Now in its fifth year, the Long Division festival of our city, packed over 60 bands into eight venues across the weekend event.
Starting downstairs at The Hop was Heather Coulton, a soulful singer-songwriter, playing tracks from her new album, imbued with a mournful, but peaceful serenity that set a calming tone for the onslaught of brutal anguish taking place upstairs with Bi-Lingual.
The mild-mannered and softly spoken frontman Dylan, became a powerhouse of funk and hip-hop, the likes of which Rage Against The Machine and Insane Clown Posse would be proud. It is bands like this that are the very manifesto of Long Division, go see something you’ve never seen in the early hours of the day, and be blown away.
Over to Unity Works, now the official home for Long Division, saw local favourites Piskie Sits pack out the Minor Hall. If you saw a glimpse of the stage at all, count yourself lucky.
Major Hall and the major proceedings kicked off with yet another popular local act, Cry Baby Cry, a well-oiled touring machine, who much like Piskie Sits, managed to mirror the same loyal following in the larger venue.
Last year’s Minor Hall hit Allusondrugs have had one of the most meteoric rises between this Long Division and the last. Playing their Major Hall debut, only 24 hours after finishing a set at the Download Festival, the band have been there, done it, smashed it and drunk it quicker than most. In spite of this, Allusondrugs seemed to lose the immediacy and intimacy once found at their earlier gigs, or may have benefitted from playing a later slot outdoors to fully realise their new larger festival audience.
Glam rock died when Ziggy killed the band, but that hasn’t stopped Man Made’s singer/guitarist Nile Marr giving it a decent comeback, at least in the wardrobe department. The son of Wakefield’s honorary ex-Cribs member Johnny Marr, Nile and band were again at full capacity in the Minor Hall venue. Curious Smiths fans turned out in droves, possibly for the chance of a father/son collaboration, but when this wasn’t forthcoming, the band proved themselves to be more than a perceived vanity project of a famous offspring. Having played a few times in the city so far, if you couldn’t get through the door this time, make sure you catch them again soon.
As is the case with Long Division, there are so many acts to choose from and so many new bands to discover. The Major Hall played host to London’s Boxed In, billed as a mix between Metronomy and Django Django, here were a band who brought some electro-pop to the largely guitar-heavy line-up. The band were musically leagues ahead from some of their contemporaries on the day, and with a year of touring and festival performances in front of them, could well position themselves significantly higher on next year’s bill.
“It’s a great day for it,” Andy Howden from Sons of Great Men proclaimed from the stage at The Orangery. You couldn’t argue. Although the crowd was sparse, the setting was befitting the musical style of the band. As the weather began to pick up and the sun-soaked rays of the afternoon beamed down, the band played blissful dreamy pop melodies with subtle vocal harmonies. A gentle coda for the second half of the festival to begin.
Evening drew in with Leeds supergroup Menace Beach performing at Unity Works Major Hall. Sarcastically claiming that they themselves only have ‘about six songs’, whilst not technically true, the songs from debut album Ratworld were all played with such vigour and enthusiasm that the set seemed all over too soon.
The big three bands of the line-up were gathering pace, starting with Fat White Family, who could only be described as Gogol Bordello channelling The Mars Volta. If smoking indoors and full frontal nudity is banned, no one has told the band, but the trite rock ’n’ roll excess of the spectacle only served as proof that shock tactics often win out over talent.
Pulled Apart By Horses have never failed to impress, even from the old days of playing the Fenton in Leeds. Hitting the stage and taking rightful place as a headlining act, most attendees would have happily gone home with satisfied grins on their faces without the need to see Ash. In short, they made their mark in Long Division history.
Tim Wheeler and Ash burned through a career-defining set, culled from an impressive back catalogue spanning some 21 years. Fans from as far as their hometown in Northern Ireland had gathered into our city to see the consistent but criminally underrated trio, known for hits such as Girl From Mars, Shining Light and Kung Fu. New album Kablammo!, their first since 2007, had a strong selection poured into the set-list, seamlessly working into the heritage of their older works.
Once again Long Division pulled out all the stops, brought Wakefield’s musical footprint to the fore, and solidified it as a city of music, arts and culture, and really that’s what it all equates to.