Hear, hear for 2011

Darwin Deez play Mustang Sally's in Wakefield, as part of Long Division Festival 2011 (11th June 2011)
Darwin Deez play Mustang Sally's in Wakefield, as part of Long Division Festival 2011 (11th June 2011)

there was elation and sadness, achievement and frustration – and plenty of great music – in evidence during 2011.

The feeling of elation belonged to Chris Morse and Dean Freeman in June, as the Long Division festival reached its successful conclusion.

It was a bold move to attempt a multi-venue Wakefield version of Live in Leeds but they persuaded bands of the calibre of the Wedding Present, Darwin Deez and Los Campesinos! to back their vision and the fans responded with sell-out attendances.

The Clarence Park festival returned to its usual spot on the calendar and was blessed with decent weather, while the fifth edition of the City Rhythm ’n’ Blues bash in November, was judged to have been the best yet, featuring The Hamsters on their farewell tour.

However, perhaps the most distinctive festival of the year was another new initiative: Jim Cameron’s Rock ’n’ Wrestle extravaganza, at Horbury in September, which combined grappling with guitars from the likes of Fury UK and Exit State.

Relief was probably the chief emotion of Malc Shipman, as he managed to secure the immediate future of the Snooty Fox, which continued to pull in rock bands from across Europe and beyond.

If anyone needs an object lesson in what the determination of one individual can achieve, the Snooty continued to provide it.

With the closure of Escobar (though it continued to stage occasional gigs in its new guise), The Hop cemented its place as the busiest city centre live music venue, hosting gigs by resident and visiting promoters.

There were also some memorable nights at Black Flag, which attracted bands of the calibre of Funeral For a Friend, Young Knives, Hadouken and Hayseed Dixie.

The saddest news of the year was the death in September of Mike Levon, founder of Holyground Records. His place in the affection of musicians from Wakefield and beyond was reflected in the turnout at the celebration of his life, at Woolley Hall a couple of weeks afterwards.

Friends of Mike have nominated him for a Wakefield Star – something of which The Cribs are already in possession. 2011 was as near to a year off as it gets for the Jarman brothers, who parted company with Johnny Marr and gave the festival circuit a rest while Ross recovered from back surgery.

However, autumn saw them in the studio on both sides of the Atlantic, working with Steve Albini among others, toward their fifth album.

The American connection also featured large in the fortunes of Euphoria Audio and Ryan Spendlove. The former put the finishing touches to their album with the help of US producer Brandon Friesen, while in January Ryan flew out to Chicago to record his debut long player, Fable, on renowned blues label Candyrat Records.

The city’s reputation for classic music continued to grow, thanks to the sterling efforts of Wakefield Concert Society and the community-centred initiatives of the Wakefield Live Music Project, the latter staging concerts everywhere from village halls to Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

With the likes of the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir and St Peter’s Consort calling it home, Wakefield is already acknowledged as a centre for choral music. Both choirs gave some superb concerts once again, not least the Phil’s performance of Brahms’ Requiem in March and another triumphant Messiah last month.

Finally, Wakefield Jazz continued to pull in some big names to College Grove, typifying the way in which, right across the genres and venues, the city continued to punch well above its weight in creating and staging some marvellous music throughout another year to remember.