Long Division, a three day urban festival, spread over eight venues all within spitting distance of each other. Over 60 bands on offer and with the added bonus of it been just down the road in the city where I grew up, and still live. What started out five years ago as a full on DIY affair, has grown in both stature and reputation without losing any of its original ethos.
[Just click on any of the pictures below to see them full size]
The weekend kicked off at Wakefield’s flagship venue, Unity Works, with local band, The Grand, warming things up nicely with tracks from their recently released debut album ‘Incapacitated, Ill Fated, and In Love’.
Unity Works (formerly Unity Hall) has a lot to thank Long Division for. Having stood abandoned since the ‘90’s – it’s thanks to a lot of the same people involved with the festival that it re-opened last year. Back in my youth it was where I saw some of my first ‘big name’ bands, so it is a real pleasure to see the place open again, and more importantly attracting the big names again. Names like tonight’s main draw, British Sea Power. With a stage festooned with live shrubbery, and a selection of favourites from the bands back catalogue they were a sure fire crowd pleaser. That alone would have been enough, but extra points were earned by the welcome return of Eamon, who didn’t take long to get amongst the crowd with his drum, and of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without the bear. That, the Jaipur and the general buzz around town, was a great start to the weekend.
British Sea Power –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”8″ gal_title=”Long Division: British Sea Power”]
Saturday, the main event. Slightly hung over, we collected our wristbands and program, and made our way to The Hop. Hair of the dog was needed and a review of the timetable to see who, where and when. First up, Big Love upstairs at The Hop. An intimate space that started to fill up nicely for the Bradford based shoegazers. A great start to the day, special mention has to go to Thom, who quite easily won the ‘happiest looking drummer of the weekend’ award. He doesn’t actually win anything, as it’s not a real award, but he did have one of the biggest smiles of the weekend, and we did get a free CD. Top stuff. (- keep your eyes open for a feature on Big Love soon on BMafia).
Big Love –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”9″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION: Big Love”]
The hair of the dog had worked. Suitably re-floated we headed round to Unity Works for Allusondrugs. By the time we got there, Castleford’s finest sons were already in full flow. We’d recommended them to a few people who weren’t sure who to see, and it was great to see them there, and even better to have them stop me to say we were right. It’s a pretty explosive set and when lead singer Jason gets everyone to yell ‘Wakey!” you can tell they’re as happy to be here as we are.
Allusondrugs – [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”11″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION:ALLUSONDRUGS”]
Time for a change of pace, so we nipped over the road to the Theatre Royal for The Horn The Hunt. Following the recent untimely death of their bass player and local music teacher, Ian Smart, it’s an intimate and rather personal set.
The weather had started to brighten up and my tummy was rumbling. So I followed my nose to the Orangery, where we grabbed some rather delicious Indian street food and sat on the lawn just in time to see one of our favourite Leeds bands, Molars, nonchalantly stroll across the grass and casually set up on stage before treating us all to some rather splendid DIY post-punk jiggery pokery. They’re not hippies, and this wasn’t Woodstock, but if you looked close enough you’d have seen a buttercup in Richard’s hair.
Molars – [Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”12″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION: MOLARS”]
The Orangery is beautiful chilled out type of place, and it would have been easy to spend the rest of the afternoon dossing round there, but we’d spied people disappearing through the back gate and curiosity got the better of us. And so we found ourselves in the rather serene Westgate Chapel. Built in 1752, I’m quite embarrassed to say that having spent my entire life living in Wakefield I’ve never really noticed the place. Set back from the road it’s a small unassuming building and the last place I’d have expected to hear a song about cocaine. Ryan Spendlove was the culprit. Admittedly he did say that he was considering dropping it from his set as he felt a bit uncomfortable singing it from the pulpit. As well as his own stuff, Ryan treated us to a wonderful cover of The Shirelles ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’. Ryan’s a talented bloke and his songs sound all the better for his local accent.
Ryan Spendlove –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”13″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION: RYAN SPENDLOVE”]
The sunshine and serenity was all well and good, but we needed more beer and another Leeds favourite, were due on the mainstage back at Unity Works.
We got there a bit early so had the added bonus of been able to pop into Unity Works very packed minor hall to catch a bit of 6Music favourite Rozi Plain. Always find it difficult to describe Rozi’s music; alt-folk? Possibly. But then again I’m not sure a label matters. All you need to know is that its good music, presented by someone who is obviously passionate about what she does and has a great deal of fun doing it.
