drama of Glasgow’s Life Model, who have a way with a soothing vocal and know just how to wield an effects pedal for dreampop potency. They’re further proof for what we always knew, always: the NME totally got it wrong about shoegaze.
Lemon Drink also hail from the city that brought us such indiepop essentials as The Pastels, and you can hear that cutesie-pop guitar snarl in great effect on a tune that’s by turns wild-eyed, joyous and just plain fun.
Mt. Doubt come from Glasgow’s rival city over there, on the east coast; they’re enthralled and romantic, introverted, and “Stairwell Songs” speaks of a whole inviting and bewitching alt.folk sensitivity. “It’s only time until we wind up somebody’s phantom limb,” they sing, boy-girl harmonies just tethered by the musical atmospheres. Her Tilted Moons flow on well, Leeds chamber-indie full of piano and violins, Cecilia’s voice having something of the timbre of Florence Welch as she glides across a delicate piece of pop.
In The Morning Lights, the Leeds duo of Matilde Marotti and Frankie Harper, cook up a quirky and forthright little distorted electropop groove, with bagsful of nuance and intelligence. We’ll be hearing a lot more from them. Hull’s Bunkerpop are a lot of fun: on “C’est Comme De Robots N’est Pas” they mix up African highlife and pop funk grooves to set sail out for your moving feet. It’s proper experimental pop.
Pontefract’s Macroscope, who describe themselves as “indie kids doing indie things”, actually bring asa bit more than that fun tagline suggests. They have a bookish eccentricity a la Monochrome Set or Brilliant Corners, and they’re not afraid of a good old piano-led crescendo.
The stage closes with the breathy, dark pop of State of Georgia, whose “Little Tiny Ones” has so much space as she mourns a lover, no longer around: “So scared I’ll forget / The weight of you on my chest,” she sings, and the moments when everything sinks back to a barely audible sub-bass and the atmosphere envelops you is a clever thing in terms of musical dynamics.
So there we have it: New Directions 2020 lives after all. You didn’t get to lose your comedy shades somewhere between venues, drink one … maybe three too many ciders of the course of the day, lose yourself in that beautiful, sweaty, pheremonal magic of the gig … don’t we all miss them so dearly? But what you can do is bring the festival back home with you to play.
The compilation New Directions Vol.2 is available to pre-order now on digital and vinyl over at Bandcamp, right now. Click through here. It’s out tomorrow, August 21st.
It’s warming also to note that Long Division is run on the co-operative principle, and that all the money raised from sales of the compilation will be evenly distributed amongst the contributing artists.
Long Division Vol.2 is a memento of the 2020 that shoulda been, and it’s here for you to take home.
It brings a new spin to that old adage about the 60s: “If you can remember it, you weren’t there.”