Live Review: Long Division Festival. Wakefield, 10-12.6.2016

Long Division 2016 launched itself into the weekend with post-punk outfit Gang of Four. For some reason they’ve been crammed into the smaller hall at Unity Works which makes for a sweaty, intimate start to the weekends shenanigans. As is tradition from previous years, the support for the evening comes from an up and coming local band. This year it’s Yard Wars who get the pleasure of kicking off the ‘Merry City’s’ urban festival. It’s a powerful well received performance that combines,  as they put it, short, bastardized 60s candy pop, and longer wierdo psyche stuff. 


It’s been roughly 30 years since Gang of Four last played Wakefield, and there’s a bit of debate going round as to if they actually got banned from the town. Someone seems to recall a local headline from back in the day, but further details are unclear.(If anyone has any info we’d like to know).  Andy Gill maybe the only surviving member from the original line up, but frontman John ‘Gaoler’ Sterry and bassist, Thomas McNiece have been with him for a while now and along with debutante drummer Tobias, waste no time at all laying down the musical gauntlet. Sterry is the ideal frontman. Posturing and prowling he commands your attention, while behind him Gill and McNiece are equally as enigmatic as they switch position and trade stances with each other. It’s a set that consists of bang up to the minute tracks from the bands recent album ‘What Happens Next’ and old favourites, including ‘Anthrax’ and ‘Tourist’. It’s a great start to the weekend.

Saturday starts much like last year for us, with a hangover. We made it into town just in time to catch the end of The Spills set at Warehouse 23 followed by Bradford band ‘Big Love’over on the outdoor stage at The Orangery. Kerry and co. shook off our cobwebs and after a bite to eat and a cheeky pint we were back in the land of the living and headed off to the mainstage to catch Fear of Men.

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Fear of Men’s slightly dark shoegaze tunes, are in the same vein as Pinkshinyultrablast. It’s good but a bit too dreamy for me at this time of day – that and I’d just read about Pictish Trail who were playing over the road.


Intrigued by the fact that Johnny Lynch has spent the last few years living and creating music from a caravan on the Isle of Eigg, and also wanting to take advantage of seeing something I wouldn’t normally go for in a venue that wouldn’t normally feature electronic music, we made our way to Westgate Chapel.


One of the best things about festivals is discovering new music. I must confess to not knowing much about Pictish Trail prior to Long Division, but I’m glad we caught them. Johnny is not only a fine musician, but he’s also a very funny guy. Making much of the celestial surroundings he taps into ‘the natural reverb of Christ’ and engages in one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend, that even has him climbing the stairs to preach from the pulpit. Special mention has to go to his accomplice, Sue, who is blessed with a beautiful distinctive voice that remind me more than a little of Tracey Thorn.


We had a stroll round the corner back to the Orangery just in time to catch Knuckle. A local duo, who’s volatile blend of straight up blues and garage rock is met with a much appreciation, and leads well into the heavy sounds of Deadbox Radio on the outdoor stage.


For the remainder of the day we camped ourselves at Warehouse 23 – not because we couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere else, more we were drawn by the line up.


Louise Distras is full of raw power. Plenty of spit and vitriol in the songs, and plenty of heartfelt banter for her hometown crowd between. Gritty stuff. Loved it.


Apparently there was a football match about to kick off. You wouldn’t have thought so where we were though. Glaswegian plastic punk pop band Bis had arrived on stage and the place was packed, and very soon bouncing along to some old school favourites.


Must confess to never quite getting them back in the day, but I was won over by their quick fire songs and constant switching of roles. This band still has tonnes of energy and it was pretty cool to see all three of them take turns on the keys and lead mic.


Allusondrugs are quintessential rockers. Unfazed by the fact that they are playing at exactly the same time as the nationals team biggest game for years, they set about wowing their local crowd with an onslaught that many strive for, yet many fail to achieve.


Every member gives it 110%, all the levels are tweaking around 11. It’s wild. It’s crazy and at times a little bit dangerous. It’s exactly what you want from a band. A lead singer with stacks of attitude matched with an obvious devilish charm, and at times an uncanny resemblance to a young Iggy Pop, two wild guitarists, frenetic drummer and one of the most animated bass players of the weekend. It’s an electrifying set, that ends far too soon, with various band members surfing the crowd and swinging from the rafters. Awesome. Football nil – Allusondrugs one!


The first time I saw The Fall was just up the road at the Hellfire Club some <ahem> years ago. I’ve seen them a few times since, but for me, and many others, the line up at the time, which included the brothers Hanley, is classic Fall. I’m also pretty certain that tonights Warehouse 23 headliner, Brix Smith made her debut, albeit brief, with The Fall at the same gig. So it would appear that the decision to end the day with Brix and The Extricated was a no brainer. But to be honest, I’d wrestled with this one from as soon as they were announced. Sure it would be great to once again see and hear Hanley play the distinctive repetitive bass line that helped define The Fall sound. But, for some reason I wasn’t too sure about seeing anyone other than MES perform songs that I love so much.


So it was with an air of both trepidation and eager anticipation that surrounded me as the band took the stage. Within minutes all concerns were vanquished. Brix and The Extricated are every bit as much part of The Fall legacy today as they ever were. Far out weighing any and all expectations they simply blew me and a considerable amount of others away. Hanley S’ bass lines were sweet and heavy, in that methodical, almost clumsy sounding way that only he seems able to accuratley produce. Brother Paul sits high at the back providing yet more repetition on drums, and some fine backing vocals. Up front Brix Smith-Start sets about proving that she is one hell of a lead, and more than worthy of  delivering a set includes favourites such as US 80’s 90’s, 2×4, Kicker Conspiracy and my own personal highlight of the set, if not whole weekend, Hotel Bloedel. It’s a performance that many find truly inspiring. Take my missus for example, she claims never to have been a fan of The Fall, but after tonight I can assure you she is a massive fan of The Extricated.


For me, I doubt if I’ll get to see them as many times as I’ve seen the other lot, but I’ll certainly be seeing them again. Wonderful, and not at all frightening.

Sunday. Long Division weekend ends with what has become the customary live recording session. This year it’s the turn of Post War Glamour Girls. Greenmount Studios have moved their Armley, Leeds based studio into the rather splendid St Austins community hall. It’s a well executed, winning format – mixing desk, recording equipment, and the band set up in the middle of the floor.


The audience gather around, are all given wireless headphones and encouraged to move around and become part of the experience. Post War Glamour Girls fire through a set compromising of back catalog favourites, a couple of new numbers and a sweet cover of Elvis Costello’s ‘Ship Building’. All in all it’s a great, unique and fitting end to Long Division ’16.


Not the biggest weekend of Festival Season, but Long Division punches far above it’s weight. Starting out as a DIY project six years ago, it has grown in stature, gained a well deserved reputation, and all the while still holds dear to it’s original spirit. Well done Long Division – like it said on the back of the program, thanks to you  “Wakefield is Rad!”

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