Rozi Plain –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”14″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION: ROZI PLAIN”]
Meanwhile, back in the main hall…
Dogged by tech issues, it seemed like an age for the Menace Beach to get set up. Not sure what the problem was, I’m pretty sure in the end they just said ‘fuck it’ and got on with it. It was worth the wait. Despite everything – I don’t think the drummer could hear the rest of the band and for some reason Liza’s vocals were at the best subdued – the band put on a great set, that was as much testament to their tenacity as it was the quality of their music.
Menace Beach –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”15″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION:MENACE BEACH”]
A big part of the fun of festivals is hanging around with like-minded people, reacquainting yourself with old, and meeting new, friends. So we popped downstairs for a chat and a pint in Unity Works Café Bar, where it would appear there was one main topic of conversation. Love them or loathe them, was the debate and, other than curiosity, there didn’t appear to be too much ground in-between. The Fat White Family had rolled into town. Somewhat notorious, they seem to court controversy where ever they go – apparently Saul had already been spotted smoking on the stairs! The rogue – and it didn’t take long for people to start heading upstairs in their droves to see what else was in store.
Within moments of taking the stage, Fat Whites frontman, Lias, had stepped down to the barriers and was been willingly mauled by the crowd. Some looked on in bewilderment as a couple of eager young woman took pleasure in whipping open his shirt and dowsing him with beer, whilst behind him Saul was back on the fags. The rest of the band played on oblivious, after all they’ve seen it all before and when we say all, we mean all. Returning to the stage Lias has got his hands down his pants and before working himself up into a frenzied pastiche of Iggy Pop, and… Well you can guess the rest. Yes he did get it out. Avert your gaze now (or at least hit the ‘Pg Dn’ button ). Smoking and stroking aside, The Fat Whites put on a great show. Visually and musically brutal in its presentation, love them or loathe them, many won’t forget their trip to the Merry City for quite some time.
Fat White Family –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”16″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION: FAT WHITES”]
To be honest I was starting to flag a bit now, so I plonked myself in a corner of the main hall and tried to have a little power nap – Hey, I’m no spring chicken, and we’d been out three nights on the trot – I was woken a short time later by the deepest loudest bass note ever. Well at least it seemed like it. It might have only been the guitar tech setting up, but it signified that it was time to rock. Pulled Apart By Horses, the post-hardcore band from just up the road in Leeds were here to show why for many they are seen as one of the best live bands around at the moment. Much hair swinging and guitar thrashing ensued. Another sterling set from a great local band and a great warm up to festival headliners Ash.
Pulled Apart By Horses –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”17″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION: PULLED APART BY HORSES”]
The main hall was full. Lots of people were merry on drink, and if the people on the front row were anything to go by, very, very excited to see Ash perform. A women at the front grabs me and brags how she snogged Tim Wheeler when she was just 15, “…tongues and everything. Don’t tell my husband!” Don’t worry, your secrets safe with me 😉
With nothing more than a backdrop and a raised drum kit, Ash blew Long Division to pieces. Tracks from their new album went down well, but ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ sent the place into overdrive. Pints started flying, fists punched the air and people started to pop over the barriers. On stage Mark Hamilton laid waste to one of the most outlandish displays of bass playing we’ve ever witnessed. A virtual giant of a man his dexterity with his instrument is a sight to behold. For starters it would appear his limbs are made of rubber as he bends and contorts himself around the stage. As for the guitar, it’s in the air, it’s behind his back, it’s over his head. Brilliant! Not to be outdone, Tim has his turn at holding his flying V aloft and using it to gun down the fans. The set closes with ultimate crowd pleasers ‘Girl From Mars’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’. As it ends Mark picks up drummer Rick like a baby and carries him centre stage where alongside Tim they all take the thoroughly deserved accolades. Accolades that I’m sure were not just for Ash, but for the day as a whole.
Ash –[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”18″ gal_title=”LONG DIVISION: ASH”]
As with all the best festivals it can be a nightmare deciding on who to see. We’d have loved to have seen more of the other bands and we didn’t make to all the venues. But you can only be in one place at once, and no matter where that place might have been last Saturday, as long as it was part of Long Division it was sure to be the right place at the right time.
But it doesn’t end there. What is now becoming a tradition of Long Division, the festival finally draws to an end on the Sunday with a live album recording session. This year its local bunch The Ainsley Band in the frame. The main hall at Unity Works has been turned into a recording studio and a limited crowd of 100 have been invited in to observe and listen through wireless headsets to the album been recorded and mixed, before receiving their own download of the finished product. It’s an original and fitting end to a great weekend.
Long Division is a success story. Not only is at a great showcase for up and coming talent, both local and further afield, as well as providing a draw for big name acts, it can also take praise for almost single handily rejuvenating, and adding credibility to the local music scene. Nice one Wakefield, keep up the good work – X
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